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A Closer Look at the Office of Disability Services

Muhlenberg College has drawn tons of students into its red doors for many, many reasons. Muhlenberg has amazing professors, both a killer theater program and pre-med program, and is generally known as the “caring college”. But there’s one other factor that has students looking to apply and eventually attend Muhlenberg, and that’s our Office of Disability Services.

The Office of Disability Services (ODS) is located in Seegers Union’s basement. You can find it in the Academic Resource Center by walking through its doors and towards the back. ODS consists of several small, private test-taking rooms, a few offices for the wonderful people working there, and a main office where you can set up appointments for exams or advising and/or turn in any necessary forms.

ODS is used by many of Muhlenberg students, both people that you’d think might need extra help, as well as people that you probably wouldn’t expect to need as much help (or as little) as they do. Some of the types of students that use these services are vision-impaired, hard-of-hearing, or physically handicapped in some way. However, many of the students that use ODS are ones with “invisible illnesses”; in other words, it would be hard to tell what they’re dealing with unless they specifically told you. Students dealing with chronic physical illnesses are an example of this, as well as students dealing with mental illnesses.

It’s important to know that these students will not all be using ODS for the same reason. ODS has a wide range of support services available to Muhlenberg students, including testing and in-class accommodations, specialized housing requests, and academic advising. There is a great amount of variation in what help each student specifically receives.

Some people have the negative, falsely informed view that students receiving support from ODS are getting an unfair advantage. This idea, however, is inaccurate. Students with disabilities will struggle to perform in the same way that many other, non-disabled students can in their academics. By giving them the support that they need, they are not given an advantage, but rather are being freed from any disadvantages that they might have due to their disability or disabilities.

As someone who uses a range of services from ODS, I can say that it’s made my academic life and general wellbeing at Muhlenberg much better. I love that I perform to the best of my abilities with the accommodations that I receive, both in terms of my schoolwork and my overall mental health. I love that the professors I’ve had at Muhlenberg have been very accepting of my accommodations as well.

One of the best parts about Muhlenberg’s ODS is that I see so many familiar faces in the office area when I’m about to take an exam. It makes me feel less alone in my struggles, and furthermore makes the whole idea of getting special services feel less alienating. It’s good to remember, though, that if you’re using ODS or in that general vicinity, there should be a “what happens here stays here” mentality intact. This is because some students are not comfortable with sharing the nature or even the existence of their disability. This is not to say that all students using ODS are secretive or discrete about their support system, but it’s important not to assume that someone is not insecure about this.

In addition, just because someone uses ODS does not mean that they need “special treatment,” especially by their own friends. People with disabilities may have specific kinds of needs in terms of support, but that doesn’t mean that they should be treated differently than how you would treat any other friend. I know, personally, that I hate when people are condescending towards me or treat me with “extra-care” because of my disability. 

Finally, keep in mind that “disabled” isn’t a one-size-fits-all label. I know many people that hate using that term, especially to describe themselves.  People with disabilities are more than a label or the type of condition or conditions that they face. We all need to respect that every person is unique, and each person has things that they can and cannot do as well as things that they are or are not comfortable with. The idea of “disability” exists on a spectrum, and ODS is just one way to “group” people. We all deserve to be treated like individuals, whether or not we have a disability.

Zoe Homonoff

Muhlenberg

My name is Zoe, and I'm a senior at Muhlenberg College.  Besides writing, I'm also a lover of art and music.  I'm also what one might call a "fangirl" but that's up for debate. (not really.  I'm a total fangirl.)
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