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Despite changes with distant learning, the Office of Disability Services at SRU is trying to remain as normal as possible. All faculty and staff are working remotely from home and using Zoom and Google Voice accounts to communicate with students.
Dr. Natalie Burick, the director of Disability Services, said even though she misses having face-to-face interaction with the students, that her office is not changing all that much. She said that all the staff are working remotely and utilizing Zoom for face-to-face meetings and Google Voice to text and call students.
“We are still doing a lot of virtual meetings and staying connected with our students as much as we possibly can,” Burick said.
She said they send out weekly email updates to the students who utilize their services about anything they need to look out for, upcoming scheduling, how accommodations can work for them from a virtual environment, and asking them if they need the office to contact faculty for them. She said faculty is being really helpful and working closely with them to accommodate students.
“We are keeping busy and working a lot with faculty on figuring out accommodations and how they can work with testing,” Burick said. “They, in D2L, can extend students’ time for tests, so we have sent those instructions out to all faculty.”
She said several students use the extended time option for tests, such as student dealing with anxiety. Faculty can also give students with accommodations unlimited time to take exams if they choose to. Burick said that faculty have changed the time allotted and the date for when the test is due for certain students.
Burick said that some students need their tests read to them.
“We read tests for students in our office on a daily basis,” Burick said.
That option is still available, she said, if students go to D2L and request that they take a test with the office of Disability Services, just like they would if staff was in the office.
“We will get the test request in an email and approve it and then schedule a Zoom meeting to meet with them to actually read it to them,” Burick said.
She said many students are very overwhelmed right now and that she is working with faculty to come up with a better plan for those students. She said that there are two graduate assistants that work for the office that are also helping to meet with students who choose to still set up meetings.
Class note-takers are still being utilized as well.
“We put an email out to note-takers basically saying that if you are taking notes for someone, to please continue as you normally would because those students will definitely still be needing notes,” Burick said.
She said some students are finding it hard to take notes for students because everything is detailed in D2L, and if that is the case, the office works with both the note-taker and the student receiving notes to make sure they are getting what they need.
Burick said that Accommodate is the program that they use, which provides easy access for everyone.
“Accommodate is a web-based program that makes it easier for our staff and students to access the program,” Burick said. “Students can access through D2L and there is a link for staff, meaning that I can access it right from my home.”
Burick said she wants to make sure students know that they can reach out.
“We are taking new students and new requests as well,” Burick said. “If a student finds themself in a situation where they need accommodations or are injured, such as with a concussion, we can set up new accommodations virtually as well.”
She said they are still doing their fall 2020 freshman class meetings as well to ensure those students know they are here for them too. Burick said that she is happy with how everything is going, despite being stuck at home without human interaction.
“We aren’t doing tests in our office or face-to-face meetings, but everything else is pretty much the same,” Burick said.