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Eastern’s Response to Students With Disabilities

Disabilities come in diverse forms and have the potential of posing lifelong challenges that require appropriate management. Most disabilities occur at conception or birth or during a person’s lifetime. The medical community classifies conditions causing disabilities as inherited, congenital, acquired or unknown.

As postsecondary education becomes the gateway to better employment opportunities and improved lifestyle outcomes, for many with disabilities, college remains an unrealized dream. Federal law outlines the students protected in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to: (a) “have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”; (b) “have a record of such an impairment”; or (c) “be regarded as having such an impairment.”

Those with disabilities who leave the protected environment of their high schools continue to have the rights that prohibit discrimination. College students are protected under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and by Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Enforcement of this law in postsecondary settings rests on the shoulders of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which is charged with the responsibility of supporting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assisting to disseminate rules and regulations of the Acts.

To ensure strict implementation of the Disability Acts, most American institutions of higher learning receiving any type of federal funding are subjected either to one or both laws embedded with similar requirements. Private colleges that don’t benefit from federal funding are governed by Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice. In order for students with disabilities to fully benefit from those amenities, it is imperative that they have full comprehension of their rights to enable self-advocacy if those rights are violated.

As students try to make themselves feel at home in their new college environment, informing professors and fellow students about their disabilities in an attempt to enhance their transitions can sometimes prove daunting. Realizing that disclosure of certain disabilities accelerates access to accommodations, students must make the decision to contact their campus disability services’ office.

Brianna Esposito is a student at Eastern University who was born with a hole in her right ear in Russia. She didn’t receive proper medical attention until years later, when she was adopted at 15 months and brought to the United States by her parents. At eight, doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in King of Prussia managed to close the hole. Success of the surgery alleviated her fear of water damage to the eardrum. Sadly, Brianna has never fully regained her hearing. Over the years, she has learned to make adjustments by sitting in front of her classes very close to instructors and making sure the majority of her classmates are always seated by her left ear. Brianna explains that she is absolutely thankful for the services the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support (CCAS) is providing students with disabilities. She notes that if she would ever need assistance, CCAS would be her first place of refuge.

Eastern University’s Accommodation for Students with Disabilities Policy fervently upholds the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The policy ensures equal access to educational opportunities to qualified students with disabilities. It is not intended that academic standards be lower or essential elements of programs or courses be changed, and accommodations are not intended to ensure a satisfactory or desired grade for a student. Eastern’s determination of reasonable accommodation is based on students’ documented needs, essential elements of the involved courses or University activities and institutional resources. For full access to Eastern’s disabilities services, students are required to contact CCAS.

Dr. Lisa M. Hemlick is a licensed psychologist and the director of CCAS. She explains that they are always ready to provide viable services to students with or without disabilities whenever they seek accommodation. She points out that all of the ninety students (80 in the College of Arts and Sciences and 10 in the Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies) who disclosed their conditions and sought accommodations were provided with assistance accordingly.

Hemlick reiterates Eastern’s faith-based responsibilities to cater to the less fortunate and the needy.

“As a Christian institution, it is imperative that God’s children be cared for with compassion” she adds.

The Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support
Walton 210
Phone: (610)341-5837
Fax: (610)225-5036
E-mail: ccas@eastern.edu

Source: ED.gov

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