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University News

Disability services to change name

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Disability Support Services will change its name to Student and Employee Accessibility Services at the end of the current academic year in hopes of increasing its presence on campus, according to Catherine Axe, director of the office. General misunderstanding of its services has prevented members of the Brown community from fully utilizing the office’s resources, Axe said at the Undergraduate Council of Students’ meeting last night.

The word ‘disability’ leads people to believe that only severe physical and psychological conditions merit use of the service, she said. Feedback from the community indicated that many people did not know the office welcomed individuals in less serious situations.

The name has made the office less approachable to students, she said, and faculty members are reluctant to suggest these services to students who may need them.

The office hopes to emphasize through the change that it also serves University employees, she said. Because the office is located within the Office of Student Life, many faculty and staff have misunderstood the office’s role, believing that it only assists students. Employee services have been offered for almost seven years, but Axe said she hopes the new name will make it “more inclusive for them.”

The office has been considering a name change for two years, looking toward other institutions for ideas.  The word “accessibility” is commonly used at other campuses, Axe said, and she hopes this broader label will encourage members of the Brown community to use its services.

The name change will come into effect at the end of the semester, Axe said. The office will run for a year with a statement — “formerly Disability Support Services” — and the word “disability” will still be used on the website, directories and brochures to allow people searching for those services to be directed to the office. “It doesn’t hurt to exist in a couple of realms,” she said.

At the meeting, Axe also raised concerns over students who lock their bicycles to handrails. A blind student was recently injured outside J. Walter Wilson due to a bike locked to the railing. Sayles Hall, the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center and the Office of Student Life are often affected by this issue as well, she said.

Ralanda Nelson ’12, chair of the student activities committee, said that students often place convenience ahead of other concerns. UCS plans to remind students to use bicycle racks.

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