U highlights students with disabilities

Disability Services’ “Faces” campaign was launched last June and will continue through this summer.

by Raya Zimmerman

Before TCF Bank Stadium was built, long-time Gophers fan Bernie Quinn could see the action on the field but had to read the newspaper afterward to see what he had missed.

Now, despite being deaf, he is able to read the captions on the JumboTron and not miss a single play.

People like Quinn have been able to overcome challenges that accompany their disabilities thanks to the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Disability Services. Now Disability Services is giving its constituents an opportunity to tell their stories.

The “Faces” campaign, which was launched last June and will continue through this next summer, evolved from Disability ServicesâÄô mission statement: “Advancing access for everyone.” It showcases students, faculty and staff who use the programâÄôs accommodations.

As part of the UniversityâÄôs Office for Equity and Diversity, Peggy Mann Rinehart, associate director of Disability Services, said her office wanted to find a way for diversity to be celebrated on campus.

The campaign acknowledges that disabilities and diversity go hand-in-hand, even when a personâÄôs disability is not visible.

“ItâÄôs about getting diverse people on campus and making them shine,” Rinehart said. “I fundamentally believe the U will be better the more diverse it is.”

Campaign participant Luka Krmpotich, a psychology senior, has lived his whole life with bad vision and said although he has gotten used to it, Disability Services has been a “big help” in supplying access to classroom materials.

He said one of the reasons he chose to enroll at the University was for the opportunities to interact and learn from different cultures.

“If I were at another school that wasnâÄôt as diverse, I would feel out of place with regard to disabilities,” he said.

Removing barriers

People with disabilities can request “access assistants” who remove barriers to help students by compensating for any work the student is not able to do.

“It would have been almost impossible to know what was going on,” Krmpotich said of a Spanish course he took that required many visuals. “It was very helpful to have someone sitting beside me.”

Ross Kellogg, an access assistant and psychology senior, took notes for a student last semester and ensured the student understood the material properly by going over what had happened in class afterward.

“ItâÄôs really rewarding to see those relationships develop,” Kellogg said. “I talk to them just like theyâÄôre one of my friends.”

In lecturer Cecily BrownâÄôs Spanish courses, she said the visuals Krmpotich referred to are a key tool in teaching languages to “create a bridge between the known and the unknown.”

Brown said she allows people with vision issues to move freely throughout the room, see pictures up close and get PowerPoint notes before class.

“I wanted to be on the same page as the student,” she said.

Brown has taught several students with disabilities and said listening to them and receiving constructive feedback allows for a fluid student-professor learning experience.

The 10 individuals in the campaign were both self-selected and nominated by people within the Disability Services office. Their profiles are currently on poster boards and will be posted on Disability ServicesâÄô website as well as framed and hung as art in the office.

The campaign will “let the campus community know and become more aware of disabilities and how people can achieve their goals through access,” Krmpotich said.