The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume I, Issue 3 November-December 2000 Editor: James Walborn

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE OSD

  All of us at the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) want to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. In this issue we wish to address some relevant questions which were brought to our attention regarding the documentation and accommodation process for students with disabilities. If you have any further questions, you can contact us in Library Room 175 (561-297-3880) on the Boca campus, and MOD I, Room 104 (954-236-1222) on the Davie campus.

 DOCUMENTING A DISABILITY

Students who have a disability do not have to register with the OSD, but are encouraged to do so in order to receive academic accommodations from FAU. They must verify their disability through extensive documentation from a physician who specializes in the field of their disability. This documentation must include both diagnostic information and an explanation of the current manifestations and current functional limitations of their condition. This should be thorough enough to demonstrate whether or not there is substantial limitation to one, or more, major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, thinking, breathing, or working.

The OSD personnel will review the documentation, and then interview the student to determine what academic accommodations are required to appropriately assist the student. Approximately two and one-half percent of all FAU students are registered with the OSD.

 WHAT ARE ACCOMMODATIONS

FAU grants academic accommodations in order to ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to attain the same quality of education as other students. Accommodations are determined based upon an analysis of the current impact of the person's disability on academic performance. Such accommodations are, by necessity, highly individualized, and are only granted to students on an "as needed" basis.

The OSD provides each student with a “Letter of Notification” for professors detailing the specific accommodations for which the student is eligible. The students are responsible for presenting the “Letter of Notification” to their professors. Each professor is given two copies of this letter. One copy is signed by the instructor and returned to our office; the second copy of the letter is provided for the instructor to keep on file. While professors often accommodate students for a variety of reasons, no professor is required to accommodate a student due to a disability without a “Letter of Notification” from the OSD. On the other hand, an instructor and a student may agree to enhance an accommodation authorized by the OSD, as long as it is mutually agreed to by both parties. Although we encourage students to be frank with their instructors, students are not required to reveal any private information other than the accommodations authorized by the OSD.

 INTERVIEWING AMY

Amy Schwartz Parker is the Assistant Director of the Office for Students with Disabilities on the Davie Campus. Her office covers the campuses of Davie, Commercial Boulevard, the Tower, and SeaTech in Dania. At any one time, there are about 60-65 students receiving accommodations through her office. These students have many different types of disabilities, encompassing a wide variety of needs.

Generally, the accommodations for students fall into two categories: Classroom accommodations and test accommodations. Classroom accommodations might involve front row seating, a notetaker, a special type of chair or desk, or permission to tape record lectures. Test accommodations might involve a distraction reduced testing environment, extended time, or an enlarged print test.

Amy is very proud of the fact that the vast majority of her staff are volunteers. She really can appreciate the smaller size of the Davie Campus, and how this promotes closeness between the OSD, the students, and the faculty. “I really think that the students are wonderful. I think the faculty is great,” Amy states. Although, she notes, there are occasional problems with people not following proper procedures regarding paperwork.

Besides running a small, busy department covering several campuses, Amy is also teaching a graduate course in the Mental Health Counseling field. She has been a Health Care clinician for many years, including working in a maximum security men’s prison. Amy notes, “I feel like I can do anything.”

Amy enjoys running and swimming, however, what free time she has left in her busy schedule is often taken up just eating and sleeping. “I don’t have time to read books for pleasure, anymore,” Amy laments. She dislikes all vegetables, and acknowledges being a chocoholic.

You can contact Amy at the Office for Students with Disabilities, MOD I, Room 104, on the Davie campus (954) 236-1222.

 ACCOMMODATING JARED

Jared is a 20 year old visually impaired freshman, who would like to major in Electrical Engineering. He was diagnosed with cancer of the retina as an infant. Sixteen operations later, he is cancer-free, but has vision in only one eye now, and he is legally blind. Jared is eligible for several academic accommodations. He receives extended exam time, large print tests, and no scantrons; he is allowed to tape record lectures, and has a notetaker and a research assistant when necessary. He can receive tape recorded versions of his textbooks and printed materials.

Through special grant funding, Jared’s opthamalogist obtained an unusual magnifying device worn around the head. This device was named “Jordy” after the Star Trek character. It is a digital video camera and miniature screen which can zoom his vision in on what ever he is looking at.

“I pretty much do anything that I feel like doing. I like to do new and exciting things,” Jared notes. He enjoys surfing, and other outdoor sports, but does not recommend using his Jordy while moving around. He loses what peripheral vision he has when using the Jordy, so he does not want to risk damaging this several thousand dollar piece of equipment.

He utilizes the Jordy to enjoy computers, and the device has allowed him to reduce some of his accommodation needs from the OSD. In answer to our hard biting journalism question, Anything unusual in the refrigerator, Jared professes, “not that I can see.”

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We want to encourage comments and contributions from our readers. Please address any comments to jwalborn@fau.edu. Feel free to share this newsletter with friends and colleagues. Current and past issues are available at http://www.fau.edu/osd.

This newsletter is available in alternate format upon request from the Office for Students with Disabilities. Boca: SU 133; phone 561.297.3880, TTY 561.297.0358. Davie: MD I, Room 104; phone 954.236.1222, TTY 954.236.1146. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

 
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