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Impact of Student Disability Services

Published in the Parent’s Association Newsletter
March 21, 2018

It is my belief that there are no chance meetings in life. Although we cross paths with people for varied reasons, I feel they are purposeful.  While volunteering for Fall Family Weekend 2014, I had one of those encounters. A friendly onlooker was admiring the many unique auction items displayed. I proceeded to make light Keith & Shirley Johnsonconversation and introduced myself. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was Annazette Houston, the Director of Student Disability Services, at that time. We discussed my daughter Nia, who would be joining the UT family in the fall of 2015. I introduced her to Keith and Nia, and she provided us with her card, and a wealth of information that proved to be invaluable to us. She advised Nia to use the transportation services for classes, so that she would not exhaust herself just going to and from classes and have energy for some of the “student life” activities.

Nia received her Lupus diagnosis at the age of nine, and one day after arriving on campus for her first semester of classes, suffered a major flare and was hospitalized for 10 days. She missed the first two weeks of classes so we were not sure if she would be able to catch up and finish out the semester.

Nia was able to return to classes, but because of her illness, her energy level was very low and fatigue seemingly sets in without warning. By utilizing the bus services through the office of Student Disability Services, Nia was able to get transportation to and from all classes and activities. Because she has arthritis in her hands and suffers severe cramping in them, utilizing the services of a note taker has been a Godsend.

Nia is now a junior and still utilizes services offered by the office. She has made a community of friends among the caring bus drivers who have become her friends. They missed her and were genuinely concerned when she was hospitalized during the fall semester of 2016 and subsequently had to withdraw for the remainder of the semester.

Nia was not dealt the hand of a “normal” college student, but she courageously plays the hand that she has been dealt. While most students are concerned with which organization to join or what to wear to a party, she is busy juggling doctors’ appointments, hospital treatments and numerous prescriptions along with her course load as a Nutrition major. With the help of disability services, it makes the card game a lot easier.

If your student needs the assistance of Student Disability Services, they can find out more by visiting sds.utk.edu or calling 865-974-6087.

Keith & Shirley Johnson
Johnson City, TN
UTK Parents Council