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OSU Student Disability Services office active on many fronts

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mentoring, tutoring, group study and other amenities of scholar support systems once organized by students have become standard offerings of academic success centers in most OSU colleges, addressing social and institutional impediments to undergraduate retention and graduation rates.

One service unit at the state’s university exists to counter more perceptible barriers to academic achievement that most students never have to confront.

“The purpose of our office is to serve students with disabilities with regard to classroom and academic access,” said Michael Shuttic, OSU Student Disability Services director.

“Mobility, vision and hearing impairments, heart ailments, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities. . . we are here for students with any type of disability.

The office’s effort to ensure accommodations for students with disabilities includes various activities.

“We have a deaf/hard of hearing specialist, Sandie Busby, who’s also a sign language interpreter, and though she does the bulk of classroom interpreting, she also contracts additional interpreters or real-time captionists when we need them,” Shuttic said. “But we can also assist students who need extended exam time, note-taking services, access to lecture materials and accessible formats of textbooks such as large print and on tape or compact disc.

“We also work with Information Technology to provide across-campus assistive technology hardware and software, such as screen readers, magnification devices, and voice-activated software."

Like other academic service offerings, the Student Disability Services office can only be effective if it is sought out by those who require assistance.

“We have no way to identify people with needs, so we get information out on the website and in publications such as class syllabi so that as students become aware of what we do and how we do it, will self-identify with us,” Shuttic said. “Before we provide any kind of accommodations service, however, we must collect documentation about the disability, its diagnosis and, more importantly, the functional impact of that diagnosis.”

While Shuttic’s office's primary goal is to mitigate barriers to academic achievement, as the university’s coordinator of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, he collaborates with many other units to address any problems on campus facing disabled individuals.

“The kinds of things people stop in and tell us about range from doorknobs needing to be replaced with lever handles and elevators being down to broken sidewalks,” Shuttic said. “I then go to the people who are able to decide what to do, be they from Parking and Transit Services, Athletics or Physical Plant Services, and work with them to get it done.”

Shuttic said he has been working to address critical areas of concern, including the renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium, accessibility to Cowboy Mall, parking on campus, and the public transit system.

“Parking is an ongoing situation I’ve been working on with OSU Parking and Transit Services for the past five years, but we’ve had a really good relationship,” Shuttic said. “Another issue we hear a lot about is the transit system.

“The buses are equipped with lifts, and the drivers are well-trained, but the biggest difficulty is getting to bus stops due to lack of sidewalks, curb cuts and a hard-surface, accessible pad where you can wait. OSU provides the system, but most of these stops where a sign has been put up in the grass next to a street are out in the city, so they’re a concern.”

The OSU Student Disability Service office is at 315 Student Union and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. It may be reached by phone at 405-744-7116.

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