Navigating Campus Services
by Ali Johnston | published Sep. 2nd, 2019
The year is just beginning, and with this semester's classes comes a new wave of stress. Whether you're a first year, a transfer or even on the brink of graduation, we all reach a time during our college experiences when we must ask for help.
RIT works hard to ensure that its students have an abundance of services provided to them for whatever they might need. Asking for help doesn't need to be a daunting task, as long as we know who to ask.
Disability Services is one of the busiest organizations on campus, and they are always ready to help. Susan Ackerman, director of Disability Services, works with hundreds of students each semester to guarantee them the best possible learning environment.
“Our office exists to make sure that students with disabilities are not discriminated against due to their disability,” Ackerman said.
This service is useful for far more than just academic accommodations. Students should also reach out to the Disability Services Office for any housing, dietary or transportation needs. In addition, Disability Services is in charge of service, therapy and emotional support animals.
Academic requests might be asking for more time on tests, or the option to take a test digitally, rather than on paper. Housing requests could include needing a single room for a specific disability or needing a shower in the dorm instead of using a communal shower. Transportation requests, like all others, vary depending on the situation. RIT provides an accessible van service in addition to the general campus shuttle for anyone who cannot get around as easily as others.
"I work with students who have food allergies and kind of guide them into a plan of how they can eat on campus."
In order to request a specific accommodation, students can fill out a request form on their website. Requests for housing accommodations need to be submitted by May 1 before the academic year begins. For all other requests, there is no deadline.
“If you’re unsure if you need us, come talk to us. This is all confidential," Ackerman said. "If we offer accommodations, we send faculty a letter that lists the accommodations, but it doesn’t tell the nature of the disability, and the student doesn’t need to share that ... This doesn’t appear on their transcript anywhere and their employer doesn’t need to know that they requested these services.”
Similarly to Disability Services, Access Services is always working to provide the best environment for students; in this case, this office mainly works with NTID students. Richard Peterson, assistant dean and director of Access Services, spends his days working with students who need accommodations in the classroom related to their hearing statuses.
“Access Services here on campus means providing interpreting, captioning and note taking to the campus community,” Peterson said.
Peterson also mentioned how much work the office does for the RIT community. During the academic year, Access Services provides a little over 7,000 hours of service per week, which is split up into about 4,300 hours toward interpreting, 1,000 in note taking and the remaining hours in captioning.
“Our office exists to make sure that students with disabilities are not discriminated against due to their disability.”
Interpreters can be found in many classrooms; they help to relay the information that the professor discusses to any Deaf or hard-of-hearing student who requests them. Captioning and note taking services are available for anyone with a need for them, Deaf and hearing students alike.
“We are one of the cavalcade of presentations that [students] see during orientation," Peterson said. "During the first semester for NTID students, their schedules are already made and the requests are already made. After that, they have to contact us. Anybody can request access as long as there is a need.”
Dining Services and Dietary Restrictions
With over 20 locations on campus to eat, picking a place that fits your specific needs doesn’t need to be scary. Mary Anne McQuay, one of the registered dieticians on campus, works with students to find a plan that is right for them.
“I work with students who have food allergies and kind of guide them into a plan of how they can eat on campus. I also work with students who are vegan or vegetarian, or even students who want to eat better or lose weight,” McQuay said.
In order to find allergy information or nutritional facts, students can visit Net Nutrition to choose the foods that best suit their specific needs. However, information regarding food from Nathan’s, Java Wally’s or any of the visiting chefs cannot be found on this website because the chefs prepare the food off campus and then transport it to RIT.
Over the years, Dining Services have worked hard to be more inclusive of students’ needs. In this academic year, Gracie's hopes to create a specific area that is both vegan and gluten-free. They also hope to eliminate nuts completely.
“For new students in the fall, my information is in the dining plan signup. If they have food allergies, it’s recommended that they reach out to me and also Disability Services. From there, we can come up with a plan for them to eat on campus,” said McQuay.
With the start of a new year, it is inevitable that some things will be out of the students’ control, but having their needs met by the university doesn't have to be.