Tucked away on the top floor of Wells Hall is Student Disability Services. While the office provides assistance for more than 650 students, myths still exist about what this office does.
From providing extra assistance to students on exams to ensuring that students are provided a “level playing field,” Student Disability Services does more than the regular student can imagine.
High school assistance doesn’t mean college assistance
One of the most common beliefs from students is the assumption that if a student got extra assistance in high school then the student will get the same in college. That could not be further from the truth – students must go to the office and register themselves. According to Velvet Wilson, director of Student Disability Services, this is a common misconception.
“We get that all the time with students assuming that their (high school) counselor sent it to us,” Wilson said. “We will have students come in six weeks into the semester bringing us paperwork and for those students we provide accommodations but we don’t have enhanced services available because of staffing.”
Wilson said that the office tries its best during Summer Orientation to tell students that they must fill out proper paperwork in order to receive accommodations and services. Along with the paperwork, students must provide current documentation from a medical professional in order to receive these services.
Graduation is the goal
In high school, students with special needs are given different types of exams. In contrast, Murray State students are given the same tests as the rest of their peers.
“Students have to perform at the same level as everybody else; we are just providing the accommodation to level the playing field,” Wilson said.
Given this level playing field many may predict graduation rates to be lower for special needs students. While the University as a whole maintains a 54 percent graduation rate, a higher number of special needs students graduate – a 56 percent rate.
Services and accommodations are the same
A final misconception that SDS deals with is the assumption that services and accommodations are the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act states all universities must provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with disabilities. Such accommodations include providing extra time for tests, having a note-taker, having an interpreter or being provided special software for class.
Services, on the other hand, are not required by law. Tutoring is one example of a service Murray State provides to students.
Said Wilson: “Accommodations are provided to a student with a disability based on documentation that the office has received from a qualified professional and outlines what accommodations are necessary so a student can be successful in an academic setting.”
Story by Tom Via, staff writer
Story contributed by JMC 397 class