National Disability Awareness Month begins

Accommodations are designed to overcome the barriers that are created by a student’s disability



Alexis Kruger, a student employee at the WSU Access Center, Tuesday, March 1, 2023.

ALISA VOLZ, Evergreen reporter

As National Disability Awareness Month comences, resources such as the Access Center continue to be available for those in need.

Mark Dinges, an Access Advisor at the center said there is still a lot of prejudice against people with disabilities in our community.

“We are still dealing with, you know, the world and its attitudes towards people with disabilities, and there is a fair amount of ableism that exists in our society,” Dinges said.

He said some people have the misconception that accommodations provide students with an unfair advantage.

“Accommodations are designed to overcome the barriers that are created by a student’s disability,” he said. “So if somebody has additional time to take a test to compensate for their processing disorder or their need for additional time because they physically can’t write as fast as other people, that’s not providing them with an unfair advantage.” 

Some instructors at WSU do not have an adequate understanding of accommodating students with disabilities, Dinges said.

“I think there are many people and, unfortunately, some who teach courses at the university who do not view accommodations as what they do: address the barriers that are created by somebody’s disability,” he said.

Instructors should design universally accepted courses by providing various different accommodations. Universally designed courses include providing copies of lecture materials, making recordings of lectures, having alternate formats of course materials readily available and having flexible deadlines, Dinges said.

Dinges said that instructors should work to be understanding if students require absences or extended deadlines due to their disabilities.

In his experience, he said attitudes toward people with disabilities have improved throughout the years. Dinges said he remembers when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, sparking progress.

“I think just in general if you ask people, the general understanding of the prevalence of folks with disabilities that are not inherently apparent, there’s a greater understanding of that,” he said. “I think it’s better over time, talking about now as opposed to 30 or 40 years ago.”

Alexis Kruger, a student employee at the WSU Access Center, said the hills around campus make it difficult for people with mobility disabilities. 

However, systems have been put in place to provide students with transportation around campus.

“We have a specific transportation system that has been set up for students with temporary or long-term disabilities when it comes to needing to get around,” Kruger said.

Cougar Accessible Transportation Services (CATS) provides accessible rides for students with mobility disabilities to get to their classes more conveniently. Kruger also said the Access Center can help provide accommodations to allow for late arrival to class to allow for enough time to get across campus.

She said the most important step students can take is to apply for accommodations early through the Access Center in order to prevent issues receiving accommodations.

“I know that a lot of issues tend to happen when things come up a bit last minute,” Kruger said. “One fault of the system currently is that a lot of our accommodations through our office can’t be applied in retrospect.” 

It is difficult for students to receive accommodations after the time that they need them. Kruger said an example of this scenario is if a student missed classes because of a disability that they did not have on file, they could not get past absences excused after the fact.

Each student has a lot of input in how their accommodations work, she said.

“Each of our plans is kind of tailored towards the student during our individual intake process,” she said. “They’ll meet with an advisor and depending on the situation, we can tailor the specifics to the student and what we have available in order to help them so it’s all kind of up to what they’re needing.”