Student Disability Resources Promotes Academic Opportunities Throughout Campus

Jennifer E. Engen

As we take time over this much-needed summer break to reflect on the past year, we often wonder what could’ve been different throughout our previous Penn State experience. Whether you opted out of joining a club or didn’t use University Park’s resources to your full advantage, we’ve all been there. 

One resource that has recently called for a spotlight is Penn State’s Student Disability Resources, an organization that is focused on ensuring that students with disabilities receive equal access to an education at Penn State. Reasonable accommodations are provided to qualified students with disabilities to assist them in their academic experience. 

Accommodations include extended test time, testing in a distraction-reduced environment, note-taking assistance, and written books and materials in an audio format. All accommodations and services are specific and personalized to the individual student’s needs. 

Not only does SDR offer academic assistance and support, but there is also a student center in the Boucke Building where students can network, connect, study, and mingle with peers. 

SDR’s executive director Leah Zimmerman expanded on the center’s purpose and how it impacts the organization’s mission.

“With the addition of the student center, SDR started offering new student peer groups, social activities, and group workshops to support students’ sense of community and belonging,” Zimmerman said. “Four student peer groups were offered this past academic year.”

Those four groups include Project Spoonies for students with chronic illnesses, Finding Community for individuals who identify as neurodiverse or on the autism spectrum, an ADHD student group, and a group for students who have experienced concussions. 

The Finding Community Neurodiverse Peer Group is partnered with an organization Onward State featured not too long ago, the ACRES Project. 

“The Finding Community Neurodiversity Peer Group was started in collaboration with the local non-profit ACRES,” Zimmerman said. “Like the other three student groups mentioned, [the group] aims to create a casual, comfortable, and supportive environment for students to connect with others who may have similar experiences as members of the college community, disability community, or both.”

Many students on campus are already aware of the benefits of such an inclusive resource, but more students with disabilities have yet to connect with the resource. SDR challenges the assumption that if you can’t see it, then it’s not a disability. 

“Currently around one-in-20 Penn State students have SDR accommodations, and national data indicates that as many as one-in-five undergraduate students may have a disability,” Zimmerman added. “Most disabilities, meaning over 85% of those identified to SDR, are invisible.”

SDR also assists students who are experiencing temporary disabilities. The organization encourages students to reach out to the office before classes start if they are experiencing a new health-related symptom impacting their academic performance. 

You can contact the office for accommodations and services or discussion on experiences by emailing [email protected]. You can also keep up with SDR on Instagram.

Larkin is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are “yinz” and “dippy eggs.” Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

Student Disability Resources Promotes Academic Opportunities Throughout Campus

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