DRC urges individuals with disabilities to be treated same as others

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Students with disabilities  are among us on campus, but we may not be treating them like we would a friend.

Dixie State University has provided a school wide resource, the Disability Resource Center, to help meet the specific needs of those who have a range of disabilities. These needs can range from exam accommodations to golf cart transportation. 

“[We] look at what the university can do to help them participate in everything they are interested in [and] be successful in those academic programs or non-academic activities that other students without disabilities participate in,” DRC Director Baako Wahabu said.   

Anyone who has a disability can take advantage of the DRC. Jasmine Reese, a junior psychology major from Irvine, California, and office manager for the DRC, said the spectrum of a disability is a wide range from a “broken leg to Down syndrome,” and DSU has them all. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act said, “An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

In order to take advantage of what is offered to students with disabilities, they first must go through the application process. The DRC requires students to fill out several forms and provide documentation to verify their specific disability. Once the DRC has received all specified information, Wahabu determines if a student is eligible or not for their services.

“We aren’t here to make you feel like you need help,” said Mariah Breaux, a freshman nursing major from Las Vegas. “We are just trying to make sure school doesn’t feel like a chore.”

Wahabu said the responsibility then falls into the hands of the students. If they want help in their academic or non-academic activities, they are to inform the DRC for needed accommodations, he said. Then in turn, if they fail to ask, the DRC has its hands tied, unable to do much for the students, Wahabu said.   

Reese, along with Breaux, said there are many students who fail to take advantage of these services due to pride and not wanting to accept the fact they may indeed have a disability and have a need for a service.

“I think a lot of the problems with all of the students that have a disability is they don’t think they can turn to us because [of] the stigma,” Reese said. “It is also the perspective of what they think their peers think.” 

Reese said the main role she has, as well as others who work in the DRC, is to help those who utilize the center to feel comfortable. Though a lot of patience and understanding are required for DRC workers, having them will make the job a lot easier, Reese said. 

People with disabilities are treated differently and not as equals, Reese said. Not enough people are open and willing to take the time to talk with those who have disabilities like Autism or Down syndrome. 

“They might look different than you, [yet] they are very special people,” Reese said. “To me, they are capable of doing just the same things I would be able to.” 

Breaux said there is a need here on campus to bridge the gap between those who consider themselves to be “normal” and those who have such disabilities. She said she feels there could be a greater emphasis on campus, especially from advisers and faculty to make people aware of disabilities.

“I think more public education would be good,” Wahabu said. “There [should be] more opportunities for students without disabilities to learn more about the challenges students with disabilities face.” 

Reese said the environment students are faced with in social settings is difficult. For many, part of their disability is evident when they are in social surroundings. If people are not aware or open to talking with them, it makes them feel uncomfortable, Reese said.

“We are all kind of disabled in some way, something limits us somewhere,” Reese said.