Awareness Month Prompts Review Of Disability Resources
Dean Of Students Office To Host Three Workshops This Month
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 01:10
About 1.3 million students in higher education have a disability, according to the World Health Organization. In 1988, Congress declared October “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”
At Boston College, three distinct offices serve students with disabilities: Learning Resources for Student Athletes, which serves only Division I student athletes; the Connors Family Learning Center, which supports students with learning disabilities; and the Disability Services Office, which works with students with medical, physical, psychological, and temporary disabilities.
Paulette Durrett, assistant dean for students with disabilities, said that a range of resources and accommodations now support students who were traditionally unable to attend college because of a disability.
Her office deals specifically with students who have non-learning disabilities.
“Students who have anything from a concussion to diabetes come to our office,” Durrett said. “And our accommodations can be anywhere from exams to loaning equipment to coordinating contact with doctors.”
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits organizations receiving federal financial assistance, such as universities that receive federal loans for students, from discriminating against qualified individuals based on their disability.
The act defines qualified individuals with disabilities as persons who meet normal and essential eligibility requirements, but who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activity.
Durrett said that BC is required by the law to make accessible services and accommodations for students with disabilities.
“A student with a temporary physical disability would need transportation,” she said. “For students that have a [permanent] disability, the accommodations would depend on the disability.”
For instance, students who are blind can register their disability with the office and would be able to complete audio exams for their classes. Durrett would contact a student’s professor to inform him or her of the student’s need for an accommodation. The professor would then be obliged to send the exam to the office, where it would then be converted into an audio file using a scanning program in the library.
Durrett said for exams in math and science classes, where certain symbols or graphs may be incorrectly translated, students could opt to have someone read the exam to them. The reader, though, could only explain what they saw on the exam.
Other services made available to registered students include interpreters for students with hearing impairments, modified deadlines for assignments, note-takers, and a campus mobility orientation.
A student can register with the office only if they provide written documentation of their disability from their doctor. Once the student meets with Durrett, a letter is then sent to each of the student’s professors. Durrett said that she encourages students to speak with their professors before she sends out a letter.
“A lot of the time I discuss with students how they are going to present their concerns to their professors,” she said. “I think that sometimes students with disabilities are more reluctant to go to their professors because they are registered in this office.”
She encourages the students to be proactive by going to their professors’ office hours. Durrett’s office also helps students develop strategies to make sure they complete all their work. Although some students may be granted extensions on assignments, they are never exempt from any work. “All students in my office come to this school just like anyone else who is here,” she said. “The accommodations just level the playing field for them.”
Accommodations for medical reasons include helping transport students to physical therapy or doctor’s appointments. Registered students can request to take shuttle rides to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. The shuttle departs from Health Services every 90 minutes between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and after-hour requests are arranged through the Eagle Transport Service.
The Dean of Students Office (DSO) helped organize a Nov. 14 professional development session for residential life faculty and other administrators who work directly with students who have disabilities.
The program will focus on the University’s responsibilities to meet their needs and unique challenges. Kirsten Behling, who helped establish Suffolk’s Office of Disability Services, will facilitate the presentation.
“The presentation will end with an open discussion on how we as higher education professionals can make our campus more inclusive for students with disabilities,” the program’s flier reads.
In addition to this presentation, the DSO will also host three workshops for students registered with the office on Oct. 30, Nov. 7, and Nov. 21. The workshops will cover stress management, study techniques, and time management, respectively.