Incorporated into every syllabus is a notification that the Disability Resource Center is available to provide assistance to all students. Yet most students don’t know exactly how the DRC can help them.
While the most common idea of disability is deafness, blindness or other physical ailment, a majority of the 2,764 students who sought assistance from the DRC deal with mental and psychological disabilities, while those with learning disabilities and ADHD follow close behind.
“Disability is not a bad thing. It is reality; just a part of the human experience,” says Candida Darling, the director of Disability Resource Center.
The goal of the DRC is to help students have a successful college experience and to re-frame the way that the college views disabilities, in an attempt to adjust the social model. To achieve this goal, DRC staff work with faculty to help students with academic accommodation.
Academic accommodations include third party student note-taking, smart pens, extended time for texts and homework, American Sign Language interpreters, and various other technologies to help students.
For some students, additional support comes from a four-legged friend.
Service animals on campus
Service animals are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities” by the Americans with Disabilities Act, though interestingly enough miniature horses may also be designated as service animals.
“The only animals allowed on campus are service animals,” Darling says. “Companion or emotion animals are not considered service animals.”
She adds that while companion animals do help people, the crucial difference where the law is concerned is that they do not perform a task.
According to Darling, service animals “are not just seeing eye dogs. Some are trained to know when someone with diabetes has low blood sugar” and some assist the deaf or hard of hearing.
Service animals are like wheelchairs; they are a personal device and you would never ask a person in wheelchair why they are using it.
There is no obligation to register service animals with DRC and many students and trainers don’t.
Service animals in training are allowed as long as they follow behavioral guidelines, defined as “specially trained, should be under the control of a handler, typically on a leash, does not bark and is house trained.”
How to treat service animals and their handlers
The only questions that are legally allowed to be asked by the college or its representatives are: “Is this a service animal related to a disability?” and “What task has the animal been trained to perform?”
It is important to remember that service animals have a handler and together they act as a team. In the event a service animal is disruptive, students may ask the animal to leave, but not the person.
Other students are encouraged to treat the animal as if it is invisible. Don’t do anything that will distract the animal from its job, never offer the animal food, and always ask permission to pet the animal.
The college wants every student to know that the DRC is ready to help. Between DRC staff and volunteers from the work study and PALS programs, someone will be available to meet with a student.
Darling encourages students to make an appointment and reminds all students that “disabilities are not a tragedy” but just a part of life.