Disabled students face high financial costs

According to a report released in September2003 by the National Council on Disability, it is estimated that nearly 10 percent of college students have a disability.

These disabilities range from learning to physical, and may require the help of assistive technology.

Alan Ward, a senior majoring in occupational therapy, said that people with disabilities view assistive technology as “a device that gives independence, not a cause for dependence.”

The Utah Center for Assistive Technologies describe assistive technologies as being anything that improves functional capabilities and allows people to live more independent lives.

However, these assistive technologies come with large financial costs, many of which students are paying for in addition to their tuition.

Students in need of assistive technology such as wheelchairs may decide to seek out the help of an equipment provider like SpinLife. SpinLife sells manual wheelchairs that weigh about 30 pounds, designed for use by those who need to be in a wheelchair for longer than two hours a day.

At a cost of $545, SpinLife officials say their services come at a discount-the current list price on the same wheelchair they sell for $545 is $1,085 on sale to the public.

For those in need of a battery-powered chair, that cost would be more than $2,500.

It is because of these extra burdens-both financial and otherwise-that the Center for Disability Services is available to students on the U campus. Because students with disabilities already have an abnormally high financial burden placed upon them, the center works to help counteract these high costs by aiding students with financial aid and other forms of assistance whenever possible.

The center includes services including arranging for classroom accessibility, assistance with registration and graduation, finding notetakers in classes, general and academic advising and providing textbooks in braille or audiotape.

“There is no charge for any of the services through our office,” said the center’s director, Joe Wilson. “We work on a lot of different levels.”

Some other financial burdens faced by disabled students may include purchasing equipment that provides for mobility, doctor and occupational therapy appointments and medications.

Other difficulties for disabled students may also come in the form of a lack of knowledge by those who do not understand their disability.

The process of getting through doors and into classes may appear to many students as a struggle that they can easily assist disabled individuals with. But Ward points out that disabled students often need to accomplish these daily activities by themselves in order to further solidify their independence and recover from injuries.

Ward and several fellow students spent time recently at Trolley Square in wheelchairs as part of their program, trying to understand what trials disabled students go through.

“A lot of buildings on campus are older,” Ward said. “It can be really difficult to get access to a building that wasn’t built with accessibility in mind.”

[email protected]