Not all disabilities are apparent

UCC Disability Services provides free accommodations to students with vision, hearing and mobility impairments as well as other disabilities.

“Some students don’t realize they have difficulty learning until they get into an academic environment, other environments such as the work place are better suited to the way they learn,” says Barbara Stoner, coordinator of Disability Services located in the Advising/Counseling Department of the Student Center.

The accommodations of Disability Services range from the obvious, such as assistance with mobility, to the not so obvious, such as consulting with instructors on how to best meet a student’s learning needs.

“If you come to me and you need a note-taker because you have severe ADD and are having difficulty in your lecture class and you can’t listen and write at the same time, you can be provided with a tape recorder or a student note-taker, so lectures can be learned to at your own pace,” Stoner says. “The mission of my office is to make the college and its facilities as accessible as possible to students who have barriers.”

Individuals with print impairments are provided with screen readers, which are computer programs that attempt to interpret what is being displayed and convert it to audio. Books on tape and tape-players are also available.

Individuals who have visual impairments can receive assistance navigating the campus or participating in outside activities. A sign language interpreter is provided for students who use sign language as primary communication.

And for those with severe mobility impairments the college also offers several electric carts that are available on a first come first served basis. Security can also provide a shuttle service for students to and from their classes.

A UCC student uses one of the available electric carts.

“Disability Services has been very cooperative and generous. I would have had to drop out if it weren’t for the pro-active approach the campus takes to disabilities,” says Darryl Tostenson, who has recently experienced mobility issues.

Disability Services will provide parking permits for the orange colored spaces and staff parking on campus for students who may need them. However, a DMV issued parking permit is required to park in any of the DMV handicap parking.

Creative solutions are sometimes needed to provide access for some disabilities depending on the nature and severity of the disability, which also determines the extent of services provided on a case-by-case basis.

Disability Services’ mission statement is “to ensure equal access to qualified students with disabilities to the programs, services and activities of Umpqua Community College. Disability Services advocates for and empowers students with disabilities through the provision of information, services, and skill development in problem solving and self-advocacy to reach their full personal, academic and vocational potential.”

The statement aligns with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which indicates that no institution receiving federal funds shall discriminate on the basis of disability and shall provide reasonable accommodations, without substantially altering the standards of the college.

Also, accordingly, no qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives Federal financial assistance.

Documentation for learning or psychological disabilities or certain chronic health issues may be required before Disability Services provide make accommodations for a student, especially when the disability is not readily apparent.

Students may, however, receive temporary accommodations on an individual case-by-case basis. Stoner strongly encourages any student who may feel the need for her services to stop by her office located in the Advising Department of the Student Center.

With an increase in student enrollment, there has also been an increase the need for disability services. Over 180 individuals are currently being served by disability services. This is an increase from 138 individuals that were being served at the same time last year.

“During certain times of the term [there are so many students in Advising that] we have to clear this room because of the fire code. [When this happens we] have students wait in the student center. Advisers are seeing students as fast as they can, and everybody is trying to do what they can to get students enrolled,” says Stoner.

The college’s plan to improve front door access with a campus living (See cover story, Issue 3) will provide much more space for disability services, as well as advising, registration, financial aid and administration.

“Most instructors here are wonderful with what the student needs and their own compassion for the student,” says Stoner. “We don’t guarantee success [to the student], but we do guarantee an opportunity for success, an opportunity for access” says Stoner, adding “[A student] will be provided with the tools they’ll need.”

For more information on the types of services that can be provided for contact the Disabilities Services Coordinator Barb Stoner at (541)440-7655.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.