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AUB adopts accommodating attitude toward students with disabilities.

Byline: Daily Star Staff

Summary: For Fawzi Yassin, who graduated this year with a degree in computer science, academic standards were not his only motivation for choosing to study at the American University of Beirut (AUB) - an accommodating attitude was a high priority.

BEIRUT: For Fawzi Yassin, who graduated this year with a degree in computer science, academic standards were not his only motivation for choosing to study at the American University of Beirut (AUB) - an accommodating attitude was a high priority.

Fawzi is one of at least a dozen disabled students who graduated from AUB over the past decade. But he was the only one this year who rolled on his wheelchair to receive his degree from then-President John Waterbury during the June commencement exercises.

Stricken with a debilitating genetic disease - Friedrich's ataxia - that damages the nervous system and leaves its victims with impaired mobility as well as other symptoms, Fawzi needed a university that could provide him with easy access to classes. While AUB's 150-year-old, hilly campus is not ideal to a wheel-chair-bound individual, the university's administration was eager to accommodate its prospective student.

So when Fawzi applied in 2005, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences promised to reschedule any classes that proved inaccessible to him. A year later, the Protection Office bought a wheel-chair accessible car to transport disabled students along with their wheel chairs across campus, and particularly from upper to lower campus and vice versa.

While AUB does not receive many disabled students every year, it has a policy to equip all new buildings with ramps and disabled-friendly bathrooms. As for the old buildings, they are gradually being provided with disabled access. "We are very keen to make our disabled student population feel comfortable and at home," said Dean of Student Affairs Maroun Kisirwani.

Disabled students who wish to study at AUB may also benefit from the Women's League Scholarship Fund for Handicapped Students, which was established in 1999. Several disabled students were awarded financial assistance from this scholarship fund. During the academic year 2005-06, the recipient was Fawzi Yassin.

The Red Cross Youth club at AUB also offers services to students with special needs, helping them around campus and with their studies through the 25-year-old Room for Visually-Challenged Students, which is jointly run with the Office of Student Affairs. The room offers a variety of services, such as turning books into audio tracks, through a computer software or student volunteers, and an archive of taped university text books. "Our volunteers also read for visually-impaired students and help them with their online and library searches," said Rayya Fallis, the president of the Red Cross AUB Youth Club.

Fawzi's experience at AUB changed his perspective on life. Before joining the university, he saw his world as confined to his parents' home, with no prospects for a future. Now, he plans to enroll in a master's program at AUB and work part-time.

"Before joining AUB, I did not think of going to work, and thought I would live at home forever. Now I have lots of hope for the future," he said. "AUB built my personality and allowed me to make lots of friends. I am so thankful for that opportunity and would like to tell people: Never to lose hope. Always keep your eye on the goal and don't think it's impossible." - The Daily Star

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jul 24, 2008
Words:577
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