Anaiya Byars is a third-year graphic design major at Florida A&M University.
The Miami native is also enrolled in CeDAR, the Center for Disability Access and Resources. The FAMU program provides supportive services to students with disabilities to enhance their skills for personal, academic, and professional growth.
Byars, 21, has been in the program for three years. She deals with an emotional disability. It is a social anxiety, causing her to be over stimulated by her emotions.
She says her emotions can cause her to start crying if she is in a predicament that she finds stressful.
Her disability affects her test taking skills. She has difficulty concentrating on things she needs to concentrate on. And, to a certain extent, it is looked at as ADHD because she cannot focus on one thing at a time.
Some things she faces as a student with a disability is that she looks normal, so many do not believe she has a disability or write it off as if she is just a normal person who is using the disability as a hindrance.
“Just because someone looks normal does not mean that their mental cognitive is the same as everyone else’s,” she said.
She explained that many professors at FAMU feel like her disability doesn’t exist because it is not something you can physically see.
This has caused much frustration and irritation having to continuously explain that she does not learn like everyone else and that there is a certain extent of how she grasps information.
“When it comes to being a CeDAR student, I think a lot of professors underestimate the ability of my work and so when I do complete something really good, they don’t expect that from me and have low expectations of what a CeDAR student is,” Byars said. “It is very condescending, and it makes me feel very discouraged.”
She said the staff at CeDAR helps by advocating for her, handling what she might be going through, being that voice for her, and provides strong support just as if it was her family back home.
They provide therapy sessions, field trips, and many other social setups to get to know others who have similar disabilities as them.
“I feel more normal than anything when I’m surrounded by people who understand where I’m coming from,” Byars said.
The CeDAR staff said that it is their mission to provide enriching support programs, services, and reasonable accommodations to all FAMU students with disabilities.
Another part of their mission is to foster a sense of empowerment in students with disabilities by educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities so that they can make informed choices, be critical thinkers, and self-advocates.
The students in the program get to hang out and do stuff like study and do homework together.
“Us getting to do stuff like that really helped me open up to making friends,” Byars said. “I have so many friends in CeDAR who can understand me.”
“You definitely have a group of people who understand where and what you come from from a personal standpoint, and it’s not as if it is just an outsider looking in,” she added.
Byars urges students with disabilities to just go for it if they have thought about signing up for the program.
“You have a lot of people who root for you and want you to succeed, and that’s the biggest thing I get from CeDAR,” Byars said. “You’re never alone, even when you think you’re alone, even when you’re at your lowest moments, there is someone there willing to listen, give a hand, or just be there for you.”
For more information about the program visit Center for Disability Access & Resources (famu.edu)