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Possibilities, not disabilities

March 29, 2022
Students demonstrate smart pen technology in the Assistive Technology Center at UWSP.

UW-Stevens Point’s Disability Resource Center helps students succeed despite challenges

Before she even entered a college classroom, sophomore art major Tessa Rudig knew she would need some accommodations to help her succeed as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Thankfully, the Chilton native found it easy to contact the university’s Disability Resource Center (formerly Disability and Assistive Technology Center) in Albertson Hall for help. DRC staff members made arrangements with her instructors so that she could leave or miss classes if needed and have extra time for tests, assignments and other classroom requirements.

Rudig has Tourette syndrome, a nervous system condition that causes tics and involuntary movements. The symptoms become much worse when she is stressed, she said, so having these accommodations with her instructors makes it easier for her to focus on her academics.

“While I don’t always need to use my accommodations, I know I have that buffer, which calms me and helps me do better,” she said. “Without the help of the DRC, my grades would suffer.”

Rudig was so comfortable at the DRC that she applied for a clerical job there. It’s a great fit, she said, because she uses the services and they accommodate her disability.

“We have a great work environment,” she said. “I love it. I love knowing that I’m helping other students and that I get to work with the people who helped me.”

More than 580 students qualify for accommodations through the center, said Director Andy Held. Of those students, about 400 use the center’s services. More than 300 documented having ADHD, anxiety, depression or psychological issues, while 90 had physical health issues.

Students may use the center to take exams in a quiet, private room that offers them more time or breaks if needed. During the fall semester the center handled requests for 700 exams. All services are confidential, and are offered to students from all UW-Stevens Point campuses.

“If someone has a health issue, they should come and talk to us,” said Held. “We can talk about their diagnosis, documentation and needs related to their condition.” The DRC then works with students and faculty to plan and communicate their needs so all parties understand the parameters of the accommodations.

“We serve as the intermediary,” he said. “Our role is to create a three-way dialogue so that everyone is on an even playing field.”

In addition to professional staff, the center also offers student staff for peer support. Breanna Wolter, Appleton, a first-year graduate student in speech language pathology, helps train students to use the center’s Assistive Technology Lab. This lab includes software for notetaking, text-to-voice and enlarged text, as well as smart pens and other web-based applications.

“My work here is relevant to my work in augmentative and alternative communication at the Speech Language and Hearing Clinic on campus,” she said. “The kids I work with in the future will benefit as I use my knowledge from working here.”

Students are often referred to the DRC from UW-Stevens Point’s Counseling Center or Academic and Career Advising Center, said Jackson Rose, a senior communication science and disorders major from Champlin, Minn., who has worked at the center for nearly three years.

“We can help bridge the gap between what they are doing now and what they are capable of doing with a little help,” said Rose. “As we reduce the stigma around disabilities, we can increase the possibilities for those who have them.”

“I encourage students to think about what is getting in the way of their success,” said Held. “It is worth discussing about how we can help. It may be just how you learn, and how we can build on the strengths you have.”

Rudig encourages anyone that could benefit from DRC services, whether they are dealing with a psychological or physical health issue, to come to the center for accommodations or technology assistance.

“My experiences with the DRC have taught me to stand up for myself,” she said. “I feel more comfortable asking for help and feel more comfortable with myself. I know I can reach out for help because the DRC has my back.”

Starting this summer, the center will move to a new temporary location at 108 Collins Classroom Center. To learn more about its services, go to www.uwsp.edu/drc/.

Caption: Jackson Rose and Breanna Wolter work at the DRC, helping students with assistive technology such as a smart pen.