Students with disabilities seek better accommodations from UT


Thomas Allison

Government senior James Blaise walks past construction on the East Mall Tuesday afternoon. Blaise, who lost his sight as a child, said that he is frequently frustrated by construction on campus which impedes his normal route. He also said accommodations for disabled students have improved greatly in his time at UT.

Bobby Blanchard

In the past five years, the number of students registering with the Services for Students with Disabilities has doubled, and the University is making efforts to better accommodate them.

Students registered with disabilities brought up issues about iClickers and gaining accommodations from professors at a meeting Tuesday night hosted by staff of SSD. Only six students attended the event.

The meeting was held to gain feedback from students about how the University is doing at providing accommodations to students who are suffering from disabilities, said Stephani Wolfe, director of SSD.

Senior Pamela Lagos said quizzes done by iClickers cause her anxiety because they are only 30 seconds long and factor into her final grade for one of her classes.

“I’m trying to read the questions and the answers and they’re timed so I feel like it hinders my response,” Lagos said. “I would be much better taking the quiz on paper.”

Linda Millstone, associate vice president for Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity and director of Equal Opportunity Services, said she wants to see the SSD respond by putting information about iClickers in accommodation letters professors receive at the start of the semester.

“For some students it doesn’t seem to be working very well,” Millstone said. “I think we probably will see more faculty using the iClicker across the campus, so it’s good to get that information in the accommodation letter.”

Wolfe said most professors have used the iClicker just for polling, but lately she said she has seen more classes use them as part of a grading system.

“We’ve been case-by-case addressing it, but we’ve been working on ways to respond systematically,” Wolfe said. “The solution isn’t the same from class to class or student to student, so that is where it gets challenging.”

Social work senior Carol Gilson said she wants professors to be taught how to deal with accommodations better because she and fellow SSD registered students should not have to work to get their accommodations every year.

“Accommodations is part of doing a professor’s job,” Gilson said. “I don’t think that’s our job as a student.”

Government senior James Blaise, who is blind, said while he is frustrated with navigating construction on campus, accommodations for blind students have improved greatly since his freshman year.

“Most professors are very accommodating,” said Blaise, who did not attend the forum. “Dealing with some of the less accommodating professors can be a hassle.”

Wolfe said law mandates promising equal access to students are granted and guaranteed by the SSD, but she is hoping attitude towards accommodations moves forward to something more.

“At the end of the day we can say you have to give students extra time and they will give extra time because we said so,” Wolfe said. “What I would hope as we continue this dialogue and it gets better across campus, professors will have no problem providing extra time because they would understand the intent of the law is so every student have equal access, because it is the right thing to do.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Disabled students seek further support