NKU competes with other area schools in serving the handicapped

One of the least represented minorities at Northern Kentucky University is students with disabilities, with only about 300-350 students currently enrolled.

A possible reason for the low numbers of students with disabilities is the limited services provided by NKU’s Office of Disability Services.

Dale Adams, coordinator of Disability Services at NKU, said that NKU has made improvements and is very close to being a “showcase institution” in terms of accessibility. Adams said NKU offers a variety of services to students with disabilities. He said the library has hooked up with a taped textbook program. Also, he said they have the Kurzweil 3000 system, which scans and reads materials and enables students to put it onto disk, CD, or email it to themselves using thirteen different voice patterns.

Adams said NKU’s Office of Disability Services offers test proctoring options. He said there are close to 80 students eligible for test proctoring, a service that offers extra time, etc.

Adams said NKU does not hire notetakers like some other schools do because they haven’t had the need to.

Instead, they provide students needing notetakers a letter to give instructors asking for someone in the class to volunteer to take notes for the person.

However, other area schools offer more services to students with disabilities to make their academic pursuits easier.

Wright State University, located in Dayton, Ohio offers one of the most accessible campuses in this area. WSU offers many options for students with wide range of disabilities. Unlike NKU, Wright State employs students to help students with disabilities, which include both academic assistance and personal-care assistance. According to the Web site, these services are provided to help those students with disabilities be as independent as possible. Some duties of the personal-care assistants include tasks like helping with laundry and helping with daily hygiene.

While Wright State does provide personal-assistance services, these services do come at an additional fee. Academic support provided includes, sign language interpreters, lab assistance and reader/writer services. In addition, Wright State’s Technology Center provides classroom materials in alternative formats including audio cassettes, computer disks, braille and image enhancement, according to the Web site. Wright State also provides several extra-curricular organizations specifically for students with disabilities.

Adams said to compare NKU’s Disability services to Wright State’s would be “like comparing apples and oranges” because Wright State was built with accessibility in mind.

Both schools, however, are about the same age – Wright State being founded in 1967 and NKU being founded in 1968. However, Adams said he believes NKU does take away some of Wright State’s potential students because many students from southwestern Ohio choose to come here.

Sarah Kelly, assistant vice president for Student Development for Xavier University, said they provide whatever the individual student needs. According to Xavier’s Web site, Xavier offers multiple options to give all students equal access to have an opportunity to learn.

Some of the options they offer students is the ability to take tests in a non-standard atmosphere. Xavier’s Learning Assistance Center also works very closely with Disability Services to help with requests for testing accommodations and providing other academic help.

Services offered by Xavier include specialized adapted equipment, disability counseling and advocacy, support groups, Peer Advising, trained peer tutors, taped textbooks, sign language interpreters, testing for learning disabilities and exam accommodations.

The University of Cincinnati is similar to Wright State in the sense that they have paid student workers to assist the students with disabilities. Beth Kramer, a tutor at UC, said they do not provide services such as Personal Care Attendants to residential students.

Kramer said some of the academic-based services offered include providing students with tape recorders, calculators, computers, interpreters and extended time on pop quizzes.

Kramer said they have four readers that record textbooks on cassette tapes.

Dennis Chapman, director of Northern Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, said he has seen a proactive movement at NKU in the last few years. Chapman said there are a lot of factors when recommending a certain school to a potential student.

He said, “When you think of accessibility, think outside the box. Don’t just think in terms of buildings, think programs too.”