Access Center provides accommodations for WSU students

Nearly 900 students a year are served by Washington State University’s Access Center, located in the Washington Building on the south side of campus.

The majority of these students have psychological disabilities, which is one of many mental health issues the university works to counter, said Meredyth Goodwin, center director.

“Within those categories, the most common are depression and anxiety, and often they go hand-in-hand,” Goodwin said. “It’s to the point that it’s limiting their functioning and success.”

For about 25 years, since the Disabilities Act was passed by the Supreme Court in 1990, WSU has been one of many universities that have worked toward accommodating individuals with both physical and mental disabilities which prevent them from adequately meeting academic standards.

Many students that currently utilize the access center have chronic depression, PTSD, mood disorder, general anxiety or an injury of some sort that affects memory and processing speeds. Because of this, studying and testing is severely impacted.

The Access Center combats this through personal accommodation with university faculty. An example of this accommodation is their most common service, extended time on exams.

“They know the material, now they need an opportunity to convey it, and if they did not have that extended time, they would not have the opportunity to show what they know,” Goodwin said.

Every student is different, she said, but extended time on an exam may mitigate limitations students with a variety of issues struggle with.

“I think there is a stigma around asking for help, students don’t want to be seen as less than capable or needing something construed as an unfair advantage,” Goodwin said.

Before the Access Center can provide accommodations, it must have documentation from a medical or mental healthcare provider.

“Students with disabilities have certain civil rights and we are here to make sure that students have those rights,” Huskey said.

Once a student has obtained documentation, the center does a thorough intake to understand what the student is struggling with and how the issue is affecting their academics. If they find the student is significantly impacted, they can create an individualized accommodation plan with an access adviser at no cost to the student.

“Students do pay for treatment, but in the classroom, we provide the accommodations,” Dean of Students Melynda Huskey said.

Goodwin said many students have similar diagnoses from their health care providers, but that does not mean they will receive the same accommodations. The environment and situation play great roles in the accommodations provided.

“I think it takes a lot of courage to walk through that door,” she said.