The Edmond Sun


April 8, 2014

UCO community learns about ‘hidden disabilities’

EDMOND — Gill Barnett, local puppy raiser coordinator for a New Leash on Life, recently matched a service dog with a veteran who suffers from a brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.

Barnett said there is a list of veterans applying for a service dog.

Barnett said one of the things the dog was trained to help with is the aforementioned veteran in answering the door. When the dog knows someone is there, it will go to the door and then to the veteran until he is alerted.

The experience was very rewarding.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” Barnett said.

UCO’s Students for an Accessible Society is presenting its annual Disability Awareness Week from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Thursday.

Tuesday morning, Barnett and Castle, a 5-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, visited the Edmond campus to help raise awareness about “hidden disabilities” like learning and hearing impairments.

Students for an Accessible Society faculty adviser Mark Maddy said tests and games being offered simulate various learning disability challenges. Also, a hearing loss simulation kit will be available to identify challenges the hearing-impaired face.

Maddy said he hopes students who participate will leave with a greater appreciation for individuals with a hidden disability.

According to experts, other common hidden disabilities include: Psychiatric disabilities; epilepsy; HIV/AIDS; diabetes; chronic fatigue syndrome; cystic fibrosis, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; learning disabilities; and various medical conditions associated with hidden disabilities.

Common denominators include: One is unable to “see” the disability; there are no “visible” supports like a cane; it is a permanent disorder they face on a daily basis; and it must be documented in order to receive reasonable accommodations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Challenges for individuals include: They may not have been diagnosed; they may not know what they need; they may know what they need but are unable to articulate it; they may often feel misunderstood, ignored or invalidated; or they may suspect something is wrong, but don’t know how to fix it.

Maddy, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 1982, said if someone has a hidden disability or knows someone else who does and they aren’t sure of the next step, it is important to be diagnosed.

“If you believe you need help and you don’t ask for it, then you’re not doing everything you can for what you want in your life,” Maddy said.

Once a disability is diagnosed, help is available through the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, Maddy said. He also advised doing some homework, learning as much about the disability as possible.  

Monday’s Disability Awareness Week theme was visual impairment. Two more theme days are left:

• Wednesday Agency and Service Provider Fair: Agencies that serve those with disabilities will be on campus to provide participants the opportunity to interact with various assistive technology devices and share how technology is making information more accessible to those with disabilities.

• Thursday Mobility Impairments: Participants will complete physical challenges including maneuvering a wheelchair through a maze.

UCO Disability Support Services include note-taking assistance, exam accommodations, alternate text format, accessibility accommodations, permission to record class lectures, individualized suggestions for accommodations in the classroom and special tables and chairs. | 341-2121, ext. 108


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