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Content Any Way U Want It!

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September 29, 2023

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Disabled students adapt on campus

When most students wake up in the morning, they often think of hitting the snooze button or perhaps how they will need to run to get to class on time.

Most students’ thoughts are not about how they will get to their wheelchair or about the physical accessibility of a building. Instead, these are typical thoughts of disabled students.

Being a college student is often a challenge for any individual, but living with a disability and being a college student at the same time heightens that challenge.

What classes to take, grades, future careers and friendships are typical issues that the average student encounters. Physically disabled students have to consider how they will get to class.

Those who suffer from mental illness sometimes have to find the emotional strength to even get out of bed.

With the added pressure of social acceptance, students with disabilities may sometimes feel isolated.

The University has two main organizations for those with disabilities: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Finding Intelligent Greatness Uniquely Residing in Everyone (FIGURE).

These organizations help to bring students with common ground together.

FIGURE focuses on bringing out one’s potential, whether they have a physical or mental disability.

NAMI is intended to be a place of support for students who suffer from a mental illness.

“I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, and I went back to school and when I got involved with NAMI, just all the support it just really boosted my confidence,” said Megan Ginter, president of NAMI. “To be around somebody else who was having similar problems, that really helped, too.”

Schizoaffective Disorder is a diagnosis of a condition where an individual has signs of schizophrenia and a mood disorder.

Ginter explained that it is difficult to have an illness you cannot physically show someone.

The staff at Disability Services helps students with all different kinds of disabilities, physical and mental.

It is sometimes difficult for faculty members to understand mental illness because it’s not outwardly visible.

“I’ve had so many problems with professors. Like, I’ll tell them what’s wrong, I’ll say I’m having problems with hallucinations, and they just, they don’t take it seriously,” Ginter said.

But Ginter said Disability Services has always treated her illness as a real disability.

At the University, there are more than 600 students with disabilities. There are students with hearing impairments, blindness and mobility impairments, although the majority is neurological or cognitive-based, such a learning disability. Recently there has also been an increase in students with high-functioning autism.

Students living on- and off-campus can find the help they need with the services the University offers.

“The services that we provide are intended to level the playing field for [students with disabilities],” said Robert Cunningham, director of Disability Services.

The goal is for students with disabilities to be given the same opportunities as nondisabled students.

“They have the same opportunity to hopefully succeed, or fail. There’s no guarantee, just because you have a disability,” Cunningham said. “But what we don’t want to see happen is that the disability is the determining factor as to whether they fail, should they fail.”

Cunningham further explained that the main focus of Disability Services is in academic areas.

There are many academic areas in which students are assisted. Some of these accommodations include extended time on a test and note-taking assistants.

Textbooks are also offered in an alternative format, such as voice output for the visually impaired.

Not everything in the University is handicapped accessible, however.

Moseley Hall and Hannah Hall are not wheelchair accessible. Until all buildings are physically accessible, Cunningham explained, they are required to use programmatic access. In other words, the room is brought to the individual if they are unable to go to it.

Cunningham said this situation is not the most ideal, but until the money is allocated to upgrade the buildings, it is the only option.

The residence halls are made physically accessible as well as made safe for students who are deaf.

“Disability Services provided an alarm clock system because it works with the fire alarms. It has a transmitter you place at/near the fire alarm, and when it goes off, the alarm clock would make the light flash that was plugged into it and the bed shake,” wrote Amber Ricker, FIGURE president.

Ricker is clinically deaf.

The alarm system provided to her also worked as a door bell, which Ricker referred to as an extra bonus.

People often feel it is their duty to assist a disabled individual. If someone in a wheelchair is trying to reach something, why not hand it to them? But sometimes people also feel the right to make fun of or simply ignore someone with a disability. Ricker explained all three of these actions are inappropriate.

“What that person was trying to do may be the only level of independence they have, and it could have potentially been stolen away from them,” Ricker wrote.

It is common for students to look down on their peers who are disabled. There is a hidden condescension, which can belittle a person in a second.

“Having a disability is something that helps make you who you are, it will always be part of you, but it is essential to not let it define who you are,” Ricker said.

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