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Maxey leads Appalachian’s Office of Disability Services

maranda_Maxey_t_1.jpgBOONE—Maranda Maxey has known since she was 8 years old what kind of career she wanted. The Rutherford County native learned American Sign Language (ASL) as a child from her friends, picking up signing more easily than many people learn a foreign language.

Maxey was recently named director of the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at Appalachian State University. Maxey joined ODS in January 2005 as the assistant director and has served as the interim director since May 2008.

Maranda Maxey claps her hands to sign “school” in American Sign Language. Maxey was recently named director of the Office of Disability Services at Appalachian State University. (Photo by University Photographer Marie Freeman)

“This is the type of job I always wanted to do,” Maxey says of her work with those who have disabilities. “I came to Appalachian as a student to get a degree in communication disorders because I had always wanted to work in the area of disabilities, and I had a special interest in interpreting because I had deaf friends. My goal was to work with the hard of hearing/deaf population, but in the process I learned about other disabilities.”

ODS is affiliated with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance and provides comprehensive services to qualified students, employees and members of the public as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

“Mrs. Maxey has extensive knowledge and experience working with individuals with disabilities,” said Linda Robinson, associate vice chancellor in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance. “Her educational background in communication disorders and interpreter training, along with holding a teaching license in special education and an interpreter license, makes her an invaluable resource for the university community.”

According to Robinson, “The scope of ODS has grown these past few months, and Mrs. Maxey possesses excellent skill sets that are essential to providing effective campus-wide leadership for an office that has a rich tradition of supporting student success.”

There are eight categories of disabilities served through the Office of Disability Services. They are Asperger’s syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (inattentive or combined Type), learning disabilities, psychiatric/psychological impairments, hard of hearing/deaf, visual impairments, traumatic brain injury and chronic health issues.

Services provided through ODS include sign language interpreters, academic coaching, assistive technology and an alternative testing program.

Currently, Appalachian has nearly 400 students registered with ODS. Another 150 have submitted documentation of their disability but have not yet used the services provided by the university.

Maxey says those numbers are expected to increase. “The recently amended Americans with Disabilities Act has expanded the definition of what it means to have a disability,” she explained. Under the amendment, more individuals will be covered by the federal law and may qualify for accommodations.

Maxey’s office does not determine an individual’s disability. This is done by a diagnosing professional. Maxey determines if the individual is eligible for reasonable accommodations and what those accommodations will be based on the impact of the disability. For instance, an individual with a visual impairment may need enlarged print. An individual who is hard of hearing/deaf may need an interpreter or note taker in the classroom.

“Many individuals registered with ODS have learning disabilities in reading, written expression, or math,” Maxey said. “A lot of these individuals depend on assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software that converts printed or electronic text to an audio format. Many access almost all of their educational materials through an alternate format.”

Maxey also works with faculty members to help them best meet the needs of any student with a disability who may be in their classroom, such as facilitating access to PowerPoint presentations or only showing videos with closed captioning in class.

The university’s Learning Assistance Program and Writing Center have a close partnership with the Office of Disability Services. “They work extremely hard to meet the needs of all students,” Maxey said. “We also have had growing support from administrators, faculty and staff across campus as they become more aware of disability laws and what we, as a university, are required to do.”

For more information about Appalachian’s Office of Disability Services, visit