A world that’s easily navigable for most can pose difficult challenges for those with disabilities — a situation Kansas University recognizes and works to mitigate every day.
KU serves about 600 students with disabilities, the vast majority of which are medical or psychological, said Mary Ann Rasnak, director of the Academic Achievement and Access Center, which includes the Office of Disability Resources. While some blind and deaf students attend KU, they typically number in the single digits, she said.
Such documentation can be sent to Disability Resources at any time and is not required until after the student is admitted. If submitted earlier, however, the documents can help make for an easier transition to KU.
Students are not required to use accommodations, but they are provided to them if they wish.
The campus is reasonably wheelchair-accessible, but the campus doesn’t typically enroll many students in wheelchairs, probably due to its hilly terrain, Rasnak said.
Most people on campus are cooperative and helpful when presented with a student who needs accommodations, Rasnak said.
Joan Sereno, professor of linguistics, said that she’s noticed more and more students needing accommodations popping up, particularly in larger introductory courses.
“It usually goes through the student,” who provides paperwork to the instructor and then accommodations are made as necessary, Sereno said.
Some accommodations need to be handled by her or her teaching assistants — like creating different fonts for a test or providing extra space for an exam.
“It allows the student to participate in all aspects of the classroom,” Sereno said. “I find it very easy to allow these accommodations.”
Still, some students don’t know about the office, and how it can help them, Rasnak said. Others on campus may not notice problems — like a blocked wheelchair ramp — or may not know where to report those problems to get them resolved, she said.
“It’s awareness and attitude that are our biggest problems,” Rasnak said. “We can’t be everywhere. We can’t know everything.”