There was a time when the university’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) served roughly 300 students back in 2007, according to Dr. Gently Ang, a disability and mental health specialist for the DRC. Currently, the number has nearly tripled. 

DRC student assistant Aileen Mendez prepares to provide mobility assistance cart services to students. (Ruth Olivares / The Poly Post)

As of January 2019, the DRC serves 899 students and the center stretches its resources to meet student needs. 

It is tasked with doing all this while relying on a budget of $1.1 million for 2018-2019, according to Tim Lynch, associate vice president for Strategic Communications.  

The university’s funding for the DRC is slightly lower than that of the funding at other CSU disability student centers. 

Documents show Cal State Long Beach allocated $1.4 million in funds for Disabled Student Services in 2017-2018 and Cal State Fullerton allocated a similar amount in 2017-2018, with a baseline budget of approximately $1.4 million for Disability Support Services. 

Tracee Passeggi, director of the Disability Resource Center, said she doesn’t feel limited by a budget as she says additional costs are covered by the institution. 

Even with enough financial resources, accommodating 899 students is anything but easy, as each student can have unique needs which can take weeks to fulfill, Ang said.

Of the DRC’s many services, including guidance to students, testing adjustments, interpreting and captioning services and mobility services, the center primarily focuses on providing accommodative services to students, according to its website. 

“We have to consider each [accommodation] request as it comes in,” Ang said. “You can imagine when there’s no standard procedures in place for that [special request], it can take up a lot of time.”

While a single special request can take weeks to fulfill, the DRC received approximately 14,500 accommodation requests in 2017-2018 alone. About 5,000 of those requests were test arrangements, which is the most requested arrangement service, Ang said. 

Marysol Cuadrado, a fourth-year sociology student who receives services by the DRC, said she was surprised at the increase of students seeking test adjustments. 

“I’ll never forget last semester seeing so many people for finals,” Cuadrado said. “Because I took my final at 8 a.m., there were so many people sitting outside waiting.” 

In order to address the growth of students registering for the DRC’s services, the center hired more staff.

While Cuadrado said she is greatly satisfied with the DRC’s immediacy and effectiveness, she said she has noticed a need for more staff. 

“I think with what [resources] they have they’re doing amazing, I think the DRC is one of the best resources for people,” Cuadrado said. “They help out with so much, but I do feel they can only do so much with what they have.” 

DRC staff also noticed a growth in the rate of non-apparent disabilities in students registering with the center, such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, Ang said. 

Passeggi also said from 2008 to 2019 there’s been a 73 percent increase in students with ADHD.

As a result, the center increased the responsibilities of new staff positions and sought a candidate with a clinical background that could cater to individuals struggling with mental health and ADHD so that Ang would no longer be the only clinical specialist at the DRC. 

DRC clinical specialists do not offer psychological counseling, so students seeking psychological counseling are referred to CPP’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), which has nine clinical staff members with psychologist titles and two additional staff members with therapist titles.  

While the DRC remains the primary source for providing accommodations to students with disabilities, Ang said the responsibility should be shared. 

“As our numbers have increased I think it’s just highlighted even more and more how crucial it is to be working with faculty members, with administrators because everybody has a role to play whether they know it or not,” Ang said.  

Cuadrado said the university’s DRC and professors do a good job of providing her with necessary resources, though she finds it most challenging maneuvering the campus. 

Many times she said she struggles to find ramps and automatic doors for her scooter. 

Even a visit to the DRC can be inconvenient for Cuadrado. 

“The resource center is so tiny it’s really hard for me to get in there with my scooter. A lot of the time I end up having to leave my scooter outside, even then I feel like I have to rush myself because I don’t feel like I want to leave my scooter out too long,” Cuadrado said. 

While campus-wide plans have yet to be discussed, Cuadrado hopes to see physical changes to the university for a more disability-friendly campus in the future. 

Cuadrado acknowledged that the DRC’s resources have played a big role in her time as a student and said she benefited greatly from the center’s notetaking and testing services. 

“Those [notetaking and testing services] are the biggest ones that have helped me for sure with my success here,” Cuadrado said. “I don’t think that would be possible if it wasn’t for that.” 

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