Student disabilities program moves into new facility

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini


TheSaraBeaLearningCenterfor Students with Disabilities was dedicated Aug. 25 at the University of Notre Dame. The center is located in a facility behind theMainBuildingthat also houses a campus satellite of St. Michaels Laundry and a mail service center.

The Javon and Vita Bea family underwrote the center, which is named in memory of their daughter Sara, who died in June 2003 at the age of 21 after battling multiple disabilities throughout her life. Four of theBeassix children are graduates or current undergraduates of Notre Dame. Javon Bea is the chief executive officer and president of a Wisconsin-based Catholic hospital system and a member of advisory council for Notre DamesCollegeofScience.

Tim Cordes, the valedictorian of Notre Dames class of 1998, was among the speakers at the dedication. Cordes, who is blind, has completed a medical degree from theUniversityofWisconsin, where he now is working on a doctorate.

Scott Howland, the program coordinator for students with disabilities, said that of the 200 Notre Dame students registered as disabled, most have a learning disability or are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The most commonly requested accommodation from students is testing accommodations,Howland said. Students need extra time to complete a test; some need a quiet location to help concentrate; some need a reader that enlarges the words on a test or to answer questions on a computer instead of in a blue book.

Howland previously shared office space in Badin Hall with another program andhad only one room for testing. The makeshift headquarters was a poor option for the 550 to 600 tests administered each semester.

The new facility has an office area for Howland, a reception area, a lounge, and eight rooms that can be used for testing. One anticipated use of the lounge is as meeting space for a new support group for students with disabilities. CalledPerspectives,its purpose is to get students with disabilities together to share their experiences and success stories and to plan activities that raise awareness of students like them.

Mel Tardy of the First Year of Studies staff is the faculty advisor for the group. He saw the need for the group after attending his first Disabilities Awareness Month panel discussion a few years ago.

The feeling among students in the room seemed to be: ‘We have so much in common, I wish I had known you were here earlier!he said.

Awareness is an important concept because Howland says he has found that not all students with disabilities know about the office. And not all Notre Dame students are aware they have a disability.

At least a dozen students are diagnosed each year after starting at Notre Dame.

Its the inconsistency. You know theyve got it in some areas, but in others they really struggle,said Howland, who earned a masters degree in rehabilitation counseling fromBowling GreenStateUniversity.

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