Opinion

Better communication needed to serve students

In a mindset typical of a second-semester high school senior, I wanted to go to college somewhere away from home. I wanted to live on my own, away from my parents. My mother, however, had other concerns.
She wanted me going someplace warm. Why? I live in Maryland, near Washington, D.C., and snow and my “equipment”-(wheelchair, motorized scooter, crutches, etc.), don’t mix well. I applied to schools in Florida, Louisiana and California and was accepted into five, one of them being the University of Miami.
When I visited the University of Miami, it seemed like perfection: a gorgeous campus, warm weather, lots of activity on campus, and a strong program in my intended major, communication.
I saw access ramps everywhere, few cars on campus, and friendly, helpful people at the Disability Services Office.
A direct flight was relatively easy to find, minimizing the stiffness I’d have to deal with after sitting on planes flying back and forth between home and school. I knew that UM was where I wanted to be. About six months later, I arrived as a freshman.
My experience has been good for the most part. The school has been very willing to accommodate my needs, moving my classes to accessible classrooms when necessary, and removing the hinges on my dorm bedroom door (so I don’t have to struggle to keep the door open as I maneuver my scooter into the room.). There are, however, some problems.
Take the bookstore for example. When disabled students need to go to shopping, they have to go to the second floor’s emergency exit, ring a bell, and wait for someone to arrive with a key.
Once the shopping is over, they have to wait again for someone to re-open the door and carry whatever was purchased to a register downstairs. This is a time-consuming process for everyone involved.
Wouldn’t it be easier if disabled students had some sort of card, similar to the student ‘Cane Card that they could swipe for access to the second floor?
I’ve also noticed a communication problem. Early in the year, I asked Disability Services if they knew of anyone I could get to help me clean up the my dorm every once in awhile, to help with tasks such as making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, and helping with other general clean-up. (I offered to pay for the service.).
They didn’t, but said that they’d try to make an arrangement with UNICCO. Shortly thereafter, UNICCO workers showed up at my door, asking if they could come in to clean my room.
I assumed that this was a direct result of my conversation with Disability Services, and asked what I would have to pay them. They said that there was no need for that-apparently this was a free weekly service offered to all disabled students in the dorms.
Great, but when I checked with Disability Services, they said they didn’t know that this service was offered. Shouldn’t they be the ones informing me about these types of services?
Better interdepartmental communication would ensure that all those who need to be are aware of the services that UM offers. That way, life at the University of Miami can be even better than it already is.
Jessica Siri is a freshman majoring in communication.

February 8, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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