Program offers a service opportunity while assisting disabled students

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    By Jessica Kehr and Carolyn Peterson

    While working toward their own graduation, some BYU students are helping others reach their goals at the same time.

    Around 400 students are assisted by Services for Students with Disabilites each semester.

    “I could not get through school if it were not for the services that I get through the disabilities office,” said Jenny Sato, 20, a junior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in Marriage Family and Human Development.

    Services for Students with Disabilities is an on-campus organization that helps those with disabilities and those who want to serve.

    In 1999, SSD received 6,886 hours of service, said Mark Beecher, coordinator for SSD.

    “The office here is all volunteer and I really appreciate that people would sacrifice part of their day to help me get through school,” Sato said.

    Accommodations SSD offers include a reduced class load with full time status, textbooks on tape, adaptive equipment for computer screens and keyboards, brailling capabilities and various other services.

    Volunteers can help SSD by offering with travel assistance for other students, note-taking, live reading, reading or scribing tests, typing and interpreting for the deaf and hard of hearing, Beecher said.

    The department has been in existence since the late 70s, but was drastically reformed in the early 90s by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act requires accommodations for disabled students and faculty in all schools receiving federal aid.

    “This organization gives these students an opportunity to succeed in school where otherwise they wouldn’t,” said Rochelle Rabe, a coordinator for students with physical disabilities.

    The program is not allowed to self-recruit for legal reasons. This prevents them from identifying and notifying disabled students when they apply to the University. Instead, students must become involved in the program on their own, Rabe said.

    It is possible for a student to have a disability, be it physical or emotional, and not know that help is available from SSD, she said.

    Beecher noted that there are visible signs that may indicate that a student might need help. The student may be struggling more than other students in their classes and may work 2-3 times as much as other students although they consistently earn worse grades, Beecher said.

    Students may come in and ask for an evaluation from a counselor. After the evaluation, the counselor and student can determine which accommodations would be appropriate.

    Students interested in this program should contact the main SSD office at 1520 WSC.

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