University Press

Students with physical, mental conditions share their experiences on campus

Over 1,100 students are registered with Student Accessibility Services so they can receive equal opportunities on campus.

Student+Accessibility+Services+offers+accomodations+for+five+categories+of+impairments%3A+learning%2C+hearing%2C+physical%2C+visual%2C+and%2For+other.++Illustration+by+Joey+Sena+
Student Accessibility Services offers accomodations for five categories of impairments: learning, hearing, physical, visual, and/or other.  Illustration by Joey Sena

Student Accessibility Services offers accomodations for five categories of impairments: learning, hearing, physical, visual, and/or other. Illustration by Joey Sena

Student Accessibility Services offers accomodations for five categories of impairments: learning, hearing, physical, visual, and/or other. Illustration by Joey Sena

Kerri Covington, Editor in Chief

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This story is a part of our print issue on diversity, which looks at differences in beliefs, race, gender/sexuality, age, disabilities, and social class among FAU students and faculty.

Every semester, over 1,100 students work with an on-campus office to ensure their different needs are being met.

These students are registered with the Student Accessibility Services office on each partner campus. The office provides accommodations to those with various impairments so that they can succeed academically and personally.

As of 2016, there were 1,156 students registered with the office, according to its annual report. There are five categories students fall into, with an uneven number of students per impairment type:

Other disability – 510 students

Learning disability – 472 students

Physical impairment – 110 students

Visual impairment – 35 students

Hearing impairment – 27 students

To spotlight how diversity isn’t just about the color of one’s skin, the University Press spoke with three students registered with SAS. They share how FAU works to meet their needs, what diversity means to them, and whether or not they feel accepted at FAU.

“We are not just students with different abilities”

Adam Sturm is a senior political science major at FAU, as well as a member of the Boca campus House of Representatives.

He also has moderate to severe hearing loss, but you wouldn’t know that looking at him.

When he was around 5 years old, he contracted a virus that left him with hearing loss in both ears. He’s been wearing hearing aids ever since.

While he does have difficulty understanding people, he said that he’s lucky because hearing loss technology is consistently improving.

When he’s not working on behalf of Student Government, he’s volunteering with his fraternity Pi Kappa Phi, which works alongside disabilities nonprofit Best Buddies.

Sturm said that he thinks it’s important that people who are differently abled step into leadership roles to show others they can succeed no matter what.

At an on-campus event, a woman came up to him and thanked him for representing her in the student House. When he asked what she meant, she showed him her hearing aid. He said that moment really convinced him he was in the right place as a member of SG.      

He added that students shouldn’t be defined by their impairments.

“We are not just students with different abilities … We are capable of being a part of the university, we’re not just that student in class,” Sturm said.

He registered with SAS when he first arrived at FAU, and receives accomodations through them every semester, which he chose not to disclose. While he believes the office could improve its outreach through social media and Breezeway tabling, he said SAS does a great job of getting its students the help they need.

As for his experience with acceptance, Sturm said FAU’s student body, faculty, and staff has been nothing but welcoming, especially SG. When he first joined, he said the House members made sure he could hear them by moving his seat to the front of the House Chambers.

He believes FAU’s diverse population makes the school stand out over other public Florida universities, and that it’s something that should always be pursued.

“Very satisfied” with FAU’s accessibility

John Scurto is a business management major who has been attending FAU for three years.

Born with spinal muscular atrophy, he’s been in a power wheelchair since he was 5 years old.

He said SAS has helped him succeed academically since he registered with the office as a freshman. To make it easier for him to access his textbooks, the office offers a service where it converts textbooks into PDF files for those who have difficulty moving. SAS also has students from the general student body handle note taking for people like Scurto.

He said that FAU is very wheelchair friendly, “unlike other schools in the state of Florida that are outdated and built a long time ago.” He added that he’s never had an issue with accessing a classroom or location on campus.

If he could change one thing though, it would be the type of handicap spots on campus.

“In the blue parking lots, it can be challenging to find a handicap spot during busy times. I use a wheelchair accessible van with a ramp that deploys from the side, so it is essential for me to have a handicap spot,” he said. “I think a great way to solve this issue would be to have parking spots that are designated only for vehicles that need a ramp for the disabled passenger to exit the vehicle.”

Other than that, Scurto said he’s “very satisfied with the SAS office and the accessibility of FAU’s campus.”

“They know that I’m not just a number.”

Grant Baron is a freshman multimedia studies major.

When he was around 3 years old, he was diagnosed with dysgraphia dyslexia, which is classified as both a physical and mental learning impairment.

Baron said his condition makes it virtually impossible for him, or anyone else, to read his handwriting as his muscles quickly get worn out. He said he also processes things differently than most.

Because of this, he receives test accommodations through SAS. For his written exams, he’s given extended time and allowed to type his responses on a computer.

Baron added that the SAS office members have always treated him with kindness and respect.

“I think SAS is doing a great job … I saw [my coordinator] outside of the office and she waved to me, kind of like that personal touch … They know that I’m not just a number.”

Like Sturm, Baron said that he hasn’t faced any discrimination at FAU because of his condition. He agrees that FAU’s diverse campus helps play a role in that.

“Everyone just seems supportive,” he said. “They understand that I just need extra time to get my thoughts out.”

Eyeing Up Events

To celebrate SAS students and spread awareness, FAU will host five events this October across its three main campuses.

Boca:

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 12-2 p.m.

WHERE: Student Union, Grand Palm Room

WHAT: The “Shine a Light on Abilities Luncheon” will have motivational speakers and students performing various talents to promote awareness of FAU students with disabilities. There will be free food and drink, as well as interactive activities.


WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

WHERE: Wimberly Library lobby

WHAT: Stop by the Wimberly Library to participate in the 70273 Quilt Project. Created by Jeane Hewell-Chambers, this project remembers individuals with disabilities who were murdered during the Holocaust. Students are invited to help gather 70,273 blocks of white fabric that will be stitched together into quilts.


Davie:

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 12-1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Student Union, Room 105

WHAT: The Disability Awareness Luncheon will be similar to the luncheon taking place on the Boca campus on Oct. 24. There will be interactive activities, as well as free food and drink.


Jupiter:

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 18 from 9-11 a.m.

WHERE: Student Resources Atrium

WHAT: Stop by the Atrium to meet the Jupiter SAS staff, as well as enjoy a free breakfast while promoting disability awareness.


WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 18 from 2-4 p.m.

WHERE: Student Resources, The Burrow

WHAT: Students will be provided with various materials (shells, stones, sand, etc) to create an art piece that showcase “all of the abilities within each student.”

*Information courtesy of each campus’ SAS office.*

Kerri Covington is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @kerri_marie23.

About the Writer
Kerri Covington, Editor in Chief

Kerri is a senior English major who’s previously worked as copy desk chief and managing editor. She currently freelances for South Florida Gay News and...

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