Unraveling Disabilities: Students coping with college services

Angelina Quartana unravels yarn during class as therapy for her disability. Keeping her hands busy helps her to stay focused.


It’s just another day in photography class. The students listen attentively to the professor, but one student in particular catches your eye. While the rest of the students stare tiredly at the professor, Angelina Quartana, a sophomore psychology major, is focused on unraveling the strings of yarn in her hands.

Quartana was diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxieties, depression and phobias. Unraveling yarn helps her stay focused in class.

According to the National Center For Education Statistics, 10.8 percent of students in post-secondary education reported in 2007-2008 to have a type of disability. Of those, 57.3 percent were female. Mount Mary College has strong policies to aid in cognitive disability assistance for students but is still working to improve the assistance of physically disabled students.

Cognitive disability assistance

Quartana takes advantage of Mount Mary’s accessibility services, including using a recorder to take notes, using a small laptop in class and taking her exams at Mount Mary’s Student Success Center.

Marci Ocker, coordinator of accessibility services, addresses the needs of qualified students with recognized disabilities. These include physical, learning, sensory and psychological disabilities.

“The federal law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) provides institutions of higher education guidelines and laws for how a student will receive accommodation in a college or university,” Ocker said. “This is a uniform system to promote equity and adherence. Accommodations are the same for all students who qualify, and accommodations are not dependent on the class or the professor.”

Mount Mary also offers additional resources and tools depending on the nature of the disability. These include academic accommodations such as preferred seating; adaptive technology; and test and quiz accommodations such as readers, scribes and extended time.

Marissa Groh, a freshman majoring in business administration, also uses Mount Mary’s accessibility services to help make accommodations for her disability.

Groh was diagnosed with hyperlexia, which is a learning and comprehension disability.

“It means I talk too fast and read too fast without comprehending and understanding what I am reading,” Groh said. “So, I have to read slower or read more than one time to be able to understand what I am reading better.”

Groh has tutors who help her study for her exams. To help her with her classes, Groh also has note takers in every class who take notes for her or help her comprehend the notes she takes.

“[It’s] hard for me to listen in class and take notes at the same time,” she said.

Physical disability assistance

Mount Mary also accommodates students with physical disabilities by providing wheelchair access. However, the structural component of the almost 100-year-old campus leave room for improvement.

“President’s council and our administrators are very responsive and aware of the needed changes in increasing access with reconstructions and campus remodeling,” Ocker said. “The campus has made many strides in this area. Comprehensive and adequate services are provided to the student population requiring accessibility services. There are plans to increase and improve campus signage also.”

Elevators are located around campus to help assist those with wheelchairs, but more action is necessary for updated convenience.

Bullying policy

Mount Mary also has a no-tolerance bullying policy, which applies to all students regardless of disability status.

“One day the disability coordinator called me to her office to talk when a professor thought that another student used the R-word in reference to me,” Quartana said. “She didn’t. The student did approach me and say that she didn’t like me.”

Quartana included that expulsion was mentioned if such a word was used in regards to her disability. Overall though, Quartana feels comfortable at Mount Mary.

“I am not isolated or singled out because of my disability by anyone including the students,” Quartana said. “I feel as though I am treated like everyone else.”

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