Assistant News Editor
Lauren Holzer, 22, is one of the 550 disabled students attending Old Dominion University. With 24,466 students currently enrolled at the school, Holzer is among the few who utilize the disability services offered by the ODU. Holzer has cerebral palsy, which prevents her from walking effectively without the aid of a forearm crutch.
“Overall, I am pleased with ODU’s disability services,” Holzer said. She has attended ODU for one year and moved to housing on campus at the beginning of this semester. “I love living on campus so far,” Holzer said. “I am finally out from under my parent’s roof and able to have some independence of my own.”
ODU offers accessible housing to disabled students. Holzer said, “My apartment, for instance, is on the first floor and it is wide enough, if need be, to have a wheelchair move around freely.” While she was living at her parent’s house in Virginia Beach she had to depend on her parents or her fiancée to drive her to and from school and work. “It is nice living here at ODU because I do not have to worry about getting a ride to class. It provides me with a new level of independence.”
Holzer decided to move because her school schedule was becoming increasingly demanding, requiring her to be on campus five days a week. “I changed my major from sociology to speech pathology because I thought that as a handicapped person it would be a rewarding experience to help and enrich the lives of other who are also disabled.”
ODU’s student affairs website emphasizes that disabled students are not discriminated against at the university. Old Dominion does not ask students to disclose their disabilities during the admissions process and the website claims that “neither the nature nor the severity of an individual’s disability is used as criterion for admission.” The website also states that ODU strives to offer services “that will enable students with disabilities to act as independently as possible in a supportive atmosphere that promotes self-reliance.”
“One of the disabilities services that ODU offers is having a golf cart come and take you to class as well as take you back to your residence hall so you do not have to walk,” Holzer said. During the first week of classes she was late to all of her classes due to the tardiness of the service. Since then she has scheduled an earlier pick up time to ensure that she arrives on time for her classes. “My only complaint would be that they should have more than one golf cart that transports disabled students to class…if the golf cart breaks down I have to walk to class because they do not have a backup.”
Other disability services that ODU offers include interpreters for the deaf and testing centers for students with learning disabilities.
When comparing Old Dominion University to Tidewater Community College, her previous school, Holzer said that the services are about the same, but the faculty and staff really make a difference. “At ODU the people seem more friendly and willing to go out of there way to help, especially the staff in the cafeteria!”
Cara Vincente, friend of Holzer for 15 years, admires her friend’s spirit and said that Holzer has been a personal inspiration for her throughout her life. Vincente said, “She has integrity and pride and wants to live her life in a way that she can help other disabled individuals the way people have always gone out of their way to help her.”
“Where other people might crumble Lauren rises,” Vincente said. “I tell people all the time that Lauren is the strongest person I have ever met.”
Holzer plans to attend ODU for two more years to obtain her bachelor’s degree, and then she wants to get married and go to graduate school. Holzer said, “In five to ten years I hope to be a successful speech pathologist. I would also like to get married and do a lot of traveling.”
“The most challenging part about being disabled is getting to be noticed for who I am and not for my handicap,” Holzer said. “Often times the only way people remember who I am is because I walk with a fuchsia crutch, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it would be nice to be known for the person that I am and not what I walk with.”
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