Jan 172006
 
Authors: Joanna Thomas

CSU's Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) received six informal grievances from disabled students during the past two years; three in 2004 and three more in 2005.

Roselyn Cutler, associate director of OEO, said the filing of both formal and informal grievances has decreased during the past 10 years. The numbers, however, don't reflect students who come in simply to ask questions and get information about their rights. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to resolve differences, Cutler said.

"Some issues have been resolved with out any grievances being filed," Cutler said.

She has noticed great improvement and understanding in faculty and staff attitudes toward disabled students. Previously, Cutler said, professors believed a student was not cut out for college work if he or she could not do something. Now, most professors have adapted to accommodating students to help them succeed and providing extra time for taking tests and alternate testing locations.

"You have to look at the individual student and student needs," Cutler said. "I'm not sure people appreciate just how individual a disability is."

Rosemary Kreston, director of the Office of Resources for Disabled Students (ORDS), said while inequalities still exist, she has seen improvements and less incidents of discrimination toward the disabled, both nationally and at CSU.

Kreston attributes the improvements changes to laws protecting and enabling disabled citizens. The lack of consistency comes from people's differences interpreting the laws.

"Disabilities exist," Kreston said. "Not everyone can do the same thing as everyone else."

Fifteen years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) limited disability discrimination with the enactment of a series of measures. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in the job application procedure, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and job training. A person with a disability is defined as someone who has a record of, or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activities.

Additionally, the ADA requires employers to make accommodations, with the exclusion of personal items such as glasses or hearing aids, to a disabled person as long as it does not impose an undue financial burden.

CSU, a government institution, must similarly accommodate students with disabilities. Such provisions include: moving classes and activities to accessible locations, providing alternatives to lectures such as tape recordings, sign language or oral interpreters and providing adaptive computer equipment.

Brian Chase, director of Facilities Management, oversees all construction and maintenance of CSU, including accessibility issues for disabled students. He said although the university has a strong commitment to make buildings accessible, not all buildings on campus are compliant with standards.

With the expected money coming to CSU, the allocation of funding is crucial.

"If we took the whole campus and asked if it met all ADA standards, we could do millions of dollars more," Chase said.

In a quick survey of campus, one would find few of the restrooms in the Morgan Library, and only restrooms on the first floor the Clark building contain wheelchair accessibility. Throughout campus, often-inconvenient locations for wheelchair entrances exist, instead of practical and easily accessible ones.

Some buildings Chase recognized not meeting all standards included the Eddy and Education buildings, which need switches to assist opening the doors.

He said renovations to buildings can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 for restrooms and $3,000 to $500,000 for elevator installation. Most changes take about two to three months.

Because of these limitations, Chase said Facilities Management and CSU accommodate buildings where needed, spending money where it will advantage the most students.

"Our goal is to get the most bang for your buck, and also benefit the most people," Chase said.

He said the ADA law recognizes an institution cannot make every building completely accessible. Instead the goal is to make a program, such as a class, accessible to everyone. For example, few blind students or faculty attend CSU so instead of installing Braille on every building, Facilities Management uses the money for other necessary causes, such as door switches.

For the most part, CSU does a decent job accommodating both physically, mentally and temporarily disabled students, Kreston said.

"I have found on this campus there is an extra effort to be fair," Kreston said.

But discrimination goes far beyond simply accommodating, or not accommodating, the disabled. Kreston said discrimination often stems from many people lacking an understanding of disabilities themselves.

"I think the difficulty is that most people see a disability as a deviance rather than a human condition," Kreston said.

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