Over 200 students picked up academic accommodation forms on the first day of classes of the spring 2019 semester from the office formerly called the Office of Disability Services (ODS). This semester, however, brought two new changes to that process.
As of January 2019, ODS has adopted the name Access and Disability Services (ADS), and its office has moved from inside Dana Hall to the lower level of Old West. The accompanying Office of Learning Skills has also changed its name to Strategies, Organization and Achievement, spawning its current slogan: “Come to the OWLL”—the Old West Lower Level—“to SOAR.”
Marni Jones, the dean and director of ADS and SOAR, in a written response on behalf of ADS, explained that faulty HVAC systems prompted the move out of Dana.
“The HVAC system in Dana Hall had long exceeded its projected lifespan, but we were told that it would’ve cost millions of dollars to repair,” Jones wrote. “The assessment was that it was only a matter of time before the whole system would fail. The College set out to find a new space for us that would be centrally located, relatively quiet (for test-takers), could accommodate the needs of the SOAR Center, and would have adequate space to facilitate accommodations for 450 or about 20% of Dickinson students.”
The transition between spaces offered the best time to change the office name. The final decision followed a survey of twenty-five peer institutions’ offices, consultation with the Dickinson community, particularly with students with disabilities, and final approval by the college administration.
The new name for the Office of Disability Services had been deliberated years before the office’s physical shift.
Jones said that this was “most notably because we wanted to emphasize our mission: to provide access for students with disabilities to equitable educational, residential, and dining experiences,” Jones wrote. “We also wanted to ensure that the name of our office made its purpose easily identifiable to all current and prospective students, and that it valued the experiences of students with disabilities by incorporating ‘disability,’ in the office name.”
Alyssa Colbert ’19, who works as a student intern at ADS, has observed positive student reactions to the office changes.
“I am really happy and excited about the name change,” Colbert wrote in a response. “I think that the change from ODS to ADS, with an emphasis on ‘Access’, really demonstrates how the office is always accessible to any member of the Dickinson community. Additionally, I have heard from my fellow peers that they think the new acronyms SOAR and OWLL are so creative, especially when Marni [Jones] uses the catchy phrase ‘Come to the OWLL to SOAR’.”
Students who are interested in setting up an appointment in Access and Disability Services’s new offices should email [email protected], or view its website at www.dickinson.edu/access.