Services for Students with Disabilities has a new home in Louise Pound Hall.
Before January, SSD’s office was located across three floors in Canfield. Now, it’s located on the ground floor of Louise Pound, with all exterior doors of the office equipped with power openers. SSD Director Sam Goodin said the new space shows a commitment for students with disabilities, and the new exposure will help remove stigmas related to disabilities.
“When you talk about people with disabilities, you’re sometimes talking about people who have been marginalized,” Goodin said. “When you create a space as nice as this space is … you’re sending a message to that group of people that says, ‘We value you; we’re glad you’re here.’”
Since the creation of the office in 1985, Barbara Woodhead, assistant director of the office and UNL’s American Sign Language interpreter coordinator, said the office has always been housed in Canfield. She said the new shift represents the growth in the number of students the office serves, now totaling over 1,000. Additionally, she said the office is centrally located, where students can be welcomed into a spacious, accessibility-oriented office.
Goodin said he and his staff talked to a wide variety of individuals to design the space, including an architect and members from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department and the Digital Learning Center. He said passageways within the office were designed to be wide enough for two people in wheelchairs to stay side-by-side.
“The physical space is accessible for the population that we serve,” Woodhead said.
Across the hall, a new testing center was built to mirror the DLC in Love Library North and features testing booths similar to the DLC but with cubicles for print tests. Goodin said the new center’s design minimizes confusion for students by maintaining consistency between both testing locations.
Goodin said UNLPD informed the center about what cameras would work best for what the SSD office wanted. The cameras installed in the SSD testing center are the same ones used by UNLPD, which allow for better focus and the ability to zoom in and out.
Five private testing spaces were also built to help students who may have attention deficit disorders.
Outside of testing, Woodhead said the office works to remove barriers for students with disabilities by working with students to find the best accommodations that will support their education. Whether it’s a visible disability such as blindness or mobility impairments or a hidden disability like anxiety, depression or chronic illness, the accommodations are not a crutch to lean on but an equitable resource for students to use.
“[Accommodations] are a way to remove a barrier to make your educational and university experience more equitable,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for other students to … become more informed and become better global citizens.”
Jake Johnson, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said the new space is not only a commitment to student support but to the diversity and inclusion the office represents.
“I think there’s really an opportunity for students to see what’s happening in SSD,” he said. “I think it reduces stigma around disability and serving students with disabilities, so there’s … some really powerful opportunities for growth there.”
In just the first few days of the semester, Goodin said he has noticed a change in visibility and exposure, but it is too early to tell if more students will find the service due to the change in the location.
“I just delight when we’re in between classes and I go out in this hallway and people are just moving back and forth and back and forth. We didn’t get that in Canfield,” he said. “It just increases the likelihood that people are going to get the support they need.”