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Ole Miss Sees More than 100% Increase in Disability Services Needs

The percentage of students with a disability attending Ole Miss is at an all-time high this year. Student Disability Services (SDS) says there has been a 121 percent increase in students using accommodations over the past 5 years.
Student Leah Castellaw applied for SDS accommodations because of her diagnosis with ADD.  She gets extended time for exams and access to a quieter environment with fewer distractions during test taking, which she says has helped her focus.
“I hope for future students with disabilities to accept that they have one and need some help in college. I know some people that don’t have accommodations say that it isn’t fair, but you have to ignore that kind of talk and not feel bad about it,” said Castellaw.
Student Katie Cloonan is also eligible for extended testing time, but says it can be difficult to book an exam appointment when a new semester begins because so many students are now using disability resources.
In fact, due to overall enrollment growth, SDS is facing some of the same challenges as other departments on campus says Stacey Reycraft, the department’s director.  She says they need more space, resources and staffing.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics [1999] the most frequent accommodation for students is providing alternate exam formats or additional exam time. Hover over each section of the graphic for more information.

The most often required accommodation at Ole Miss involves extending time and providing a distraction-reduced environment for test taking. Reycraft says she would like to see the university build a centralized testing center in the future to make that easier on everyone. However, Reycraft also notes that SDS is finding its job getting more difficult for other reasons as well.
“We are seeing more and more students who have more complex disability impacts. Accommodating these students is more challenging because their needs are often very complex. It takes more creativity and faculty support to accommodate those students,” said Reycraft.

Director of SDS, Stacey Reycraft, says SDS is a student centered office that are very invested in student’s succeeding as much as they can.

On the plus side, Reycraft says that she believes the university has become more accepting and understanding of those with disabilities.
“We very seldom work with a professor who doesn’t want to accommodate or has some negative opinions of students with disabilities,” said Reycraft. “I think most professors are committed to doing the right thing and want to provide inclusive and accessible classroom and curricular environments.”
But Reycraft says more needs to be done to educate the university community about SDS.
“I think I would like people to understand that we are here as a support system. We are here to collaborate with students and faculty administrators on how best to create an accessible environment for all students. And I think there are some misunderstandings about that.”
Story contributed by Julia Martinez, jamarti7@go.olemiss.edu.

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