The Daily Gamecock

USC support for disabled is inadequate

Facilities, professor compliance lacking

When we think of October, many of us think of Halloween and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but often forgotten is that October was also Disabilities Awareness Month.

The Office of Student Disability Services (OSDS) works to aid this underserved population on campus. According to the office, there are approximately 1,400 students, or nearly 5 percent of the student body, who are registered for services.

These students come from all backgrounds and encompass a spectrum of both physical and mental causes. While physical disabilities are usually noticeable, many other disabilities are not. Vision problems, dyslexia and learning disabilities are a few examples which cannot be seen just by looking at someone.

The number of obstacles these students must overcome to receive an education often goes unnoticed. The campus is not easily accessible to those in wheelchairs or on crutches, and professors can be difficult to work with in facilitating these students’ academic efforts. Faculty and staff often do not understand the importance of following through on OSDS student requests, from copies of PowerPoint slides to extra time on exams.

Karen Pettus, director of the OSDS, said she believes communication is paramount when discussing the need for accommodations.

“Many students have hidden disabilities, and faculty may not see the student as having a particular need,” Pettus said. “They think of the student as getting preferential treatment, but that is not the case at all.”

While some faculty are willing to help once they understand there’s a need, others outright refuse to accommodate students. If this occurs, the Office of Equal Opportunity has to get involved.
In addition to the need for greater awareness among professors and graduate assistants, these students could make use of transportation and academic support around campus.

We have Five Points shuttles already provided for intoxicated students, why is there not a shuttle to transport students in wheelchairs? Pettus elaborates on this need: “There are so many people who need adapted transportation; we could use 2-3 vans.”
Students and faculty may also be surprised to learn there are no scholarships for students with disabilities at USC. Students with disabilities often have to take fewer classes each semester because they might take longer to get around campus or to read and study for courses.

Another impasse facing disabled students is adequate parking. It would be nice if USC could allocate a lot on campus for the disabled. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act requires handicapped parking at most businesses, and the same applies to USC, many don’t realize that students with disabilities are required to have a state handicap decal as well as a special USC decal. There are very few handicap spaces on campus to begin with, and the rule forcing these students to obtain an additional decal should be rescinded.

While athletes have an academic center devoted to helping them, students with disabilities only have a room too small for a wheelchair with a couple of computers.

Last year, USC planned a day to honor Marcus Lattimore after his knee injury during the Tennessee game. We all love Marcus, but when is there going to be a day honoring people who cannot walk at all?
In order to help these students reach their full potential, more resources should be allocated for them. One way students can help is by signing up to serve as note takers for students taking the same courses. For this service, students need only copy their notes at the Office of Student Disability Services after class for the other student.

Additionally, simply befriending our fellow students would provide great insight into their daily struggles. It would be a great gesture if our administrators could visit OSDS on a regular basis and see to it that these students are well-served.

Students with disabilities are valuable members of the Carolina community. They demonstrate courage and determination and epitomize what it means to overcome life’s obstacles.

We should do our part to commend these students not only in October, but throughout the year.