Empowering diversity at Kutztown University: The comprehensive story of the Disability Services Office

Nestled within the vibrant and historic campus of Kutztown University, the Disability Services Office (DSO) shines as a beacon of hope, inclusivity and empowerment, championing the rights and facilitating the success of students with disabilities. This commitment is woven into the very fabric of the university’s ethos, creating a nurturing environment where diversity is not just accepted, but celebrated.

A Mission Grounded in Three Core Goals

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Guiding the DSO’s purposeful journey are three foundational goals, each reflecting a facet of the office’s multifaceted mission:

1. Coordinating Services and Reasonable Accommodations: The DSO is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that students receive the accommodations they need to thrive academically. This commitment aligns with federal laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), guaranteeing equal educational opportunities for all students.

2. Advocating for Individuals with Disabilities: Beyond facilitating accommodations, the DSO serves as a powerful advocate for individuals with disabilities. The office is a resource and consultant for the university community, ensuring that the implementation of accommodations and university-wide policies foster an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone.

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3. Promoting Disability Awareness: The DSO actively works to cultivate a campus culture that respects and values diversity, equity and fairness. Through educational programs, recognition of achievements and advocacy, the office promotes a deeper understanding and appreciation for the challenges and contributions of individuals with disabilities.

MyPlace Program: Specialized Support for Autism Spectrum Students

Amidst its broad mission, the MyPlace program stands out as a beacon of specialized support for students on the autism spectrum at Kutztown University. Tailored to meet the unique needs of these students, MyPlace offers a structured suite of services aimed at enhancing executive functions, career readiness, social skills and independent living. The program’s tiered approach – Gold, Maroon and Silver levels – ensures that students receive the targeted support they need at various stages of their university journey.

Enhancing this support are several key features designed to create a comfortable and conducive learning environment for students:

– Access to Sensory-Reduced Dining: Providing a dining experience that accommodates sensory sensitivities, ensuring that students can enjoy meals in a more comfortable setting.

– Access to a Sensory-Reduced Study Area: A quiet and accommodating space that allows for focused study sessions without overwhelming sensory inputs.

– 24-7 Access to Quiet/Sensory Room: Ensuring that students have a serene space available at any time for relaxation or sensory regulation.

– Specially Trained Peer Mentors: Offering guidance and support from peers who understand the unique challenges faced by students on the autism spectrum.

– Upon Request and Availability, Single Room Residence Hall Option: Providing an option for students who may require a solitary living environment due to sensory sensitivities or for other personal reasons.

The transformative impact of the DSO’s work is best illustrated through the stories of the students it serves. Consider the testimony of a KU art education major from the class of ’25:

“When coming to college, I looked at Kutztown for its art education program, but in order to attend, I would need to live on campus. With my anxiety and other disabilities, I knew I couldn’t live in a traditional shared dorm room. I reached out to the Disability Services Office to start working on accommodations to get my own room. The Disability Services Office worked with me and answered any questions I had and is continuing to work with me for any more accommodations I might require.”

This personal account underscores the DSO’s critical role in not only facilitating access to education, but also ensuring that students can fully participate in campus life, a cornerstone of the inclusive environment Kutztown University strives to create.

A Legacy and a Promise

The DSO’s comprehensive approach, embodied in its core goals and exemplified by the MyPlace program and heartfelt student testimonials, showcases Kutztown University’s deep commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive and accessible campus. The office not only addresses immediate needs through accommodations and advocacy but also educates and inspires the university community to embrace and support diversity in all its forms.

As the DSO continues to evolve and expand its services, the stories of students like the art education major from the class of ’25 serve as powerful reminders of the office’s vital role in transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and success. Through its dedication to service, advocacy and awareness, the Disability Services Office ensures that Kutztown University remains a place where every student is empowered to reach their highest potential, making it a model of inclusivity and support in higher education.

Charting the Future: The Aspirations of Kutztown University’s Disability Services Office

As the DSO at Kutztown University continues to evolve, its vision for the future is as ambitious as the comprehensive support it currently offers. Building upon a solid foundation of service, advocacy and awareness, the DSO is looking ahead to new horizons that promise to further elevate the inclusivity and accessibility of the campus environment.

A Vision for a Dedicated Space

One of the most significant future goals of the DSO is the establishment of a dedicated building that serves as a centralized hub for all disability services. This envisioned space would not only house the DSO, but also provide a welcoming, accessible and inclusive environment for students with disabilities. Such a facility would be a physical manifestation of Kutztown University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, offering a range of services under one roof.

The proposed building would feature state-of-the-art facilities designed with accessibility in mind, including sensory-friendly environments, technology-equipped study spaces and areas for social interaction and community building. It would also serve as a venue for workshops, seminars and events that promote disability awareness and advocacy across the university and the broader community.

Contacting the Disability Services Office at Kutztown University

For students seeking assistance, guidance or more information about the support services available, reaching out to the DSO at Kutztown University is the first step toward accessing the resources you need. The DSO team is ready to assist with accommodations, MyPlace program inquiries and any other support services to enhance your academic and campus experience. You can find the office at 215 Stratton Administration Center. To speak with a staff member, call 610-683-4108, or for inquiries via email, send a message to dso@kutztown.edu.

The dedicated team at the DSO is committed to providing the necessary support to ensure every student’s success and well-being at Kutztown University.

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