The abrupt changes brought on by the pandemic have highlighted the importance of Elon’s Disabilities Resources Office to disabled students.
Susan Wise, director of Disabilities Resources at Elon University, said that she and her three-person staff worked to ensure consistency in accommodations to those who relied on its support during the pandemic.
Located on the second floor of Belk Library, the Disabilities Resources Office juggles many duties to accommodate its students. It runs a mentorship program that partners pairs of younger and older disabled students, provides distraction-free testing rooms, connects students with accommodating professors and responds to emails from students who have questions and concerns.
Wise said it was hard to anticipate the needs of students as they were sent home due to the pandemic in March 2020, but the office worked hard to accommodate students and their disability needs.
Wise emphasized that in the community she provides aid to, students need a sense of structure now more than ever. Sophomore Megan Curling, who has generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, said the Disabilities Resources Office provided her with much needed stability during rapid changes brought on by the pandemic.
“During the fall, when I first got here, it was really nice because I knew what to expect, and it was one of the only things I knew to expect, so it was nice to know that I had a place that I was gonna be comfortable,” Curling said.
Curling, who utilizes the Disabilities Resource Office for testing in distraction-reduced environments, said that disabled students on campus should take advantage of the resources offered to them.
“I think they are an under-utilized resource on campus because it is a lot more than testing rooms,” Curling said. “I honestly should probably be using them more than I do now.”
However, freshman Taylor Dunfee, who did not disclose his disability, has had some difficulties accessing disabilities resources.
“It was actually because of bad experiences first semester that I decided to reach out second semester,” Dunfee said. “They said they’d get back to me and they haven’t yet.”
When Dunfee visited disability resources in Belk Library, he said he spent half his time in the waiting room. He said he’s still giving them a chance, but something that could be improved is the amount of time their response is taking.
Senior Jimmy Robinson said the team is fully able to accommodate the university’s needs. Robinson said the Disabilities Resources Office transformed his Elon experience, and that even during the period of online learning last spring the office never stopped reaching out.
“They work well together,” Robinson said, “because they’re all passionate about what they do for others.”
Several students emphasized the importance of reaching out to the Disabilities Resource Office in order to receive help. Wise said that self-advocating is even more important given the circumstances brought on by the pandemic, and the office cannot provide aid to students who don’t speak up and ask for it.