Feb 132012
Authors: Kate Winkle

If it weren’t for CSU’s Resources for Disabled Students (RDS), deaf students in class couldn’t understand lectures, students with severe ADD couldn’t take tests successfully and students on crutches wouldn’t get to class easily.

“It’s empowering students with disabilities to be able to be successful with academics,” said Melanie Hamman, coordinator of RDS’ Alternate Text Format Services. “It’s an amazing thing to have them reaching their potential.”

Accommodations for disabled students are required by law under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American With Disabilities Act of 1990. But, according to their official website, RDS also advocates for the 750 to 900 disabled students at CSU and coordinates awareness programming to reduce discrimination and increase education about disabilities.

“Accommodations are used every day,” said Rose Kreston, the advisor for the Committee for Disabled Students Accessibility. “(It) depends on the student and it depends on the accommodation. Awareness programs are offered sporadically, depending upon the need. Advocacy, too, is utilized based on need.”

RDS, which is located in Room 100 of the General Services Building on campus, is usually abuzz with activity as students with visual, hearing, mobility, chronic health conditions or learning disabilities are given assistance on a daily basis.
Most students utilizing RDS services are permanently disabled, but RDS also accommodates for temporary disabilities such as broken legs or hospitalizations.

According to Kreston, one of the most utilized resources offered is alternative testing services, which can include accommodations for non-fluorescent lighting, a quiet environment or specifically colored paper.

Only those who identify as having a disability and have been evaluated by RDS can utilize accommodations, which also include conversion of text material to an alternate format, note-taking support and Sign Language interpreting, among others.

Other students can get involved by applying to work in the office or volunteering. RDS is always looking for student note takers, who can be recruited by the student on a volunteer basis or by RDS for a paid position that may include additional tutoring responsibilities, according to their website. Interested students can contact RDS for more information.

“Not many people know RDS exists,” said Emmy Swisher, a sophomore anthropology major and student intern. “We have really cool services that people don’t even know to take advantage of.”

As an intern, one of Swisher’s duties is to drive a golf cart to help mobility-impaired students get across campus.

“It’s really fun — I get lots of funny looks and waves,” she said. “The most rewarding thing is directly helping someone. If I couldn’t get to class, it would be helpful if someone would give me a ride.”

“We offer a lot of services, but we get so much in return,” Swisher added. “It’s the best job in the entire world. I wish I could work here for the rest of my life.”

Gina Burd, who works with RDS as a Sign Language interpreter, said her job requires her to attend classes and events to interpret lectures for students.

“I couldn’t imagine ever sitting down and doing a job,” Burd said. “I love working in the college environment, I love the age of students, I love the whole process of bearing knowledge.”

In the future, RDS is set to move its space to the TILT building where, once funding is secured for construction of an additional wing, will allow for better accommodations and a larger staff.

According to Burd, disability may be a requirement for assistance from Resources for Disabled Students, but it’s not a barrier to success.

“Every qualified student has the right to the same quality of education, and if my skills and experience help bridge that process, then I’ve done a worthy job,” she said. “Knowledge is integral to the human experience.”

Collegian reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.

To receive assistance: – Identify as a student with a disability and provide documentation – Meet with an RDS counselor for an assessment and recommendations – Request accommodations

To get involved: – Contact the RDS office in room 100 of the General Services building – Go online to: http://rds.colostate.edu

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