The name change from Disabilities Services Office to Office of Student Accessibility is aimed to encourage students with different accessibility needs to come forward, according to the university-wide email sent out by the Public Relations Office on Aug. 29.
With nearly 6 percent of the student population registered with Student Accessibility, the name change advances the University’s goal to recognize and welcome the different needs of students, according to the email.
“When our name was DSO we found that some students didn’t want to register or be affiliated with us because they didn’t want to have that term describe them,” Student Accessibility Director Sandra Harrison said.
Harrison said the new name more clearly lays out Pepperdine’s responsibility to offer accessible classes and programming for students.
“I think the former name could lend itself to [misunderstanding] that the person with the disability is the issue,” Harrison said. “[On the contrary], it’s the university’s responsibility to be accessible.”
In the past, conversations in higher education have taken a more intentional focus on disability services and programs, according to the email sent out Tuesday. As a result, Pepperdine aims to join the movement by addressing accessibility needs more thoughtfully and comprehensively.
“Several offices in similar universities had made the change [and] we just knew that it was time,” Harrison said.
According to the email sent out Tuesday afternoon, the new name and identity of the Office of Student Accessibility is a reflection of the University’s growing services, educational programs, and outreach activities.
“I think [the name change] serves the mission of the University beautifully,” Harrison said. “For a faith-based institution, we should be the leaders of making things accessible for all people.”
Harrison said she hopes the change helps students realize they can go to the Office with a wide variety of accessibility issues.
“I hope it makes people realize that if they have a temporary issue, like where they twist an ankle or break an arm and aren’t able to write an exam, we can also help with those temporary disabilities,” Harrison said.
Harrison said the Office has been receiving a lot of positive feedback after the change from both students and faculty members.
“Even people who are not registered with us feel like it’s a good decision,” Harrison said.
Sociology Professor Robin Perrin said that although he thinks the role of the Office is more important than its name, he saw the name change as something positive.
“I never thought the language ‘able’ or ‘not able’ could completely apply,” Perrin said. “I think the idea of accessibility seems like a nice way to kind of spin [the name] positively.”
Junior Madison Coffey, who worked as a note taker for the Office last year, agreed.
“I think the changing of the name can be confusing for returning students, especially because it has been Disabilities Services for so long,” Coffey said. “But by using case-sensitive terminology they are making it more applicable to everybody so that students who don’t necessarily identify as being disabled feel more comfortable using these services.”
According to the email, the Office will be announcing new accessibility initiatives like telepresence robotics, note-taking software with audio recording, and captioning for campus events.
The Office of Student Accessibility is located on the second floor of the TCC and is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I would invite anyone who thinks they have an access issue or disability just to come in and talk to us,” Harrison said. “We are here to listen to them, partner with them, and get them what they need.”
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