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UWRF Ability Services aid students in academics

September 26, 2014

Mark Johnson, office coordinator for Ability Services on campus, says the office was once called “Disabilities Services” but their mission to assist is more attuned to ability than disability.

The office motto, according to its online homepage, is: “honoring abilities with equal access and opportunity.” Ability Services, located in 129 Hagestad Hall, helps accommodate disabled students and students with learning disabilities enrolled at UW-River Falls.

“Basically we are an office that provides procedures for students who believe they have a significant medical, physical, sensory, or brain related issues, which could also be thought of as a disability,” Johnson said.

There is no cost for these services for students. When asked why or when a student with a disability should seek help from Ability Services, Johnson said, “The main reason is the level at which it limits a student in their education.”

A student must provide evidence from an authority, such as a physician when requesting assistance.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Amendments Act of 2008 ensures the right of every student, regardless of disability, be provided an “appropriate education.”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures privacy and anonymity for those seeking help. What this means for students here at UWRF is a helping hand. Johnson wanted students to know their privacy will be respected, and it is the law.

For some students there are different barriers to overcome in getting their degree. Ability Services seeks to assist and provide accommodations for disabled students with different needs in a variety of ways.

Some need more time on tests, while others suffer from extreme anxiety or attention deficit disorder and need to take tests separate from their classmates. Other students may need their tests and quizzes read out loud or by audiobooks. Note-takers can be used for students who have a difficult time writing because of arthritis or other issues.

Note-takers are volunteer students from the student client’s class who will take notes for $30 per credit. The notes are turned over to Ability Services, ensuring confidentiality. The note-takers do not know the client’s identity because HIPAA ensures confidentiality.

One student who chose to remain anonymous but wanted to share her story said, “Ability Services is the reason I made it this far.”

This student used the notetaking service because she was physically unable to write her own notes. Before she went into Ability Services she was in danger of failing and dropping out. She could not keep up with notes and now she has adequate notes to study. The anonymous student also said she “would recommend getting help if you need it to succeed; they are cool.”