Expansions reflect rise in students with disabilities

Photo by Maria Porter

Butler University’s Student Disability Services and Learning Resource Center both expanded this fall to better accommodate the rising number of students requiring additional academic services.

Student Disability Services
Butler’s number of students with disabilities rose from 160  students in fall 2007 to approximately 230 at the start of this year—representing about 5 percent of the student body, causing the need for expansion.

Michele Atterson, director of Student Disability Services, said projections from disability providers predict this number will continue to rise to 10 percent on college campuses across the nation within the next few years.

With this steady increase on the horizon and after administering approximately 1,100 exams duringthe 2010-11 school year, Atterson said.

SDS underwent several renovations—most importantly, expanding the testing center—to better accommodate certain disabilities and the number of students using the venue.

“Before, we sometimes would have to take groups of students out of our testing center because we didn’t have enough space in our suite to administer accommodated exams,” Atterson said. “We would have to reserve classrooms in Jordan to facilitate the exams.”

The previous size of the testing center was difficult for vision-impaired and wheelchair-bound students to maneuver within the limited space, Atterson said.

“The rooms were really tight, and there was not a lot of room for the students to enter or exit,” she said. “The new layout makes it so much more navigable and more accessible for our students.”

Furthermore, she said students requiring extended time on exams could realistically be in the center for several hours, and the cramped cubicle space was uncomfortable during these periods.

“I think it’s now been a much more conducive environment,” she said. “It’s more an improvement of what we’ve been able to do—an improvement of the conditions for our students.”

Overall, Atterson said the improvements to SDS have been a necessary enhancement of the services it provides.

“It’s been really significant to be able to keep the students here, and the environment is more controlled here,” she said. “It’s a step toward making our services better.”

Learning Resource Center
The LRC recently expanded to take over the location previously occupied by the Jordan Hall Mail Center—reconfiguring the space to create multiple offices, flexible workspace and a private tutoring room.

Jennifer Griggs, director of the LRC, said as the LRC has seen an increase in the number of students it services, the department has hired more full-time faculty to accommodate.

But prior to the renovations made this summer, she said there was not an increase in available space, and many LRC advisers were scattered in locations throughout campus and forced to share offices.

“Our staff expanded, but our space didn’t,” Griggs said. “It took careful coordination and was workable for awhile, but I don’t think it allowed us to be as efficient as we should be.”

Griggs said many students who utilize the LRC need to have private, one-on-one advising appointments, and their staff was forced to coordinate when each adviser could use the available office space.

“I think for the type of work the LRC does for students, it’s imperative for us to have private offices to talk with students and provide the necessary support for students,” she said.

Sophomore Sarah Leib said she has used both the tutoring and advising services offered by the LRC, and the ability to meet privately with both has been beneficial within her academic career.

“I met with one of the ladies in the LRC who I spoke to for over an hour,” she said. “I had a really good experience in just speaking with her and made sure that I have any resource that I could possibly need when it comes to doing well in my classes.”

Furthermore, with the new renovations, the LRC is condensed to the first floor of Jordan Hall, and Griggs said it is able to provide a more cohesive staff.

“Consolidation and bringing services together so students don’t have to go all over campus searching for one person creates an ease for students and connecting and collaborating our services to provide more comprehensive academic support,” she said.

Griggs said tutors also lacked an available location to meet with their students, so the addition of a private tutoring room is essential.

“It gives a dedicated space for our tutors to be able to use and have at their disposal, and we’re excited about that being a first step toward the possibility of have a tutoring center five or 10 years down the road,” she said.

Griggs said continually being aware of the resources students are interested in and working to improve areas such as the SDS and LRC are essential to making sure students get the most from their education.

“I think with the people who utilize these services, we’re talking about students who came to Butler for a personalized approach to their education,” she said. “We can do that when we’re close together and we can provide a private accommodation. I think we are delivering on the mission of the institution.”

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