DSS provides alternative learning options

Approximately 200 students are currently enrolled with Oswego State’s Disability Services (DSS), the support services program. Many of these students use the rendering services where other students are employed by disability services to take notes.

Oswego State DSS makes different accommodations for students in order to ease them into learning. Some of the accommodations offered for students are special classroom seating, extended time for testing, note-taking assistance and alternative testing location.

Patrick Devendorf, assistant coordinator of DSS said in an email the increasing number of students using the service is due to the “increased supports in middle/high school giving students the opportunity to attend college. There seems to be less of a stigma attached to learning differences.”

Ashley Chruscicki, a member of DSS double majoring in Spanish and psychology, said the disability center helps her by providing alternative testing locations. They also help her by giving her some of her textbooks in an alternative format that can be read with a program named “Jawls.”

“The services are helpful but most of the time I usually get textbooks myself and try to get help on my own,” she added.

A report by the Government Accountability Office showed the proportion of college students with a disability has inched upward to about 11 percent in 2008 from nine percent in 2000. The number of people who report learning-related disabilities is growing at a much quicker pace, according to the report.

“I feel independent as a college student, despite the fact that I am legally blind, I do not let that hold me back from achieving my goals,” Chruscicki said.

Higher educational institutions are not always up to date with the needs of people with learning disabilities and the services that they require.

“Students with disabilities face the insecurities as any other student such as adjustment to academic demands without or lessened parental support. Living away from home and dealing with a roommate,” Devendorf said. “The major difference for students with a documented disability is that they are tasked with self-advocating in some cases for the first time. Even when students do speak up, colleges to a certain degree, do not have a good handle on what these students need. Students are adults and must self-advocate. Some students may elect to not utilize their accommodations and this is their right.”

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all colleges are required to provide accommodations to college students. However, they can decline to do anything they consider unreasonable. Unlike grade schools and high schools, which are required by law to identify, evaluate and help students with disabilities, colleges do not have to do anything, unless a student asks for help and provides proof of a learning disability.