Archive for Thursday, June 18, 1998


June 18, 1998


Students of all abilities can find the help they need from two programs at the university.

Last year, the Student Assistance Center was reorganized. The two emerging groups were the Student Development Center and Services for Students with Disabilities. Though both still are in 22 Strong Hall, a physical separation is on the horizon. Although no immediate plans to move are on tap for either center, the move eventually will occur, said Lorna Zimmer, director of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Here's an overview of the two organizations.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Services for Students with Disabilities has one goal in mind: equality.

The center uses a wide variety of accommodations to level the playing field and give all students a chance for normal college experiences, Zimmer said.

``We're designed to create equal opportunities for people with a wide variety of disabilities so they can discover and develop their talents and interests to prepare for their future,'' Zimmer said.

The complicated process at the center involves meeting the students, understanding their substantial limitations and figuring out what to do to help them. On top of this, the center must be up-to-date on state and federal laws and cases that affect what they do.

For some students, it may be as simple as directing them to the handicapped-accessible parking spots on campus, while others may need on-going assistance.

For example, students with visual impairment may require enlarged print for exams and handouts, library/research aides, readers for non-text materials and exams, scribes for exams, notetakers, lab assistants, oral exams, extended time allowances or campus orientation.

A student with a learning disability may require letters to faculty members about the student's disability, tape-recorded lectures, individual conferences with faculty or use of a dictionary in class.

Students with physical or health disabilities may need a lift van, assistance with enrollment and registration, advocacy regarding a campus accessibility issue or a typist.

All of these students would be required to schedule an interview with a staff member in Zimmer's office, provide documentation of the disability and a most recent test evaluation. Then the eligibility for services would be determined and, finally, the arrangements and accommodations would go into effect.

The center's staff of four full-time positions, two of which were added this spring, fill the needs of about 450 students on campus. Zimmer said that more help is needed to adequately serve the students.

Unlike some college campuses, Kansas University does not organize social support groups based on students' disabilities. Instead, the center focuses on mainstreaming students.

``Being disabled shouldn't be a reason to be in a social group,'' Zimmer said. ``We do support students decisions to meet with other disabled students, but it's only if they want to.''

Student Development Center

The Student Development Center is looking to find new ways to serve students.

Director Mary Ann Rasnak came to the KU in February from Iowa State University, in Ames. She is seeking ways to reach out to students on campus.

Rasnak believes the addition of the new Freshman-Sophomore Advising Center will free up the Student Development Center to do more with students.

For example, the advising center can provide notices to faculty for students' extended absences, assist students in emergency situations, help with nontraditional student issues, provide assistance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender student issues, provide tutor listings and information handouts.

That's just the beginning.

Rasnak wants to increase the programs to help students develop study skills, money-related skills and success programs.

She envisions subject-specific supplemental instruction and developing peer leaders to help students. For example, a notetaker would go beyond explaining the notes and teach people how to store and retrieve the information in their long-term memories. Rasnak wants students to understand that learning is a process you can control.

Part of the center's responsibilities involve helping students cut through the red tape a bigger university generates. The advising center will help in that task, too. In addition, the center has been helpful in making referrals to different people and programs on the university.

``There's a lot of help available here at KU,'' Rasnak said. ``We want to help and get out there. There are no dumb questions. If you were drowning, you would not just do it quietly, you would yell for help. So if you're drowning at KU, yell for help and someone will help.''

Rasnak wants to develop a web page clearinghouse with several links so that students can get the help they need when they want it.

-- Regina Cassell's phone message number is 832-7189. Her e-mail address is

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