Stefani Pila considers herself a successful Gator. She's a psychology and history junior, part of the UF Honors Program and, along with her twin sister, Sarah, a member of the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.
She and her sister share a hearing impairment, but that hasn't kept them from excelling, thanks to UF's Disability Resource Center.
The sisters regularly use the DRC's note-taking services and give accommodation letters to their professors to ensure they get seats close to the instructor and captions for videos and online courses.
The DRC, located in Reid Hall, is designed to provide accommodation services to students living with physical, medical or psychological disabilities and serves about 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students, including students with learning disorders, physical injuries and psychological disorders.
Freshmen with disabilities should register with the center as soon as possible to get help and accommodation letters for their professors, Stefani Pila said.
Two of the center's most popular services are the note-taking and exam accommodations. The Gator Lift shuttle, which transports in-need students around campus, is also widely used.
Though many of the students registered with the DRC have long-term disabilities, students with temporary issues should also register, said DRC coordinator Richard Nelson.
He explained that a student with a broken wrist might have trouble completing a lab, writing notes or taking a test, and that's where the center's student assistants come in.
"They're not there to answer the questions for them but to provide the physical assistance they need," Nelson said.
Personal relationships and individual attention sets UF's DRC apart from rest, Nelson said.
The university's Counseling and Wellness Center also works with the DRC to serve the needs of disabled students and counselors urge students to come in for talk-therapy.
Julie Abrams-Bernier, a counselor at the center who has been with the university for over 20 years, said students with disabilities not only have to deal with the daily stresses of classes and homework like everyone else but also have an extra layer of complexity tied in with their college experiences. This is because of stigmas associated with disabilities.
"Everybody wants to be understood, respected and accepted," Abrams-Bernier said. "These are basic human wants, and if we can help by allowing someone to get their issues off their chest, then we certainly want to do that."
Students interested in finding more information about registering with the DRC can visit http://www.dso.ufl.edu/drc/getstarted.php or contact the Counseling and Wellness Center at 352-392-1575.