Physical Disabilities

After suffering a severe injury in a water polo game, a Senior is now legally blind in his left eye. Facing five courses’ worth of homework, tests and papers, he often finds himself dizzy and nauseous when he exceeds his safe 30-minute period of focus.

“This physical disability has had profound impact on me in the classroom. Now, reading or simply focusing on homework assignments have become difficult, and I need to make sure that I am sleeping and getting the rest I need,” he said.

Andover currently accommodates 22 students with physical or medical disabilities. According to Patricia Davison, Coordinator of Student Disabilities, there are two main kinds of physical disability: acute, temporary impairments, and chronic, long term impairments. Acute impairments include injuries such as broken limbs, while chronic impairments can include disabilities such as deafness or blindness.

“We work…with the students on a case by case basis. Students with long standing chronic impairments, such as somebody who is confined to a wheelchair or somebody who lacks a hand, require ongoing accommodations. The most important thing is finding accommodations that are designed to work for that student,” said Davison in an interview with The Phillipian.

Each type of disability has its own accommodations of various time spans and natures, and accommodations last the length of the impairment. The amount of students receiving accommodations fluctuates every day, but as of January 15, Andover accommodates 14 students with disclosed chronic medical disabilities, 7 students with disclosed temporary physical disabilities and 1 student with a disclosed chronic physical disability.

“With such an expansive campus, it was quite a challenge getting around on crutches. Elevators tend to be difficult to access and the campus isn’t really built for people with mobility issues,” Harper North ’16, who had foot surgery earlier this year.

On campus, six of 40 dorms are wheelchair accessible: Adams Hall, Bartlet Hall, Isham, Paul Revere Hall, Rockwell House and E.H. Stuart House. Additionally, there are seven academic buildings that are accessible: Bulfinch Hall, Gelb Science Center, Graves Hall, OWH Library, Morse Hall, the Ice Arena and the Smith Center. Three buildings, Borden and Memorial Gym, Samuel Phillips Hall and Pearson Hall, are partially accessible.

As a result of back injuries, Carrie Ingerman ’15 receives accommodations from the school so that she does not have to carry all her textbooks to every class.

“I particularly have struggled with the expectation to carry around big, heavy textbooks to all of my classes. After my back surgeries, I had a 5-pound weight limit. I was allowed to keep a book in the classroom that I was able to have access to. Even now, I still have that accommodation because I cannot carry heavy objects,” said Ingerman.

Although Andover tries to accommodate students as well as possible, Davison said that there are limitations to the accommodation program.

“There are reasonable accommodations, and the operative word is ‘reasonable.’ There is nothing we are going to be able to do about the fact that it is five hundred acre plus campus, in New England, on a hill, with a major road way in between. There are things about this campus that make it very difficult if you’re not able bodied,” said Davison.

Andover has also looked to technology to help accommodate students with disabilities.

“Taking tests with written expressions in mathematics is important, and you can’t really answer questions orally in Math. There is software like Goodnotes, which is an application for the iPad that allows a student with a stylus to write very easily with the non dominant hand,” said Davison.

In cases of more complicated disabilities, Andover hopes to continue use technology to help accommodate students. Davison pointed specifically to the Kurzweil Machine, a machine capable of scanning books and converting them from text to speech. According to Davison, it would be helpful for a large range of students, from those that are blind to those affected by dyslexia.

Andover took a leading role in accommodating students with physical disabilities since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In 2001, Andover founded its Student Disability Services department, and was, according to Davison, the “first of like schools to do so.”

Students with physical disabilities at Andover face a particularly hard challenge keeping up with the pace of life, according to Davison.

“It’s really hard if you have any kind of a physical limitation to keep up around here. If you’re able minded, able bodied, completely intact in all ways, it’s still very challenging. So then just add to that some pretty significant load and it’s just like taking seven classes,” said Davison.