How Mason serves Patriots with disabilities
BY D’ANDREA BRADY, STAFF WRITER
The Office of Disability Services hosted the Disability Awareness and Inclusion Workshop on Wednesday, Feb 13. The workshop was aimed at addressing the issue of disabilities with etiquette training, awareness conversations and exercises revolving around those who live with the condition physically, emotionally and/or mentally.
According to Jason Northrup, associate director of Disability Services and a psychologist at Mason, about 2,000 students are currently registered with the Disability Office, which is about 5 percent of the Mason population. Enrollment of students fluctuates regularly every semester.
Northrup discussed how the workshops assist and educate students and faculty.
“Our goal with this was initially was designed to target faculty and staff, try to educate them about kind of three goals,” he said. “One is our office—how we work, how students with disabilities connect with us. Two, [to] talk about disability as identity. Three, trying to move the conversation towards this thing called universal design, which is just this idea if we are proactive about making things inclusive from the very beginning that it makes it easier for everybody, disability or not, to access moving forward.”
“We are trying to help professors, and now students as we try to serve target student groups as well, to be thinking about access as they design their classrooms, as they design their instruction, as they design their events,” Northrup continued.
The disability services on campus includes accommodation for students such as test room services for those who need additional time on quizzes, midterms and finals, lesser workload in class and access to assistive technology.
As for future plans, the office is focusing more on meeting the needs of more students at Mason.
“We’re trying to meet that need for more students, accessing more services. Just recently we’ve posted an hourly position to increase the staff up in the testing center,” Northrup continued. “We’re trying to be a little bit more strategic about this space we do have right now and how we can better use it. ”
The Disability Office is currently in the works of advertising their services for students and faculty/staff in need.
“Our goal is to have two more [workshops] for this semester,” Northrup said. “We’re always trying to figure out what’s the best way to market this.”
Northrup emphasized that students can register with Disability Services throughout the year.
“One of the really, I think, important takeaways that we try to build into all those workshops [is] students can register with us at any time,” he said. “They can decide on their very first day of classes freshman year. They can decide a week before they’re ready to graduate and they still have a couple of finals to take.”
“Any accommodation for a student, whether a student is asking for a certain kind of special housing accommodation or for a test or for a class or a foreign language exemption … comes to us,” he continued. “We should be the first stop for a student saying, ‘I have a disability or I think I have a disability, and I want to talk to somebody about this and see what’s possible.’”
Information about Disability Services is online at ds.gmu.edu. Process and documentation guidelines are included as well as request forms for online intake, disability determination, special housing accommodation and emotional support animals.
Contact the office if you are in need of special accommodation during the semester. Disability services are offered throughout the semester. The Office of Disability Services is located in the Student Union Building (SUB 1) in room 2500. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.