Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Disability Services celebrates 40th anniversary

Since it was founded at the University of Massachusetts, Disability Services has provided accommodations and support for numerous students, staff and faculty who require extra assistance.

This year, it is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Disability Services provides aid to people who have physical, psychological, learning or medical disabilities so that they may fully take advantage of the UMass academic and social experience.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Disability Services will be hosting a number of events throughout the year.

The celebration will begin with an open house on Friday, Oct. 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. in rooms 233 and 161 of the Whitmore Administration Building. The event is open to all who wish to attend.

According to Aquila McCants, a learning specialist at Disability Services, the open house will include presentations of new technology that can help students with disabilities and presentations on sign language, along with opportunities to ask questions and learn more about Disability Services and the work that they do.

The celebration will continue in early November with a Luminaria ceremony. In this ceremony, bags holding candles will be placed around the campus pond at night, lighting up the area.

According to McCants this ceremony represents “having the key to open the door so that you see the light.”

During the year, a series of films will be shown highlighting some of the issues faced by people with disabilities. McCants said that these films allow audiences to think about aspects of disabilities that most people would not consider, including relationships, friendships and overcoming seemingly hopeless situations.

The final event of the 40th anniversary celebration will be on the first Friday in May. A dinner will be hosted in the campus center featuring music groups and interpreters.

According to Dr. Madeline Peters, director, the main purpose of Disability Services is to ensure that “all students, staff, and community members [have] access to all programs, services, and activities on campus”.

Students who register with Disability Services are provided with a consumer manager who helps sort out their individual needs. This allows everyone who needs the services to receive personalized help so that they can make the most out of their college experience.

Peters said that Disability Services became a part of the UMass campus with the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This act ensured that any institution receiving federal funding provided equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Peters began working for Disability Services 22 years ago. When she first arrived, there were only three staff members. Services were only provided for people with physical disabilities such as those with blindness, deafness and mobility impairments.  Since then, Disability Services has expanded to help a wider variety of people, including those with attention deficit disorder, psychological disabilities, brain injuries, learning disabilities and medical disabilities.

Over time, the Office of Learning Disability Support Services and the Office of Psychological Disability Services joined with the Office of Disability Services. And now, there are over 20 staff positions at Disability Services.McCants says that she hopes to see Disability Services grow even larger and help even more people in the years to come. She hopes that those who do not have disabilities develop a greater understanding of those who do.

She also said that she hopes that people will, “advocate for themselves, to accept themselves, and … realize that they have the potential do lots of things”.

Rose Gottlieb can be reached at [email protected].


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