In a flurry of changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, many professors and students are adjusting to virtual learning — and so are resources such as the Office of Student Life Disability Services.
Students registered with SLDS are adapting to online classes, and the office is finding ways to make its resources available to students and faculty.
In various universitywide emails sent throughout March, University President Michael V. Drake said Ohio State would transition to online classes for the remainder of spring semester, students had to move out of campus housing and the university was under a state of emergency.
“The university is committed to supporting students, faculty and staff through this new way of teaching, learning and working — and to providing resources that support the mental health and wellness of our entire community,” Drake said March 22.
Among those resources is SLDS, which provides accommodations, such as note-taking assistance, attendance modifications and assistive technology, for students and individuals who need accommodations.
“SLDS works with a diverse range of students across all of the University’s academic colleges and programs. ‘Disability’ is a broad term that includes, but is not limited to, mental health conditions, chronic health conditions, temporary injuries, physical/learning disabilities and ADHD,” Kelly Bonice, SLDS lead access specialist, said in an email.
According to the SLDS website, paratransit — curbside pickup for people with disabilities or injuries for travel — is still operational during the campus closure, and additional online quiz and exam time is to be communicated between the student and instructor. Any student who anticipates barriers can register with SLDS or, if they are already registered, contact their assigned access specialist.
Hannah Bird, a first-year in public affairs who is registered with SLDS, said the experience of transitioning to online classes has been a struggle due to her anxiety.
Bird said her accommodations prior to the transition included having a classmate take notes for her, recording lectures and talking to professors before and after classes, but she no longer has access to some of these services due to the online transition.
“I was trying to be proactive with making a schedule and a to-do list because, for me, with anxiety, it’s very easy for me to procrastinate — especially when I don’t have that physical aspect of, like, you have to get your work done by this time or for this lecture,” Bird said.
Other SLDS accommodations range from sign language interpretation to accessible media, or resources available online, Bonice said.
Bird said that in her experience, accommodations such as note-taking assistance don’t translate to online classes, and absences and late-work policies are not clearly defined.
She said SLDS is acknowledging that many of the accommodations it has in place are not made for online classes, but if students registered with SLDS have accommodations they think would work, then they can talk to the office to work something out.
Bonice said SLDS works with individuals case by case and is fully operational by phone Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. She also said it regularly updates its website to reflect any procedural changes and has notified professors and students of any imminent changes.
Bird said she hopes for more transparency from Ohio State on how to receive accommodations and register with SLDS during the move to online.
“In terms of courses, accessibility I guess would mean to me being able to get all resources easily,” Bird said. “So, like, my econ class having everything available, even if you cannot meet during the lecture time and having the lecture still available as well and then having multiple times to be able to get in contact with the professor and having that made very clear — it’s all on Carmen.”
Bonice said SLDS and other offices on campus are working together to ensure access for students, including training SLDS staff on captioning audio and making documents more accessible, as well as accommodating for different time zones.
“Some students who now live in different time zones have exams scheduled at a time that conflicts with their medication regimen. We are working with those students and their instructors to support flexibility with their exam administration window,” Bonice said.
Bird said she hopes more resources will become available to those who want or need them and the university will stress the importance of mental health and disability services offered during this transition.