By Camille Cox | Staff Writer
After briefly stopping shuttle accommodations last semester, the Office of Access and Accommodation (OALA) began this semester with the shuttle program installed, more students applying for accommodations than ever and a clear vision of keeping its students protected and safe.
Dae Vasek, director of OALA, explained that OALA continues to focus on helping students get any type of assistance they need.
“We’re trying to get back to as normal as normal can be during a pandemic,” Vasek said. “We are highly focused on the health and safety of our students, so we do require masks in our area because we have a large number of students with chronic medical conditions.”
Last semester, after the Lariat wrote a story highlighting OALA’s cancellation of shuttle accommodations, Baylor students immediately took action to advocate for a reinstatement of the program. In January, OALA reinstated the program, and it plans to keep it going for students in need.
“Our goal is to continue to offer that to students as an additional service,” Vasek said. “I don’t foresee it being suspended again. We have quite a few students with permanent disabilities that the shuttle really helps them get to class, so we are focused on making sure that runs as efficiently as possible from here on out.”
According to the OALA website, the shuttle runs during class session hours, supporting “as many as 10,000 scheduled transports each year.”
Franklin sophomore Brent Buckley is working for OALA as a shuttle driver this semester.
“As a private school, we have the opportunities and means to provide students with easy access to accommodations, so I think it should be very easy for us to provide those for people that need them,” Buckley said.
As a shuttle driver for OALA, Buckley sees the day-to-day positive effects that this service has on students in need of transportation.
“I’ve never had someone get off the golf cart and not say, ‘Thank you,’” Buckley said. “I don’t make a big difference, and it’s such a minuscule part of their day when I drive them to class, but it’s exciting to know that in those little moments, I get to help out.”
During the last few weeks, OALA has received a large number of requests from students for accommodations, partly because of the large size of the freshman class, Vasek explained.
“We normally get about 25 applications from students requesting services, but in the last two weeks, we’re seeing over 50 per week,” Vasek said. “We are trying to get those students accommodated as soon as possible.”
Currently, OALA provides services for about 8% of Baylor students, Vasek said. Students looking to receive accommodations can use one of OALA’s many resources.
“We have a lot of information on our website, with a couple information videos as well that tell them how to request services and what services are available,” Vasek said. “You can always call the office or email, and we’re happy to share any information needed to register with the office.”