Interim president addresses confusion, anger about OAS

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 6:29 PM
Interim president addresses confusion, anger about OAS by Hannah McDonald
Photo: Hannah McDonald

Two emails were sent out by Edinboro University Interim President Dr. Michael Hannan regarding changes coming to the campus’ assistant-care program, part of the Office for Accessibility Services (OAS), formerly OSD. The first, sent Sept. 19, resulted in student uproar, hashtag creation and vocalized anger and confusion amongst both the students immediately affected, their friends, classmates and university employees.

The second email, sent Sept. 21, was meant to clear up some of this confusion and answer the questions that students may have had, explained Hannan. 

Last academic year, Edinboro University was notified by the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) that due to a change in federal regulation four years ago, the university would no longer be able to directly provide assistant-care services through their own employees, Hannan said in an interview on Monday. EU was given a year (the current academic year) to come to compliance with the regulations.

Following the news from OVR about the regulations, Hannan explained that, “[We] have been working with multiple agencies to try and find a way to provide access to these services as closely as possible to what we had been doing.” 

The alternative for this was “going the route of the other universities in the country,” Hannan said, and “telling students they need to…make their own arrangements for care and then make sure they are all in place before they arrive (at Edinboro).”

But, he aimed to provide more. “We’ve had too long of a commitment to students with disabilities. We wanted to figure out how we could work with partners to continue to let students live on campus and have ready access to daily living services that they need.”

With the change in services required — from the university being a primary provider to bringing in another private organization — being implemented in Fall 2019, “What weighed most heavily was making sure the burden for students making their own arrangements was minimized so they could focus on their education,” Hannan said.

With this goal in mind — Hannan (in his role as provost), Dr. Stacie Wolbert (while serving as interim dean of students), and the president’s executive leadership team — looked to find solutions to comply with federal regulations and still offer resources to their students.

OVR assisted in this change, Hannan said, as they had been “talking on an ongoing basis….about the possibility of actually having physical space on campus to assist students in coordination.”

After research that took place over the summer, a decision was made to have A Bridge to Independence (ABI) be the new on-campus service provider for Edinboro’s students in the assistant care program. 

“ABI was an organization that had been mentioned to us as a good service coordinating agency in this region,” Hannan explained. 

Once the change is implemented, students will have the option to work directly through ABI or another service coordinating agency of their choice, but ABI will be the only agency on campus every weekday. 

Beginning Monday, Oct. 1, ABI will be on campus in the Pogue Student Center to discuss options with students, answer questions and start work for a transition come fall, Angela Burrows, assistant vice president for marketing and communications, said in an interview following the initial news. 

Though it has not been finalized, next fall, when ABI is the primary service provider on campus, they plan to have a location in Rose Hall or wherever it is determined to best suit students, Burrows said.

In addition to ABI’s temporary office, the university and the new service coordinator will be hosting meetings — both on a grand scale, including members of the assistant-care program, and personal, to help plan for the remainder of students’ time at Edinboro. 

If the student wishes, parents and guardians will also be involved in the conversations and process. To make this easier on the family members and students’ support systems, the university will also arrange conference calls or Skype sessions for those who cannot make it to campus for meetings. The university plans to provide food and housing accommodations for those able to travel to Edinboro, where they can discuss options in person.

While these specific upcoming meetings still need to be planned, organized and scheduled, Hannan said, “We’re just trying to follow federal regulations but still be the number one school in the country that provides coordinated services for these students.”

Hannah McDonald can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: news, oas

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