Disability Center enables a diverse campus
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 16:02
Quinn Price was 4 months old when he was diagnosed with a genetic disease that caused scar tissue to build up in the back of his retinas. When he reached 2 years old, the disease caused his retinas to detach, rendering him completely blind.
Price, a history major, is in his fourth year at USU. He uses a cane to get around without the aid of an assistant and can walk around campus relatively unhindered. He said USU does a great job accommodating students with visual disabilities.
"A lot of visually impaired students come to Utah State," Price said. "Obviously there are other colleges in the state that do a pretty good job, too, but a lot come here because they accommodate blind and visually impaired people very well."
Price said the Disability Resource Center helps him by getting his class work and materials to him, as well as aiding with test taking.
"It's just one of the friendliest places," he said of the DRC.
The DRC is located on the bottom floor of the University Inn and provides resources to students with disabilities looking to further their educations. The center also provides students access to special equipment, readers, note takers and interpreters.
Diane Baum, DRC director since 1981, said the center has works hard to make USU accessible to students with disabilities.
"I do think that we are doing a very good job," she said. "I do think that we are doing a lot more than other schools. We may not have all of the resources that other programs have, but within our resources I think we do quite well."
Baum said currently about 900 students at USU have reported some kind of disability.
"The majority of those students do not have mobility impairments. They look pretty much like you and me," she said.
The DRC has battled budget problems for a few years, Baum said.
According to the Council for the Advancement of Standards of Higher Education (CAS), budget problems worsened and a deficit carried over from 2007 to 2008. A professional position in the office was lost, and the center had to continue with fewer funds.
Baum said she believes funding is stabilizing, however.
"Student Services in general has taken budget cuts every year the last several years," she said. "We are not anticipating one for this year. We've made our adjustments, and we've survived, and I haven't lost staff."
Baum said she feels budget cuts can be good in the sense that they force the program to re-evaluate what's important and how it uses the resources it has. For example, she said the DRC has made adjustments as simple as scanning documents instead of copying them, saving money on paper and cutting back on telephone usage.
Budgetary problems aside, student Jacob Johnson, a freshman majoring in psychology, said USU and the DRC meets his needs.
"I really like USU, it is very handicap-accessible," said Johnson, who gets around campus in a motorized wheelchair. "I have yet to find a building that I haven't been able to get into. Those that are hard to get into, like the Ag Science Building, have teachers who have been very accommodating."
USU buildings have ramps, elevators and automated, handicap-accessible doors to allow students such as Johnson a way to take full advantage of what the building has to offer. If there are any problems with ramps or obstacles, Baum said it's her job to find them.
"I go out in this (motorized chair), and I drive around, and I look for barriers that I can't get over," she said. "I don't find many."
When she does find problems, she said the DRC works with Facilities to correct or fix any architectural or other maintenance issues involving handicap-accessibility.
Deaf or hearing-impaired students also find USU accessible, said Laurie Ross, a senior majoring in exercise science and president of the American Sign Language club.
"There is a small deaf community on campus, and they are generally happy with the services that are provided," she said. "I know a little while ago that deaf students sued USU over not having qualified interpreters."
Ross was referring to a discrimination lawsuit filed in May 2006 by a group of deaf students who felt the school wasn't providing adequate resources for them under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was dropped in June 2007 after USU administrators agreed to provide certified interpreters.
"It has definitely made a difference in our education — having qualified interpreters being able to convey the information accurately," said Ross, who has a hearing loss.
The American Sign Language Club provides an opportunity for all USU students, whether they have a complete or partial hearing loss or otherwise, to learn not only American Sign Language but also learn about deaf culture and the deaf community, she said.