continued from previous page
LDS started helping students put the rug back in place in 1988. Its home
was then a corner even more cramped than its current quarters-a study
carrel in Davis Library.
An alumnus making a difference
It soon moved to the present location, thanks in large part to the efforts
of Timothy Burnett ' 62, whose daughter,Allison Burnett ' 91, brought a learning
disability with her to Carolina. There wasn't time to go through channels-
Burnett put his own company to work renovating the space when the
University made it available to LDS.
"Tim has been our knight in shining armor:' Byron
The number of students the office serves has grown
exponentially since then, now serving more than 300
students. And as the numbers have increased, the office
has revisited its old problem-they've run out of space.
But students with learning disabilities or ADD grapple
with another adversary: public misperception.
"Our view of disabled people is reasonably skewed because if the disability is
visible, we understand it a little more," says EEO/ADA Officer Robert Cannon
' 76 (PhD) .
"It can be really confusing," agrees Byron."The other thing that I don't
think helps at all is how the media has portrayed ADD as sort of this hip dis-
order to have."
Will Raynor says he has stopped mentioning his disability in job interviews
because of the way some people view learning disabilities."If you tell people
about it, either they look at you and think that you can't do it or they think
that you're taking the easy way out. And that's the worst thing," he said.
So another part of the services LDS offers is educating the campus."We
certainly clarify and do a number of workshops," Byron said. The office also
sponsors an annual banquet to recognize professors, nominated by students,
who go the extra mile in working with them.
"You still have some teachers, I think, that don't understand:' Raynor said.
"But I think the University, by acknowledging it and by LDS explaining to
teachers, they're starting to come around. The University's been really good at
"This is an area that has blossomed and flourished," said Burnett, a Car-
olina trustee."What's great about it is that it lets us take students who would
have otherwise been thrown on the trash heap and help them get through
school and become productive members of society. What you'll see is that
once they're out of the learning environment, they're able to operate just fine.
But if they were left to the system, they would have just been cast aside."
Burnett has been a long-time champion of LDS. His mother,Juliet H. Davis,
and her husband, W. Burke Davis, established the Timothy B. Burnett lecture
series in his honor. The annual event brings a noted professional in the field of
learning disabilities to UNC and allows the University to spread the word of
Learning Disability Services beyond the confines of the campus. Last year's
event drew more than 500 people from the University community and beyond.
All of this has turned this small, crowded office in W ilson Library's base-
ment into a place that Raynor describes as a safe haven and a place to learn.
'They're not just getting the student through, but providing the skills to teach
the student how to be the successful, independent learners that they are. They
always go to bat for you:' he said. Small wonder that after he graduates, he,
too, wants to work to help people with ADD and LD find a haven in an area
that historically has had too few champions.
-Rebecca Morphis ' 97
uate, she said the University does a
"commendable job" in making academics
"When I had a research paper, they
would send a group ofpeople to the
library with me and we would pick out
books together," she recalled. "Then they
would read them to me and I would tell
them which parts I wanted. The only real
problem is that I had to pick a topic
really early and stick with it."
Barb Riverdahl is a grandmother of
two who lost her sight following a series
of heart attacks in the early
a small fortune in medical bills and
depressed by her sight loss, Riverdahl
lost her home and lived for a time on
the streets of Chicago before a friend
got her into a shelter. Riverdahl put her
life back together, started college in Illi-
nois and transferred to UNC, where she
is studying for a career in rehabilitative
Riverdahl chose Carolina in part
because of the quality of the University's
disability services. But no disabilities pro-
gram can eliminate the time it takes for
someone to sit with her and repeatedly
run her fingers over the curves of a graph
until she understands it."Diagrams are a
nightmare," she said.
Riverdahl meets with all of her pro-
fessors before classes begin to explain her
needs. But old habits die hard-profes-
sors will still write information on the
board without accompanying explanation
and distribute packets of reading material
in class and ask everyone to have it fin-
ished by the next session.
"Instructors don't realize that it takes
time to get things read on tape. It's going
to take at least a few days, in a rush, to
get it read while everyone else has
already done it," she said.
Sometimes this general lack of aware-
ness can lead to accommodations that, for
some students, feel like anything but.
Asheville native Melissa Linn, now a jun-
ior business major, has walked with
crutches since she felt a pain in her leg
her sophomore year in high school while
running around the track; doctors weren't
in this issue
article text for page
< previous story
next story >
Share this page with a friend
Save to “My Stuff”
Subscribe to this magazine