Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Disability Service Center

Posted on March 22, 2016 in Community
By USM Free Press

By Thomas Fitzgerald

When a student goes to class on their first day of the semester and receives a syllabus, the back page will typically have information for students with disabilities and for students who may be struggling for a specific reason. However, do all students know about how many different offerings there are?

The disability service center in Luther Bonney is filled with the contagious positivity of faculty members and students who are all striving towards an equal goal: to assure that every student at USM has an equal opportunity to achieve academic and personal success.

The goal of the center is to collaborate with faculty, students and staff members to ensure that USM students can find their strengths and maximize their full potential as learners. In order to maximize this potential, there is the need to minimize the physical and mental barriers that students may have to “enhance the learning and life experience of students,” as stated in the center’s mission statement.

That mission statement holds true to its word, as a conversation with the head of the disability service center, Joanne Benica, only reinforced ideas about building a positive educational environment that emphasizes equality.

“We are available on campus. We do orientations, and try to be present at student events. I think students sometimes do not come here because of stigma. They may not realize that their issue qualifies as a disability,” stated Benica. “The Americans with Disabilities Act does not have a list of qualified reasons for disability on campus, but any condition that substantially limits one or more areas of life functioning, such as walking, breathing, talking, seeing and learning is something that would qualify.”

Universal design is an aspect of the learning curriculum that has been implemented at USM, and it focuses on a learning plan that will compliment any form of learning style. It “is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design,” according to the Center of Universal Design.

From a national perspective, the Institution of Educational Sciences has done a nationwide survey of college students and found that 11 percent of all undergraduate students have a disability. As for how that distributes between gender, 44 percent of those students identified themselves as male, and 56 reported as female.

If you have been struggling to learn during your time here at USM, and feel like there have been emotional, mental or physical factors that have been preventing you from becoming the best learner that you can, it is encouraged that you stop by the disability service center to meet with all of their welcoming members.