UA's Office of Accessibility proves less than accessible for students

By: Pamela Kellman

Accessibility on campus is not something that many students think about on a daily basis.

With one fall, the task of climbing stairs can begin to look like scaling a mountain and the campus of The University of Akron can appear to be only uphill.

The Office of Accessibility states that its goal is to provide “reasonable accommodations and a supportive, well-resourced environment to students with disabilities in order to promote student success in the university environment.” According to the Office of Accessibility, students facing a disability need not have a difficult time traversing campus.

The Office of Accessibility promotes examples of accommodations for students in need, including “sign language interpreters, access to class notes, exam accommodations, priority registration, adaptive technology, alternative media and individualized walk-through of academic classes upon request.”

According to current UA student Jennifer Peterson, the OAA is helpful, but Akron’s campus is “just not suited for the physically disabled.”

Peterson, a former dance major, has suffered a history of blood clotting in her legs, which prevents her from walking for extended periods of time.

Peterson said that the employees of the OAA are “very friendly and will provide all the resources they have available to them,” arranging rides and contacting professors, but that there is a glaring disparity for disabled students on campus.

“The University has golf carts and minitrucks for all different departments that don’t really need them, while people on crutches slip and fall every day in their failed attempt to get to class on time,” Peterson said.

She suggests the OAA have a cart to help those maneuver the campus where cars are unable.

“At the very least, the University should have a policy that all the other departments’ carts offer rides rather than splashing the injured while they speed by,” Peterson said. “I understand that there is not much they can do to make the campus slightly more accessible, but it’s little things like that that could make a huge difference.”

A former University of Akron student and Biology major, Nicole, who wished to be referred to by her first name only, listed Akron’s Office of Accessibility as one of the reasons for her recent transfer to Kent State University.

Nicole suffers from otosclerosis, an abnormality of the bone located in the middle ear, which has caused her to suffer rapid hearing loss. Nicole sought the OAA for auxiliary aids.

“Akron’s Office of Accessibility was anything but assessable,” Nicole said.

Nicole registered with the office as a post-secondary student three years ago, and she was told she could not register because “I wasn’t a true student,” she said.

Students are required to register with the office each semester. As an incoming freshman, Nicole faced more red tape.

“There was some excuse as to why my accessibility wasn’t going through; lost papers, never got the papers – even though I had sent them directly and they had to be signed for,” she said.

Last fall, because of her condition, Nicole’s hearing loss more than doubled, but she still saw no change in being accommodated in her classes, including a Spanish class where listening exercises made a large portion of her grade, she said.

“By the end of spring, I couldn’t hear any of my teachers and I failed my semester,” Nicole said. “I then transferred to Kent State. The day I dropped my Akron classes was the day I got a phone call from the OAA and they asked if there was anything they could do to help me.”

Nicole said she appreciates all the accommodations she has been permitted at Kent State.

The OAA was contacted for a statement, but no one was available to comment at the time the call.

In order to receive the services the Office of Accessibility provides, students need to register with the office. The registration process is available either by request or at their website,