Services needed

Although I retired from NIU on Sept. 1, 1993, my years of service as one of the team coordinators of Services for Students with Disabilities has prompted me to respond to two articles (Nov. 8 and Nov. 9) concerning Cary Supalo’s allegation that the SSD office encourages dependence. Mr. Supalo, a first semester freshman who is totally blind, has requested and received many services: personal assistance during the day-long summer orientation, priority registration, provision of textbooks on cassette tape, personal route training and braille materials for MATH 210, and adapted equipment and materials for the completion of coursework and class exams.

He claims that “he regrets ever identifying himself as a disabled student to the office.” If he had not utilized SSD, someone else in the campus community would have been asked by him for various kinds of assistance. Although he requested and received paid SSD assistance in his math class, after several weeks he rejected this service. However, someone must be sharing notes and/or telling him what is on the board. He has chosen not to utilize priority registration for next semester through SSD. He has stated that he would prefer no further route training or sighted guide assistance. Therefore, when he starts out alone for a new destination, he will need assistance along the way from persons he must find. It seems obvious that personal assistance for daily tasks and academic needs will be obtained by him from many persons who may feel sorry for him, may wonder why he doesn’t seek SSD assistance, or may assume that all students with disabilities constantly need assistance wherever, whenever and from whomever they can find it. It is evident in the letters to the editor that other students who are disabled resent Mr. Supalo’s implication that they should ignore expert services when available in exchange for a “dependent-on-everyone” approach to each day.

In the second article, Mr. Supalo states that he had no “special services” in high school but indicated that “he did ask for help.” There is not much difference between “help” and “service.” However, when it comes from an established office trained personnel are involved, adapted equipment and materials are available, procedures are established and efficient, timely results are a priority. If such “help” already exists, why not take advantage of it?

Mr. Supalo feels that SSD “feels free to interfere too much by offering services, some of which are unnecessary.” It is regrettable that he consistently avoids the key concepts of “offered” and “available” in his unfounded criticism of SSD. Many offices on campus offer services which are available to those who wish to avoid the consequences of not utilizing such established procedures (i.e. no financial aid, no health care, no residence hall housing, etc.) The choice is up to each person who has made the decision to enter the university environment.

At the end of the Nov. 9 article, Mr. Supalo indicated that he may “finish his academic career” at another institution, Blind Incorporated, run by the National Federation of the Blind. It is interesting to note that this NFB center is “a training center for the adjustment to blindness,” the epitome of organized service and training. It will certainly not provide the degree in electrical engineering which Cary has stated he has the right to pursue.

Sue Reinhardt

Retired Team Coordinator

Services for Students with Disabilities