December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Each year, the United Nations announces a theme to observe and this year’s focus is on empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. Here at the Carruth Center and along with other departments on West Virginia University campuses, we place importance on empowering individuals and creating a sense of equality and inclusivity.
At the Carruth Center, we often meet with students who are struggling academically and our office help students get connected to the Office of Accessibility Services. The Office of Accessibility Services helps improve a student’s academic success through arranging appropriate accommodations. Our staff also meet with students referred by accessibility specialists to receive appropriate documentation to meet the minimum requirements to obtain accommodations. Read on to learn how to effectively navigate the process to obtain accommodations through OAS, the Carruth Center and other applicable resources.
What is OAS?
The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) is an on-campus department that assists students who have temporary or permanent disabilities in accessing specific programs on campus. OAS is located in Stewart Hall in room B20. The office hours are 8:15am – 4:45pm Monday through Friday and specialists meet with students individually to coordinate services that will help them achieve academic success on campus.
When is it Beneficial to Contact OAS?
Considering the process to obtain accommodations may take up to a couple of weeks, it is highly recommended that students contact OAS as early as possible to meet with a specialist to discuss eligible services. Prospective students should contact OAS prior to beginning classes to set up services. Current students should contact OAS as soon as they recognize any academic concerns or if they are in need of any housing or transportation assistance.
It is important to note that testing documentation for academic accommodations must be up-to-date and students must submit diagnostic evaluation assessments prior to receiving accommodations. If testing needs to be completed, prospective and current students should review the testing options at the end of this blog.
What Services Does OAS Provide?
There are a variety of services (academic, housing and transportation) that OAS offers and accommodations are available to students dependent on their specific needs. The services are separated into three different categories: Academic, Transportation, and Housing.
Academic accommodations often include extra time on tests, reduced-distraction rooms during testing, and priority pre-registration for classes. These accommodations help students get an equitable experience in the classroom and during classroom assessments.
In addition to policy related accommodations for classrooms, OAS offers assistive technology to help with note-taking, reading, and participation. The technology is intended to help students get access to lectures, books, and discussions by using interpreters, transcribers, computer software, and other devices in the classroom. Academic accommodations are available for students who have been approved by an OAS specialist. Accommodations can be used for lecture, online and some lab-type classes. To begin the process to obtain academic accommodations, you must complete the following steps:
- Submit an online application.
- Submit relevant documentation (i.e. diagnostic evaluation).
- Schedule a meeting with an accessibility specialist. At this meeting, you will discuss your difficulties and concerns with your specialist, as well as any reasonable accommodations that best fit your needs (i.e. notetaking, testing accommodations, alternative format of course material, transcription, etc.).
Once accommodations have been approved, you must request authorization of these accommodations every semester through SAMM.
Housing accommodations are available to students with mobility impairments. Housing accommodations can include dietary and specific housing needs that can improve a student's ability to access independent housing on campus, including things like single rooms, bathrooms, elevator access, and more. You must complete the following steps to obtain housing accommodations:
- Submit an online application.
- Check out the WVU Housing Portal and choose “yes” under Section 3 about Accessible Housing Accommodations.
- Review housing process deadlines to make sure your applications are submitted on time.
- Make sure to submit relevant documentation, (i.e. - licensed professional questionnaire and personal statement; etc.).
- Meet with an accessibility specialist.
- Submit an online application.
- Make sure to submit relevant documentation.
- Provide a current class schedule.
I asked Christian Carey, an accessibility specialist at OAS, what recommendations he has to students who are struggling and curious about accommodations. He stated, “I think it is always a good idea to meet with a specialist, even if you are unsure if accommodations are right for you. Though we may require more information to ensure the best accommodations are provided, often we can connect students to tutoring, coaching, MindFit, program-specific resources, and community providers to assist students. Sometimes, just having a third-party who knows the resources around WVU can be really helpful to bounce thoughts and ideas off. Some students find that formal accommodations aren’t the right fit for them; many find that building skills in time management, asking for help, test-taking strategies, and stress management skills are the most helpful discussions from our office.”
How The Carruth Center Can Help You Obtain Accommodations
MindFit Testing services are available to students who are seeking diagnostic evaluations and documentation for academic accommodations. ADHD and Learning Disability testing is completed by trained personnel at the Carruth Center. Testing sessions are typically scheduled across two days (3-4 hours each day) where students complete an initial interview and a series of assessments that help to identify their areas of struggle and strength. For more information about pricing and scheduling, check out the MindFit website or contact the Carruth Center at 304-293-4431.
Resources in the Community
Whereas MindFit testing options are available on campus, there are a variety of off-campus providers that offer assessment services. It is also important to note that some providers accept insurance to help cover the cost of testing. Contact a provider to see whether your insurance is accepted for testing services.
The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services is also a resource available off-campus to students and staff. This office offers several resources to help individuals reach their vocational goals, such as assessment services, vocational planning, career counseling, job matching, job coaching, and assistive technology. Contact the Morgantown Branch Office to learn about what services could best meet your needs.
Still have questions about what services would best fit your needs? Contact OAS directly at (304) 293-6700 to speak with an accessibility specialist.
Chelsea Latorre is a
4th year doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at WVU. She is
a supervised advanced trainee at the Carruth Center, where she provides
individual and group counseling to students. Through her work at the Carruth
Center and her role as a LeadWELL trainer with WellWVU, she has connected
students to OAS and helped them obtain appropriate accommodations.