Disabled students succeed on campus

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Dana Stelting-Kempf, [email protected], is a senior English major.

Physical disabilities are easy to see and understand but there are a plethora of disorders that can make life on campus extra challenging, that’s where Student Services come in, by identifying and providing help for students of all backgrounds with assistance, they ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to be successful at Washburn.

Becky Poe, a junior social work major, lives with a number of disorders that create challenges for her as a student. She needs an oxygen tank and must carry it, which is an extra challenge because she also has difficulty walking. 

Poe has to use a walker to get around and any long distance she has to navigate is a struggle.  Additional problems occur when she arrives at school and is unable to find a handicapped parking place.

“It is a constant struggle to watch able-bodied students using the spots. I try to remind myself, ‘hidden disabilities,’ but when you see someone hop out of a car and bounce off, it gets very frustrating,” said Poe. “I wish the campus police could do more to keep these spaces free for the truly disabled. It is really frustrating to see students who are using a placard they got from their grandmother.” 

Although the campus police do what they can, abuse of parking spots does occur. It may be tempting to park in one of these seemingly forever empty spaces, but penalties for using a placard that belongs to someone else includes a $100 fine and the loss of the placard to whom it was issued. For more information regarding parking regulations on campus call the campus police at 670-1153.

In order to help her be successful at Washburn, Poe met with Jeanne Kessler director at Student Services. She had no difficulty in getting services and the process required little paper work or effort. 

“The first appointment with Kessler is very important as she recommends services the student may need and not be aware of,” said Poe.

Although Poe has never had an accommodation denied, she has had an instructor respond to her with negative remarks. Overall, though, Poe’s experience with Washburn and Student Services has been positive. 

Poe received limited services from Vocational Rehabilitational Services and when she needed a new walker, she was told to search other agencies for help first. She happened to discuss this issue with Kessler who helped her by finding Topeka Independent Living Resource Center. The agency was able to provide her with the walker she needed and now uses.

“I think students who have any type of special need or difficulty— like test anxiety or any difficulty—in class should contact Student Services,” said Poe. “You don’t need a long history; test anxiety is easy to diagnose. Look at Student Services not as accommodations, not as getting something other people don’t get, but to look at it as getting what you need to be as successful as you want to be.” 

Next week part II will cover Student Services, who they are, who they serve and what they do. For more information visit www.washburn.edu/disability-services/index.html