Disability Services Office integral to students' success
At Queen’s Disability Services Office (DSO), the focus is on giving students with disabilities individualized attention so they can concentrate on fulfilling their academic goals.
“Our job is to make the environment work for them. The services we offer help make the system flexible and adaptable to the student’s disability in a dignified manner,” says Jeanette Parsons, Disability Services Advisor in Health, Counselling and Disability Services.
During the 2012-13 academic year, the DSO registered nearly 900 students and recruited more than 200 volunteers to work as note-takers for individuals who have difficulties recording what’s said in lectures.
“These notes can make all the difference in the world to a student with a disability. For some students, it can make the difference between passing and failing a course,” says Ms. Parsons.
The DSO also approved alternate format supports for dozens of students this past academic year through the Adaptive Technology Centre in Stauffer Library. Those supports include mobile apps, software that can read textbooks aloud, and a transcription service that provides textbooks in alternate formats such as e-text, large print or Braille.
During exam periods, the DSO, along with staff in the Exams Office, are busy ensuring students with disabilities have the proper exam accommodations – such as access to computers with screen readers, additional time, proper ergonomic setups, breaks to take medication, and access to private rooms. Staff in the Exams Office may also be called on to support students who are distressed and anxious on exam day. In the past winter term alone, more than 2,000 individual exam accommodations were arranged.
“Most of the students who come through the DSO are highly competent and competitive. What we do in the DSO is facilitate their participation by removing the barriers in an individualized way so they can pursue their goals on a level playing field with their peers,” says Ms. Parsons. “We also rely heavily on the great work faculty do on the ground, in their classes to support students, and the dedication of staff in Student Awards, Physical Plant Services and Residences.”
The work of the DSO is one of the ways in which Queen’s is building an inclusive campus community that is accessible to all. Earlier this year, the Queen’s News Centre presented a series of stories addressing accessibility at Queen’s. Further information about resources available to students with disabilities is available on the websites of the DSO and the Equity Office.