Since the Americans With Disabilities Act passed in the early 1990s, requiring private institutions to provide accommodations for people with disabilities, the number of students at Fordham that meet this criterion has grown from 9 to 150. That number is probably even higher, but many student disabilities go unreported, said Jeanine Pirozzi, the coordinator of the University’s Office of Disability Services.
This increase is not unique to Fordham or any other university, but is a direct result of the legislation, said Gregory Pappas, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and dean of Student Services. Fordham has been providing services for students with special needs for 10 years, but the growing case load has made it necessary for the University to step up its efforts. “More and more students with disabilities want to come to Fordham and want to be reasonably accommodated so that they can be successful,” Pappas said.
Disability Services is responsible for reviewing documentation verifying a student’s disability, coordinating reasonable accommodations for students with various other university offices and monitoring the students’ progress. The office provides services for the undergraduate colleges and professional schools. Until last year, the coordinator’s job was a part-time position filled by graduate students. Pirozzi was hired to work full-time in November 1999 when the case load became too great for part-time help. A majority, 66 percent, of students who use her office have learning disabilities such as dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Another 23 percent have physical disabilities and the rest suffer from psychological disabilities, such as bipolar disorder and depression. Pirozzi’s day-to-day include activities such as providing note-takers and interpreters for hearing-impaired students and arranging for extended test-taking time for students with learning disabilities. This semester, she organized a six-week sign language course for students, faculty and administrators, and she worked with University Librarian James McCabe and the Office of Development to establish an Assistive Technology Lab in Walsh Library. Next semester, Disability Services will host the first Students With Disabilities Awareness Day.