My name is Courtney Cardenas, and I am a freshman here at the University of Rhode Island. Before I explain my concerns about Disability Services here, I do want to say that they are wonderful and they try to do the best they can to help students in need. With that in mind, my experience with them while taking summer classes was a complete disaster.
The biggest issue I had was with my FM system, which is a device that the teacher wears and is connected to my hearing aids. I was told from the start that Disability Services’ main job is to give students accommodations for housing and in the classroom. The FM system I received was a “courtesy gift” from them, so they are not required to know how to use it or how to teach me how to use it. They told me that I am an adult and that I should be able to figure it out on my own.
I struggled for the first two weeks (out of six weeks) trying to figure out how to connect it to my hearing aids. I had to go to my audiologist to find out I needed a simple program added to my hearing aids. I understand that I should be responsible for my own disability needs, but I felt like I was falling behind in my classes because I had to go without my FM, and I was having panic attacks every night because I was afraid of failing and being kicked out the Talent Development program.
I think that is a point where they should have stepped in and helped me, especially when all they had to do was to tell me that I needed a program. I am unsure if they knew how to use it or if they just wanted me to figure it out, but for something as simple as just telling me to do one small thing that would have fixed my entire situation, I find it ridiculous.
I think that Disability Services should be more supportive towards students with disabilities. Just because we have had our disability or disabilities before we came here, does not mean we know how to use every single piece of equipment thrown our way.
URI supports students academically with the Writing Center, Academic Enhancement Center, professor help and even classes that will help you study better. I would like to expect at least half of that kind of support.
A good way to start is to train staff to use the equipment that they give out to students so they could better help these students. They could also be trained to understand the very basics of the common disabilities found on campus, which would make it easier to support the students here on campus. Being able to support students with disabilities on campus will help them better succeed academically, and it will make them feel like their concerns are being heard as well as make them feel like they matter to the school.