Services provide support to students with disabilities

A student reads using Braille at Disability Support Services. Located across from the Lion’s Den Game Room, the center offers assistance to students with learning, physical and psychological disabilities through technology, counseling and accommodations.

UNA has received recognition for its campus diversity for the past two years, with students of different race, culture and ethnicity making up campus life.

One of the minorities on campus are students with psychological, physical or learning disabilities.

However, these disabilities do not mean they have to have a different college experience than everyone else.

With the help of Disability Support Services, students on campus not only receive accommodations, but also encouragement to show they stand with others as equals on campus.

“It is our goal to ensure students with disabilities have equal opportunity to achieve their academic goals while maintaining the integrity of UNA’s academic program requirements,” said the Disability Support Services’ mission statement.

The office, located across from the Lion’s Den Game Room in the Guillot University Center, offers students access to several types of aid, including a reserved testing area, study skills sessions, sign language interpreters and accessibility assistance for places on campus.

Technological aids are also available for student use, including downloadable text readers, Job Access with Speech software and Echo Smartpens.

Madeleine Frankford, Title IX graduate assistant coordinator, said the center’s staff members are always happy to answer questions about the services they offer.

Director Jeremy Martin said accommodations given to students do not provide unfair advantages, but, instead, help them be on the same level as other students.

“It gives them the same opportunity as any other student here at UNA,” he said. “It eliminates barriers and creates access to the learning environment for them.”

Frankford said students can feel empowered by reaching out the center for assistance.

“Cultivating an inclusive campus is imperative for student success,” she said. “A campus that welcomes diversity sets the tone for university-wide acceptance and respect.”

Martin said his ultimate goal is for UNA to be completely accessible to all students.

This year, the office is adding to its list of available programs.

Martin said a series of self-advocacy workshops is planned for this semester to help students communicate their needs with future employers.

“Whether students have a disability or not, national studies show that students out of high school going to college are not the best self-advocates for themselves,” he said. “Once they leave here, we need to make sure that they’re able to articulate to their employers, ‘Hey, I need this accommodation to be provided access to the environment that I’m working in.’”

The office is also offering employee recruitment programs for disabled students to utilize.

“I’ve sent people to NASA, different Fortune 500 companies and different military bases around the U.S.,” Martin said.

He said students with a disability coming to UNA should not assume they will automatically receive accommodations, but first need to register with Disability Support Services.

“There’s a ton of individuals with invisible disabilities so that you would never know that person has a disability unless they disclose that information to you,” he said.

Martin said he recommends signing up before coming to campus to have accommodations accessible for when they arrive to start classes.

He said students should not let disabilities make them feel different from others on campus, as everyone has different organizations and extracurricular events available to them.

“Take disability out of the picture,” he said. “College is a big transition for any student, and there’s tons of resources on college campuses to help with students fitting in or students finding their niche.”

To contact Disability Support Services, call 256-765-4214 or email [email protected]