Figuring out classes and getting used to new schedules takes some time, so the first couple weeks of school can be stressful.
Yet for students with disabilities, it can be even more difficult.
Some students require accommodations for physical conditions. In order to accommodate wheelchairs in classrooms, a student may request a table rather than the typical chair and desk combo.
Others need interpreting services such as live American Sign Language or the new Typewell service, which transcribes classroom lectures.
Still, others may be challenged by what is referred to as a “hidden disability,” something that is not easily recognized without extensive observation or testing of the individual in question.
Those include learning disabilities and psychological disorders, both of which add stress to a student’s school experience.
A surprising amount of students do not recognize that they have such problems or do not request help for them from services on campus.
“National statistics run between 10 and 12 percent of students in college who have a disability,” said Dr. Edward Martinelli Jr., director of Accessibility Services (AS).
The program is providing services to about 850 students this year. If almost 31,000 students are enrolled at UVU, that means that less than 30 percent of students who qualify for help from AS are taking advantage of the program.
So why aren’t students receiving the help they need? AS tries to make every student aware. Professors are required to include contact information for the department in their syllabi, and campus tours include a stop at the Losee Center office.
Unfortunately, students still report to counselors that they are not finding out about the service in time to help them with classes.
Perhaps there is more to the problem than simple unawareness. Both Martinelli and Accommodative Services Specialist April Crawford agree.
“The major barrier is self,” Crawford said, “because if I admit that I can’t read well, or that I can’t remember things or take notes…well, I look stupid.”
Martinelli said, “There’s a stigma of disability” and “in college…ADA requires the individual to self-identify.”
If Crawford’s experience is correct and students don’t want to admit they can’t do things in fear of being labeled with a stigma, then “self-identifying” becomes a lot more difficult.
Students should realize that they don’t need to handle the stress of college alone. In fact, that is what the staff of AS wants students to know. Receiving help from AS should not be a last resort or looked down on.
Crawford not only uses her expertise to helps students, but her experience as a student using AS throughout her education. When she went back to school as an older student suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, she needed emotional help that counselors at AS were able to give.
“There were days that I had, even as an adult, that I wondered, ‘Why are you here?’” Crawford said.
She explained that once she realized that there were others like her in the school, and that she was receiving help from people who cared about her and her success, she had fewer days like that.
“So it really doesn’t matter what other people think,” she said. “It’s about what will help you and help you be a success.”
Crawford is just one person out of the many students on campus who, through help from AS, have succeeded in receiving an education. They provide specialized services to each student, are excited about their jobs and respect the privacy and independence of students.
If you have questions regarding the services offered by AS, contact their office at 801-863-8747 or visit them at LC 312.