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Ted Buchanan

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Leveling the playing field for students with disabilities

Goldman family strengthens Office of Disability Services 

Goldman plaque
More students are seeking disability assistance from the Goldman office.(Photo by the School of Liberal Arts)

February 28, 2013

Mary Sparacello
msparace@tulane.edu

In the mid 1990’s, Peter Goldman (A&S ’66) advocated for his daughter, Karen (NC ’97) for the services she needed as a learning-disabled student at Tulane University. At the time, a leading publication listed over 1,000 colleges that offered programs for people with learning disabilities. Tulane wasn’t on the list.

In the ensuing years, Peter, his wife Carol, Karen, son Jeff (TC ’98) and his wife Amy (NC ’98) have made philanthropy a family affair, dedicating the Goldman Office of Disability Services in 2008. The Goldman family’s support has strengthened Tulane’s commitment to students with disabilities. Among other services, the Goldman Office provides peer note-takers, technology to convert text to audio for students who have difficulty reading and a quiet space to administer tests.

“We saw a void that needed to be filled,” says Peter Goldman, president of a Chicago company that produces Nu Finish car care products. “Advocating for the disabled is extremely important, and I’m proud there’s more of a focus on this.”

Demand for services doubles
The Goldman Office of Disability Services is within the Division of Student Affairs and located in the Science and Engineering Lab Complex. The office assists 500 to 600 students each semester and continues to expand as the number of students diagnosed with disabilities rises, says Director Patrick Randolph. Most have some form of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; the remainder suffer from a range of learning, physical or psychological disabilities. 

The office doubled its staff within the past year, hiring three additional staff members. The newest employee is a short-term disability coordinator who offers support for students with temporary needs, for example if a broken leg makes it difficult to get around campus or a broken arm makes it impossible to type or take notes.

“We want to support the students in any way that we reasonably can,” Randolph says. 

The main request the office receives is testing accommodations – from extending test time to distraction-reduced examinations. When Randolph arrived at Tulane in 2009, there were five one-person testing rooms. Now, one large room provides space for up to 30 test-takers. During the 2009-10 school year, the office proctored just fewer than 1,000 exams. Two years later, that number has almost doubled.

Randolph says some people have a misconception that accommodations such as special exam testing give the learning disabled an advantage. Not so, he says. “We’re just trying to level the playing field so they’re not at a disadvantage relative to their non-disabled peers.” 

Two Decades of Progress
Requiring a learning-disabled person to take a test without accommodations is “like not allowing someone to wear glasses,” says Karen Goldman, who was diagnosed with a learning disability during her senior year of high school. She says she took classes with Tulane professors who didn’t know anything about adult learning disabilities, and thought they were something “you grew out of.”

Because her disability made it hard for her to take notes, she took notes during class, audio-recorded every lecture and used tapes to take notes again after the class. The precursor to the Goldman Office of Disability Services did offer partial accommodations for learning disabilities. For example, Karen’s disability made taking true-false tests very difficult, so she took some exams orally or was given extended time. 

She studied education and psychology as an undergraduate at Tulane and later earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

“I think there’s been great progress made at Tulane,” she says, adding that she is thrilled more services exist for current Tulane students than she had. “All students should have the opportunity to benefit from all Tulane has to offer.” 

For more information on the Goldman Office of Disability Services, click here or call (504) 862-8433.

Mary Sparacello is a writer in the Office of Development.

 

 

 

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