Campus upgrades with more handicap friendly features

Throughout their college years, students make many excuses. “I cannot go to class today because it bores me so much I cannot pay attention,” or “I am not going to class today because it is just too far for me to walk from the commuter parking lot to the Evans building.”

Often times, people take for granted that there are those who really are unable to complete tasks as easily as the everyday student. For those students, the Counseling Center offers special programs to assist disabled students on campus.

Kelley Osborn, M.A., L.P.C., a legally blind man, is the coordinator for the disabled students. In this position, his goal is to assist the Counseling Center in facilitating accommodations when needed and to allow students to fully participate academically, in university life and activities.

These accommodations are split into two separate categories.The first is academic and learning. Most of the time, the center seeks academic adjustments in the classroom, “this includes any method or strategy to equal access and learning,” Osborn said.

Students with learning disabilities of any kind can have a number of different arrangements made to improve their learning environment. Some of the services that they offer are extended time on exams, volunteer student note takers and distraction free testing environments.

Special technology is also available for these students to take advantage of. There are a few computer labs around campus that offer advanced assistance, but the Counseling Center itself has the most accessible facility. There are four available computers, printers, scanners and assistive software. There are screen magnifiers, screen reading, scan read, scanned and read aloud, voice recognition and two closed circuit television devices that magnify pamphlets and other reading material.

Another thing that the center offers is one full time and two part time sign language interpreters in American Sign Language. These ladies accompany students to class and internships to provide interpretation service.

Charles Bennett, a mass communications major, uses the services that the Counseling Center provides.

“They provide services for my disability. They coincide with classes and offer good help with visual aid. They are good in helping me accommodate with my classes,” Bennett said.

The Counseling Center strives to continue the outreach on disability issues.

The second issue that the center is concerned with is physical access and mobility. Osborn and many people from the Counseling Center are working closely with a committee from the physical plant to help students in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues to get around on campus and in buildings more easily. John McCroskey, from the Physical Plant, said that when money is available work is done on old buildings to make it more handicapped accessible.

Electronic doors is one of the improvements that is being made. Although it is not campus wide yet, many new doors have been installed. One by one the doors of each building are being improved. An SHSU student, Natalie Pearce, is bound to a wheel chair and often runs into difficulty on campus. She said that one of the biggest problems is not having access in or out of the buildings. She often has to wait for someone to see her and let her into buildings. She pointed out that while many new doors are being added around campus, there are still some doors that are difficult.

“The Evans complex and the Farrington building do not have automatic door access yet, but it would be a huge help,” Pearce said.

Just recently, AB1 has improved their accessibility. An automatic door has been placed on the outside door and on the door to get to the elevator. This will be useful to students who struggle to open their own doors.

Each time a new building is designed, under state law, it must be easily accessible to handicapped students. This includes parking and maps of routes that can be taken. This is also the case when a building is undergoing renovations.Sam Houston is an old campus and some of the old problems still arise, but they are working on making those problems not existent.

“We have pretty much taken care of the issues,” McCroskey said, “although, we are finding that there are problems that still need to be addressed.”

Pearce said that since she arrived at Sam Houston, many improvements have been made.

“My concerns are being heard and people are beginning to see how frustrating it can be to attend this campus and be disabled. There are finally people in the administration what are at least willing to try and make it easier,” Pearce said.

Other students can help in the cause too. Students can call and make an appointment with Kelley Osborn and register their disability on campus. This allows the center to provide appropriate assistance to students, anonymously if desirable.Dr. William Metcalfe, the Director of the Counseling Center, said that the center is grateful to have Osborn on their staff.

“He is dedicated to his job and spends time with students,” Metcalfe said.

To register at the Counseling Center, call 936 294-1720 and plan on attending a special reception in January for students with disabilities. This meeting will allow students the opportunity to have their concerns heard and give suggestions on what can be done to fix the problems. The reception is Jan. 25, 2006, at 2:30 p.m. in the LSC in room 320.

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