By JODI WILSON/Montana State News
When Montana State University opened its office of Disability, Re-entry and Veteran Services (DRV) 24 years ago, it served 20 students. Since then, that number has increased 25-fold.
Federal law mandates equal access to education at all levels for people with disabilities. Here, at Montana State University, the DRV opened its doors in 1988 to comply with the law and to meet the university’s goal of providing accessible programs, services and activities to students with disabilities.
When the office first opened, it served a total of 20 students. Today, the office has over 400 students with disabilities and 558 registered veterans utilizing the program.
Accommodations that are provided to each student are dependent upon the type and severity of disability the student has. The accommodations are meant to equalize learning opportunities for the student.
Some of the possible accommodations include: accessible textbooks – in which textbooks are transferred to a CD so the student can enlarge the images on a computer – note-taking assistance, and the most common measure, is extended testing time. This accommodation is used to allow student who struggle with reading comprehension more time on the exam, allowing for a less stressful testing environment.
Along with accommodating student needs, the DRV, “strives to enhance awareness and sensitivity to the needs of persons with disabilities.” Staff members of the DRV work to improve not only the quality, but concern of equalizing all levels of education for students.
In an effort to make accommodations more accessible to students, teachers and classmates have become just as important to making MSU a strong supporter of Section 504. The office works with the professors and fellow classmates of the students with documented disabilities, while also ensuring that privacy laws are followed.
The professors are encouraged to accommodate different learning styles, while classroom volunteers are called upon to take notes for the students who are unable to do so themselves. Some students also require classroom interpreters.
MSU’s Office of Disability, Re-entry and Veteran Services is located in the lower level of the SUB. The small office space is in high demand with many students in search of accommodations. Although the two offices, Disability and Re-entry (the veteran’s part of the office recently remodeled an entirely new office next door), are sharing tight quarters, accommodations for each individual are being met to the best of the staffs’ ability.
While it is not yet in planning, the offices hope to one day revamp, as the veteran’s office did nine months ago; however, this expansion will not be possible unless the SUB expands, or another building is built.
Brenda York, the director of the DRV, feels that “accommodations are being met, but being able to do more one-on-one help, like study skills, etc., would be beneficial. More staff allows more time and more open hours for appointments.”
For more information, students and staff alike are invited to stop in the office, located in SUB Room 180, and meet with a staff member. And for easy access to general questions about accommodations, refer to their website at http://www.montana.edu/wwwres/disability/index.shtml.
Edited by Randi Tyler