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A Virtual Twist on Disability Services

(Photo courtesy UMass Lowell) Disability services works to provide tailored support to students who are facing barriers in the classroom.

Victoria Rosado
Connector Contributor

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus, UMass Lowell mandated online classes in the previous semesters. Students were sent home and staff transitioned to remote work. Campus resources, such as Disability Services, were offered virtually.

Tasked with combating the challenges presented during the pandemic, UMass Lowell offered virtual appointments through Accommodate. Students also received reminders and updates of changes that were made to services provided by the Wellness Center.

Disability services works to provide tailored support to students who are facing barriers in the classroom.

Brandon Drake, the acting Director of Disability Services, said, “Around 10 percent or so of students within college would have a disability.”

Statistics show that only 60 percent of students with disabilities seek support, according to a report written by Senior Writer Katharine Webster when interviewing former Director of Disability Services Jody Goldstein.

The department supports students with physical, mental and learning disabilities. The majority of students who are registered with these services experience invisible disabilities.

In an article written by Webster in 2018, Goldstein said, “Anxiety and depression is the No. 1 challenge that college campuses are facing.”

“ A lot of students in the class physically experience one thing, and then virtually, it’s a completely different experience. Some people are fine with both, but we had a lot of students that reached out and said, ‘You know what, in person classes were fine, but now it’s virtual, I’m struggling a lot more’,” said Drake.

Every plan is tailored to each individual student. One common adjustment to help students is the modification of timed exams Some students may have struggled with being at home and experiencing background noises that would have been eliminated if they were in an on-campus classroom. Other support features were set up through Zoom, such as screen readers, transcripts and recordings.

Even after UMass Lowell’s transition back to in-person classes, students face a new set of challenges.

TR, a junior in biological sciences said, “Just when I was starting to assimilate into online classes, now I’m back on campus and I’m struggling to keep up… The pressure and stress from classes, and being around people is just like causing me a lot of anxiety.”

Many other students might also be feeling the pressure of in-person classes. Jordan D’Abbraccio, a senior in biomedical engineering, has used Disability Services for the majority of her time at UMass Lowell.

“The accommodations are incredibly helpful… I am able to even out the playing field and allow me to get the exams done in a comfortable amount of time for the way my brain works,” said D’Abbraccio, when asked about how she feels about Disability Services.

With students back on campus and operations in full swing, the chaos of COVID-19 is slowly dissipating. Disabilities, however, remain pervasive. Students can reach out to Disability Services or visit their website to find out what resources are available.