Disability awareness on the rise

Haley Curl, Staff Reporter

Disability awareness is spreading across the country, as diagnoses become more exact, and assistance becomes more of a priority.

The United States Census Bureau’s website says 19 percent of Americans identify as having a disability, and the National Center for Education Statistics website says that 13 percent of students in America identify as disabled.

According to the Central Disability Services query in Winter quarter of 2014, there are 628 registered disabled students at Central, as well as approximately 100 students that enrolled this Fall.

Students with learning or emotional disabilities have the largest presence on campus, Josh Jones, Disability and Accessibility coordinator, said.

ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia are the four most prominent learning disabilities, Jones said.

Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are the three most commonly seen psychological and emotional disabilities at Central, Jones said.

“Dyslexia can vary in many ways,” Jones said. “But really it’s about, when reading, mixing up symbols, words and what they mean.”

Dyscalculia is a math learning disability which includes visual and audio processing difficulties, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ website.

Dysgraphia is a writing learning disability that makes it difficult to write or spell words.

“Currently 2.4 million students are diagnosed with Learning Disabilities (LD) and receive special education services in our schools,” The National Center for Learning Disabilities website says. “Representing 41% of all students receiving special education.”

The Dyslexia Research Institute website says that 10-15 percent of the U.S. has dyslexia, but also “only five out of every one hundred dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance.”

Central offers many forms of assistance for those that need it, including the Central Access Reader (CAR) which allows students to convert their books into a Word document, which will be read out loud.

Disability Services offers assistance to students with a variety of disabilities.

Wendy Holden is the disability and accessibility coordinator for this service.

Holden has been working with Bellevue College to bring their program, Autism Spectrum Navigators, to Central.

Holden was one of the main faculty members to discover the program after it started, Jones said.

The program was created by an autistic staff member at Bellevue College.

“We are now [Bellevue College’s] sister school,” Jones said. “We’re working with Bellevue to implement the program here.”

According to Holden, the Autism Spectrum Navigators program will be coming to Central in either Winter or Spring quarter of 2015, depending on the progress of its development.

“The program supports students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by providing peer mentoring, special cohort classes, as well as campus education and faculty outreach,” Holden said.

Jones said Wendy was responsible for working to bring the program to Central.

Disability Services exists to help students, Jones said. “But we can’t help them unless they tell us what they need.”

“It appears that [the number of disabled students registered is] lower than it has been in the past,” Jones said. “But, again, sometimes it takes a while for students to approach us.”

The number of students who identify as disabled has grown at a steady rate over the past ten years, the United States Census Bureau reported. However, there has been a slight drop in the last four years.

Jones said the rise was most likely due to the increase in awareness of disabilities such as autism, while the decrease is due to a lack of financial support and a shortage of specialists.

“There is a limited amount of learning specialists to provide [learning disability] diagnosis.” Jones said. “There are none in the immediate area.”

The process of diagnosing any disability takes up to three days, Jones said. This can deter students from registering as disabled.

Jones said Disability Services will offer as much help to disabled students as they need, as long as the core elements of the class remain intact.

“We offer reasonable assistance,” Jones said. “Anything that alters a core element of a class is considered unreasonable.”

Jones said each professor also helps students, and must approve any assistance that goes beyond typical standards.

“[The Disability Services] department exists to level playing ground,” Jones said.