More students are seeking out the services of Samford University’s Office of Accessibility and Accommodations. That’s according to Alyssa Snyder, the office’s assistant director, who is one of many wrapping up Disability Awareness Month on campus.
Currently, over 900 active students (undergraduate and graduate) have registered with the office. It provides an array of support through accommodations for housing and parking, resources for first semester transition, and can even provide help with test taking.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of tests we proctor with a recent reorganization that allowed us to hire a fully dedicated testing coordinator,” said Snyder.
Snyder believes the increase in utilization of services could be from a decrease in stigma surrounding disability services. Other reasons could include more people with disabilities are seeking out postsecondary education, as well as awareness drives like the one recently held in October on Samford’s campus.
Staff and students with the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations hosted many events, including a BINGO table in Ben Brown Plaza, a workshop to increase awareness of student organizations that are advocacy focused, and a coffee chat that helped attendees learn basic American Sign Language signs. All the activities were focused on inclusivity.
“There are barriers in higher education such as inaccessible buildings, strict policies on non-fundamentals, and inaccessible learning environments,” said Snyder. “There are many highly qualified people with disabilities who must navigate around these barriers during their college experiences.”
Students with a disability in at least one of five areas – cognitive, psychiatric, medical, sensory/mobility, or temporary – can reach out to the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations to schedule a meeting or learn more through the office’s page on the Samford website. While information from the Postsecondary National Policy Institute shows many students, especially those with cognitive or psychiatric needs, struggle with understanding they are eligible for services, Samford officials wants to bridge that gap in knowledge.
“We say all the time there are things we are obligated to do and provide under federal law (i.e., the Americans with Disabilities Act), but Samford’s historic Christian commitments are what should compel us,” said Bridget Conway Rose, Director of the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations.
For those students who love someone with a disability or want to advocate for someone with a disability, there are plenty of options at Samford. Student organizations like DREAM (Disability Rights Education, Advocacy, Mentorship) and groups like the Accessible Christianity Cadre within the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations are always looking for new members. Overall, it’s important for every member of the Samford community to become more informed.
“Be aware. There are diverse differences in communication, mobility, social interactions, health and learning among the Samford community,” said Snyder. “Be intentional when planning events, and be respectful with words, actions and interactions.”