Students discuss hidden disabilities at Access and Inclusion panel

Student panel gathers to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of having hidden disabilities, Oct. 24, 2017 -Staff Photo/Jaryd Leady

Rowan University is hosting Access and Inclusion week Oct. 2027. The week of events focuses on disability awareness and rights. The event is sponsored by the Academic Success Center and Disabilities Resources and other departments

This week’s programs and events already included a Paralympics sports day, a career fair for people with disabilities and a guest speaker who suffers from cerebral palsy.

On Tuesday, a student panel on hidden disabilities was held in the Chamberlain Student Center. The panel included the Hidden Disability Alliance and College Diabetes Network. The mission of the Hidden Disability Alliance is “to build a community where individuals with hidden disabilities feel inclusive in their collegiate settings and be seen for who they are.” The College Diabetes Network mission is “to provide innovative peer-based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.”

Students on the panel shared personal stories about living with physical or mental disabilities. They also talked about resources available to those suffering from a disability, how one can get an accommodation letter and the benefits of having an accommodation letter. To get an accommodation letter, one has to go to the Academic Success Center in Savitz Hall and fill out a disability registration form, consent for release of information form and provide medical documentation.

According to John Woodruff, director of the Academic Success Center, the process to get an accommodation letter varies.

“If the student registers before school starts, it goes really really quick,” Woodruff said. “A student that delays to register when school starts, we meet with them as soon as possible whenever but we can’t guarantee any timeline.”

The Academic Success Center provides also academic coaching and tutoring for those who need additional help.

Having an accommodation letter helps Sam Kucieji, a junior biological science major suffering from bi-polar disorder and a traumatic brain injury, and Melissa Walker, a sophomore biological science major suffering from chronic depression, in the classroom. Their accommodation letters address any needs they might have in the classroom, such as additional time of complete work or a quiet area to work in.

Kucieji and Walker are also members of the Hidden Disability Alliance and host bi-monthly meetings to address any concerns students with disabilities might have.

Another area brought to the panel was the smashing of disability myths and misconceptions. Some people believe that having an accommodation letter excuses them from school work.

“It doesn’t excuse them from doing work or getting easier work, we have the same work but with accommodations,” Kucieji said.

Events still to come for Access and Inclusion Week include meeting Judy Heumann, a leader in disability rights and social justice, a study abroad information session for students with disabilities and a benefit concert featuring Gooch and the Motion.

The meeting with Heumann will be at the Student Center room 211 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The study abroad information session for students with disabilities will be held at the Wellness Training Center Room from 11 a.m. to noon. The benefit concert will be held at Wilson Hall this Friday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for Rowan students and $10 for faculty, staff and family.

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