Breaking Barriers with YSU’s Accessibility Services

By McCartney Walsh

Accessibility Services at Youngstown State University offers students the resources necessary to reach their fullest potential.

The office aids students who are impaired in some way, with that impairment infringing upon, or having the opportunity to infringe upon, the student’s education and learning experience.

 Gina McGranahan, associate director of YSU’s Resch Academic Success Center and overseer of Accessibility Services on campus, said these impairments typically fall under physical, mental, psychological or learning barriers, but aren’t limited only to those categories.

“Everything is need-based,” McGranahan said. “We try to find out what the barriers are and how or if we can legally do something about those barriers.”

The services give registered students an opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. By eliminating potential barriers, students with disabilities have the same opportunity to succeed as those without disabilities.

“We give the opportunity to show what they know,” McGranahan said. “If they need extra time on a test, if they can comprehend the information but they have trouble reading the information, we read them the information, those kinds of things.”

A common misconception about the program is that it isn’t fair, that the services are giving benefits to registered students, according to McGranahan.

“It’s not giving someone a benefit, it’s making things equal,” she said.

This program levels the playing field for each student, she said. It doesn’t eliminate the work given to students, but rather eliminates the blocks students encounter while completing that work.

“We educate people to let them know it isn’t giving them anything extra,” McGranahan said. “They’re doing the same work everybody else is doing, it’s just that we’re giving them the time to show the things they know.”

Different students have different needs, and Accessibility Services make specific accommodations to provide the appropriate stepping stones for each student’s success, sophomore early childhood education major Sara Bushaw said.

“I have always struggled throughout the years with processing information,” Bushaw said. “Everyone has different accommodations, mine is getting extended time.”

The program and the services it provides are confidential, so no one knows who is registered. Even the professors are only given a heads-up if a student is registered and may need accommodations.

“This service has a good system when it comes to alerting the professors by having us [the students] fill out a form, and then we send it to the head of the service,” Bushaw said. “They distribute it to my professors, making them aware of my accommodations.”

There are over 500 students currently registered with Accessibility Services. However, McGranahan said there are qualifying students who might not realize they can register, such as junior journalism major and Type 1 diabetic Samantha Smith, who only recently found out she is eligible.

“I didn’t know until last semester that I could [register because of] my diabetes,” Smith said. “I was made aware by one of my professors.”

If a student is able to register for accommodations — no matter how often or how little the student might utilize those accommodations — they should register to have everything on file.

“It’s better to be registered and not need our services than to need our services and not be registered,” McGranahan said. “You can choose not to use your accommodations.”

The program works for equality and positivity among all students, according to McGranahan. If any students are unsure if they qualify, everyone and anyone is welcome to stop into Accessibility Services offices and see.

“If anyone has questions to see if they qualify, come in and ask,” McGranahan said. “We’re happy to answer any questions anybody has.”