Office of Student Life

Our History

Celebrating 50 Years of Access & Partnership!

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Check out some historical articles and stories about Ohio State's journey to present day access. 

Student Life Disability Services was established as the Office of the Physically Impaired (OPI) in 1974. In its early years, OPI largely served students and staff who had physical disabilities. Prior to the office opening its doors in 1974, there was already advocacy taking place on campus to address access issues for anyone who had physical limitations. 

On October 18, 1966, Julie Cockran Rogers received a letter from The Ohio State University, College of Medicine, speech and hearing department, stating “Although they would be most happy to have her as a student (in reference to the speech and hearing department), physical limitations prohibit any possibility of your being one at Ohio State.” The letter goes on to state that the building (Derby Hall), where the courses were to be held on the third floor, meant there was “no way, shape or form” that she would be able to take her course of study and further “there is little or no hope that it will change in the near future.” The letter goes on to say that “We have to be realistic and understand that it will be a long time before ideal setups will be available for those with atypical problems. If I were you, I would investigate further the program offered in Illinois and go “west” of Ohio to pursue a career in speech and hearing.

Julie enrolled at Mansfield campus and transferred to the Columbus campus. As a student she actively engaged others on campus about inaccessibility issues-from the president of the university and down. In January 1974, University President Harold Enarson called together a task force to address the needs of physically handicapped persons and stated in a letter of invitation to Julie and to Nancy Brower (who became the first director of Disability Services) that the “problems faced by these special students and employees are ones about which the university should have a broader knowledge.” The charge given to the task force was to review the needs of the physically handicapped on campus and to make appropriate recommendations for change. One of those recommendations was the creation of a disability services office. This recommendation was approved by the Ohio State Board of Trustees in November, 1974.

1974-Present: A Timeline of the History of Disability Services

  • 1970 – Ohio State starts to remove architectural barriers
  • 1972 – Dick Maxwell is hired as the Assistant Director.  Dick was an Ohio State alum who became paralyzed in a fraternity intramural football game as a student. He helped to found Creative Living, accessible housing near campus.  The office gives an annual staff/faculty award in his name. 
  • 1973 – Library of the Visually Impaired established
  • 1973 – Adapted transportation system started (now known as Paratransit Services)
  • 1974 – Office of the Physically Impaired formed by President Enerson at the Board of Trustees on November 1, 1974. Nancy J. Brower named acting director.  Brower was serving as the coordinator for handicapped resources since January, 1974.
  • 1974 – Creative Living was founded to solve the housing dilemma for individuals who had physical challenges
  • Mid-70’s – A grant was written by Mary Daniels in Student Affairs, which provided adapted recreational sports for students and staff with disabilities
  • 1977 – First student with a learning disability is registered in OPI
  • 1978 – Lydia Block is hired as a Coordinator of Learning Disability Services
  • 1979 – OPI becomes part of Student Affairs (now known as the Office of Student Life)
  • 1980 – Compliance deadline for Section 504
  • 1981 – OPI name changed to the Office for Disability Services (ODS).  Warren King served as Director of ODS from 1981 to 1995. 
  • 1981 – Students with disabilities served by Disability Services exceeds 200
  • 1983 – Warren King, Director, establishes the Consumer Advisory Council with students representing each of the major disabilities were appointed to the council. ODS registration was 447 permanently disabled students , 350 temporarily disabled students and 110 disabled staff and faculty members. Students with learning disabilities exceeds 200.
  • 1984 – Disability Services was given responsibility for diagnostic testing of students having academic difficulties suspected of undiagnosed learning disabilities. 
  • 1984 – Disability Services is established on the regional campuses-Lima, Newark, Mansfield, Marion and Wooster/Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI).
  • 1986 – Students with learning disabilities population exceeds 400
  • 1987 – Disability Services moves to Pomerene Hall
  • 1988 – Total student service population exceeds 850
  • 1994 – Student organization, Students for Disability Awareness is founded
  • 1998 - Office of Disabilty Services Director Ann Yurcisin the awarded the Ronald E . Blosser Dedicated Service Award by the Association on Higher Education and Disabilty
  • 2000 – L. Scott Lissner is hired as the ADA Coordinator for the university; Disablity Services serves appx. 2,000 students 
  • 2002 – Assistive Technology Training Center (ATTC) is opened at 102 Pomerene Hall
  • 2003 – Disability Studies academic program is established
  • 2014 – New office name: Student Life Disability Services (formerly Office of Disability Services); Autumn term, SLDS administers 5,670 exams.
  • 2016 – Disability Services moves to Baker Hall from Pomerene Hall
  • 2016 – Counselor job title changed to "Access Specialist"
  • 2018 – Director Lois Harris retires from The Ohio State University
  • 2019 – Cheryl Lyons hired as Director; SLDS adds Braillist Lisa Vogt to staff, who created The Buckeye Braille scholarship fund; accommodated exam request process moves online. 11,240 exams are administered in the Autumn term.
  • 2020 - SLDS leads university efforts by building a COVID-related accommodation request process; brings regional campuses into the shared AIM database for seamless COVID-related accommodation processing during remote-only instruction
  • 2021 - SLDS receives Wayne Carlson Friend of ACADAOS (Academic Advising Association of The Ohio State University) Award
  • 2022 – Disability Services serves appx. 6.000 students. It is a population with a wide range of disabilities with the majority being those with nonapparent disabilities.
  • 2023 - Over 6,500 students affiliated with SLDS. Access Specialist team grows from 5 to 8, including a Residential Access Specialist position to support campus living accommodations. An additional Interpreter/Transcriber is also added to the team.
  • 2024 - 3 new Access Specialist positions and an additional Exam Program Assistant position added to support the over 7,000 registered students with SLDS.