SVSU professor to assess on-campus accommodations for students with disabilities

Beth Jorgensen, a PTW professor, has been working with the Office of Accessibility Resources and Accommodations (ARA) to evaluate SVSU’s accommodation of disabilities.

“When I came to SVSU, I occasionally would have a student in one of my classes who had needs,” she said. “SVSU was sometimes very good at being able to meet the accommodations, and at times, struggled to know how to meet the accommoda-tions.”

Vanguard Graphics | Audrey Bergey

The evaluation’s goal was to asses SVSU’s current disability accommodations and ensure the university is implementing best practices, Jorgensen said. Although the evaluation’s results are not complete, Jorgensen said she thinks the university does really well with certain physical disabilities but struggles with less obvious ones.

“We’re really where we need to be when it comes to mobility disabilities,” she said. “We also could do more when it comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder, to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to anxiety and depression, but I don’t think we’re far off the mark of other institutions of our size. It’s a learning curve for everyone, so we just need to size it up and see where to put our attention.”

She said she thought faculty in particular struggle to accommodate students because their training lies in their subject matter, not in disabilities training.

“We need some sort of system to support professors and to educate professors in the things that they can do in the classroom and during office hours,” she said.

The university has already made adjustments, Jorgensen said, including faculty training sessions hosted by the Center for Academic Innovation for identifying and accommodating disabilities in the classroom.

The ARA also offers various services to students in need, such as classroom support, testing services, assistive technologies and academic support meetings.

“The services that we offer vary from student to student,” said Ann Coburn-Collins, the director of Academic Support Systems. “… We also partner with a variety of other university support offices in order to ensure that all student accommodations are being met, both inside the classroom and out.”

About 600 students currently use the ARA’s services, Coburn-Collins said, which is a similar percentage to that at other universities of SVSU’s size.

“It’s hard to pinpoint an ‘expected number’ of students, but we have found that there are many more enrolled students who qualify to utilize our services than who have registered with us,” she said. “One of the things that we strive on a daily basis is to eliminate the negative stigma that is sometimes associated with physical, mental or learning disabilities.”

Coburn-Collins added that the services offered change continually as laws change.

“One of the more notable changes … is a shift from what is called the medical model to the social interaction model,” she said. “The social interaction model is a best practice in our field.”

She explained that the ARA also helps other departments interpret the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“This helps ensure (that the departments) are following federal ADA law and delivering the best quality of service possible to SVSU students,” she said.

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