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Student Support Services re-ups its offerings

Student Support Services is undergoing a lot of change lately, with the most publicized shift being a change in name. Student Support Services is now Student Disability Services. Tawny L. McManus, the director of disability services, explained in further detail the nature of this and other changes.

The mission of Student Disability Services is to empower and engage students with disabilities so that they feel part of an inclusive community. SDS is responsible for “in-class note-taking, readers, sign language interpreters and cued speech translators, transcription assistance, proctored exams and assistive technology.”

“We have always been known as Student Support Services. The university had a grant specifically for that program for many, many years and the director, Cynthia Hill, had been here for over 30 years. She was a long time servicer to the university and she retired last summer. In addition to this big change, we no longer have the Student Support Services Grant, which really kind of named our department many years ago and we have been in discussions with the provost about our name not really lending itself to the campus community, faculty, staff or students in what we do.”

McManus went on to explain why a name change will be beneficial. “So people will say ‘What kind of support do you offer?’ or ‘What does student support mean?’ They really could be looking for something involving student affairs or tutoring, so what we talked about with the provost and what we decided on was that he would like to rename the department ‘The Office of Student Disabilities Services.'”

She explained that the new name will be very student-focused and it will be clear that if a student has a disability, this is the place for them where they can get support.

However, she stressed that the name change is not the most noteworthy modification to the department.

McManus was the associate director of disabilities services and she moved to interim acting director as of July 2015. At that time, she and her department did a total review of SSS operations and services agreed upon revamping and improving services by getting more on board with technology, since UMBC is a technology-driven institution.

The first thing SSS did was look at what existing technologies students are using that they can use more of and the first thing they tackled was note-taking. A number of students with disabilities get note-taking services in their classes and we decided it’s a very paper-based, individualistic, email-dependent situation and SSS wanted to track it to ensure that students were getting their notes, so they used a new model which employs the Box system.

Furthermore, SSS has moved all of their scheduling to Google Calendar, which every student has access to through their myUMBC account and they are in the process of trying to procure new software that will have additional automated features, so people coming to register for services, to get letters to their faculty members notifying their accommodations.

“Really everything that we do in our office,  we are trying to have a technology-based system so that if you are a primarily online student or a student with physical disabilities that couldn’t get to SSS, there will be an option to do everything through the computer, which I think is very in line with UMBC’s reputation as a tech school. We were not known for our technology in previous years, so it’s exciting,” concluded McManus.