USF accommodates special needs

USF accommodates special needs

Photo courtesty of: http://www.sds.usf.edu/

Universities are responsible for accommodating #disabilities and #USF works to improve these services for faculty and students alike.

BY REBECCA FORMAN & MARYAM SALEH

TAMPA – At USF, students and faculty with special needs are taken care of through a variety of services, such as Students with Disabilities Services and Human Resources, that function to ensure individuals, regardless of special needs, are able to easily function as members of the USF community.

Students with Disabilities Services offers a wide range of services and works with students, upon request, to accommodate their individual needs. It is the responsibility of the students to get in touch with the office and provide appropriate documentation to ensure their needs are met.

“We don’t seek them out, so they have to come to us and they have to identify themselves as perhaps having a disability, provide us with documentation, and go through the process,” said Peggy Kledzik, coordinator for deaf and hard of hearing services.

She added, “A lot of students, we found out, can go through their whole careers here at the university and not realize the resources that USF offers.”

Justin McFatridge, a student with disabilities at USF, has benefitted from the services provided. Since he is dependent on a wheelchair, mobility is an issue he deals with every day.

“I’ve been to two other colleges and this by far is the most accessible college I’ve encountered as far as having sidewalks everywhere.”

Students aren’t the only individuals on campus who deal with disabilities. James Saunders, a new mass communications professor on campus, is fully blind. He hasn’t sought out assistance from the university, but has managed to settle into a daily routine on campus with the help of his wife and friends.

It can take Saunders up to 20 minutes to move between the first and third floors of the Communication and Information Sciences building and with the help of a mobility coach he has become more comfortable with finding his way around.

“I don’t know of anything that the university could do to make my life simpler. I’m just so happy to be here.”

Kledzik stresses that awareness is crucial for improving disabilities services on campus. “The best thing for me would be more awareness in the community.”

Raquel Peverini, associate director of Students with Disabilities Services, meets once a month with the physical accessibility workgroup to discuss what mobility issues exist on campus. “What that workgroup is designed to do is to address any concerns that are brought to our attention for access.”

In USF’s effort to do what is necessary to create a safe and efficient environment for its students and faculty, some big changes are underway.

The Board of Governors recently approved a $35 million USF Sun Dome makeover because, as it currently stands, the building is not in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Construction should be completed before December graduation ceremonies.

Kledzik maintains a positive outlook on USF’s services. “It really has improved over time.”

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