Disabilities could lead to extra rights

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Students and professors at Dixie State University may have a hard time deciding whether or not a disability merits extra rights.

 Professors and advisers have to decide where the line is when it comes to a student’s rights when that student is dealing with a disability. If a student visits the Disability Resource Center and has a specific need that must be met, the professors must accommodate.

For the situations with fuzzy lines, Maria Ortiz, assistant professor and assessment coordinator in the communication department, said it’s under the professor’s discretion.

“Some things are within control of the student,” Ortiz said. “We need to be able to assess those. I don’t expect my students to plan for emergencies.”

Vanessa Bell, a freshman criminal justice major from San Antonio, experienced an unexpected episode in which her heart started beating so fast it caused her to faint. Bell has been officially diagnosed with the heart issue since she was in high school; however, the last thing she expected was for her condition to creep up on her during midterms.

“I hadn’t had a heart episode in such a long time,” Bell said. “It was out of mind, out of sight. It hits you like a ton of bricks.”

Bell was taken to the emergency room, where she was treated for a concussion and given a CT scan. Bell is currently on bed rest, and she has missed the last week of classes. She said she didn’t have outstanding “chemistry” with a few of her professors to begin with, and the accident has made things worse. 

“Not being there to understand what he’ll put on the test and what to brush up on is hard, and I’m still expected to take it,” Bell said. “It’s hard for me to get [professors] to cooperate with my needs.”

Bell’s heart condition is so infrequent that it didn’t cross her mind to visit the Disability Resource Center at the beginning of the semester. She is planning on looking into the services when she heals.

The goal of the Disability Resource Center is to coordinate between the needs of the student and the professor in order to improve the student’s potential in the classroom.

“You don’t know when it’s going to hit you,” said Beverly Clark, assistant to the coordinator at the DRC. “It might hit you all the sudden and you’re down flat in bed.” 

Clark said the agreement between the student and the professor, regarding his or her needs in a special circumstance, serves as a legal contract.

“We are bound by laws and rules,” Clark said. “Legal-wise, this is in place so we can help the student.”

Other than supervising professors and making sure they accommodate the students, the DRC is also legally bound to be fair when determining the extent of a student’s eligibility. A student may need extra time on a test, a calculator or scratch paper. Whatever the student decides will help him or her, the DRC makes sure it happens. 

“Sometimes students come in and it might be as simple as ‘I get anxiety when I test,’” Clark said. “There is nothing we can do without documentation.”

Clark said students—not the professors—are ultimately in charge of what they decide to do. A student will often realize the disability isn’t as severe as he or she originally thought. Clark said the faculty and staff at DSU are outstanding when it comes to accommodating students with disabilities; however, there are exceptions.

“Unfortunately, sometimes the student and the teacher are just not a good fit,” Clark said.

Ortiz said she tries to keep a sense of equality within her students. If a required assignment must be completed, Ortiz said she would typically spend preparation or review time with that student.

“It needs to be fair to those who do their best,” Ortiz said.

If you feel you have a disability that needs to be addressed, contact the DRC by stopping by the North Plaza Building.