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Video tells students with disabilities that Stanford is ready to help them navigate the Farm

A new video, Welcome Students with Disabilities at Stanford, made its debut Wednesday night at the third annual welcome dinner hosted by the Office of Accessible Education.

Courtesy of the Office of Accessible Education Student Molly Fausone riding a hand-operated bicycle on campus

Molly Fausone, '12, is among the students featured in the video 'Welcome Students with Disabilities at Stanford.'

Tucked among familiar campus images – The Claw, CoHo, Tresidder Union – there are images of Stanford students and recent graduates who "star" in a new video that welcomes students with disabilities to campus.

One is a cyclist, wearing a white T-shirt and Cardinal red shorts, who rides a hand-powered recumbent bike along a lane between the Main Quad and Green Library.

Another is a competitive swimmer, wearing a dark cap emblazoned with the U.S. flag, who slips through the water at the Avery Aquatic Center.

Still another is an equestrian, wearing tan riding breeches and a black felt hat, who guides a white horse over a hurdle at the Stanford Red Barn.

They are three of eight students – undergraduates and graduate students – with disabilities who talk about their experiences at Stanford in the 13-minute video Welcome Students with Disabilities at Stanford, which debuted Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the third annual welcome dinner hosted by the Office of Accessible Education (OAE).

Through his senior assistant Jeff Wachtel, President John Hennessy conveyed his greetings to the students and his regrets that he was unable to attend.

Wachtel said he hoped the students already felt "truly supported and welcomed at Stanford, because you are such an important part of the community."

About 60 people, including undergraduates, graduate students, OAE staff and representatives from various other offices, attended the dinner.

During the 2011-12 academic year, 1,101 undergraduate students and 579 graduate students registered with the OAE, according to its most recent statistics.

Of those students, 33 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders and 17 percent with learning disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injury. Eight percent of the students had disability issues related to mobility (6 percent), hearing (1 percent) or vision (1 percent). Twelve percent were diagnosed with chronic illness.

'Welcome' video

In introducing the video – the surprise event of the dinner – Sally Dickson, associate vice provost for student affairs, said students came up with the idea of creating a video to welcome new and transfer students, to give them tips and to show them what made the Stanford experience so great and, at times, challenging.

"The idea resonated with all of us," she said. "You are the first to see it – a video that was made for you, our new students and our returning students."

The first student to appear on the video is Vivian Wong, who graduated last year with a bachelor's degree in international relations and French.

"On behalf of Power to ACT: Abilities Coming Together, a student organization that helps create safe spaces for students with hidden and visible disabilities, I'm happy to welcome you to our community," said Wong, who was born with a congenital spinal disorder.

"Each of us is part of the rich diversity at Stanford, as you will see in this video, which highlights the experiences of eight students with disabilities. We hope that our stories will help quell your fears, answer your questions and inspire you to take advantage of the resources available at Stanford."

Rachel Kolb, '12, who competed on Stanford's equestrian team all four years, said that like a lot of students, she was shy at first about approaching faculty.

"But for me, I wasn't sure how to engage or if I could engage on the same level that I wanted to because of the communication issue," said Kolb, who was born with a profound bilateral hearing loss. "But as I've gotten older, I've discovered that you just have to give it a try. And there's really many wonderful faculty on campus that want to help you and want to learn about what your interests are."

Page Ive, a sophomore majoring in Earth systems who has dysgraphia, which affects handwriting, needed to figure out a strategy for studying for a demanding human biology course. So she visited the Center for Teaching and Learning.

"I told them I was struggling and they immediately pulled out a massive poster board of notes," she said. "It was great because it meant that I was able to take notes on these huge post-it notes and put them on my wall. And so I could see all of my notes at once on my walls."

Molly Fausone, '12, who uses a wheelchair, said there were a couple times when her classes were scheduled in buildings that didn't have elevators.

"I emailed the OAE and within a day, usually by the time the next class starts, they have the classroom moved," she said.

Their stories show the ways they became part of the Stanford family.

One student joined the Stanford Axe Committee, a spirit group whose primary role is to guard the Big Game trophy. Another performed with Arabesque, Stanford's Middle Eastern dance group. Still another got involved in student government with the Associated Students of Stanford University.

In the "best advice" section of the video, the students offer a variety of tips: Get close to the resident assistant in your dorm; experiment with different accommodations – such as a Livescribe pen or speech dictation software; get involved in activities; make time for fun; and make one or two "grounding" friends you can share everything with.

"I think talking about your disability is difficult, but it's a very personal decision," Wong says at the end of the video. "Don't be afraid to show that part of yourself. I think that you'll be surprised by what happens when you do."