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Student Disability Services, Rinella move to Shriver

Bonnie Meibers, Senior Staff Writer

Miami's Student Disability Services (SDS) and Rinella Learning Center have new homes this semester as part of upgrades to Shriver Center.

Since the 1990s, SDS and Rinella had been located in the basement of the Campus Avenue Building (CAB), a locale SDS director Andrew Zeisler said had its disadvantages.

"CAB was a nice space and it served its purpose at the time, but we were in the basement," Zeisler said. "Philosophically, that's not a good place for disability services to be."

Now, SDS is more accessible than ever, thanks to $25,000 in accessibility upgrades to the elevator already existing in Shriver. The elevator is now equipped with a button one can press with their foot and horizontal buttons inside the elevator. Also inside is an evacuation chair, to get someone in a wheelchair out of the building in case of an emergency.

SDS and Rinella have always had a partnership, but in CAB, they occupied adjacent office spaces. Now, the two share an entire floor of Shriver, with no walls or barriers separating them. That, said Rinella director Christina Carrubba-Whetstine, makes their collaboration more efficient.

"With no physical walls between Rinella and [SDS], we are able to move seamlessly together, whereas before I think there was a little bit more of a dichotomy between the work that we did," Carrubba-Whetstine said.

Graduate student Dan Darkow, who works for SDS, agreed.

"Everyone is right there, in the same space, and if there is a question or need for student referral, fellow staff members are right around the corner," Darkow said.

Shriver's central location is an advantage for Rinella because it is closer to most academic buildings than CAB, in addition to being more visible, Rinella student tutor Taylor Bussell said.

"I think that the new space is better than the old location because we now have more tutoring stations, which allows for more students to be accommodated," Bussell said. "I think the CAB building is less well-known on campus, and that caused some people not to utilize Rinella."

There are some drawbacks to the new location, however. Though the old space in CAB only had nine makeshift testing areas, there was plenty of room for overflow test takers. In Shriver, there are 20 testing rooms, but less space for overflow test takers.

To solve this problem, Rinella is hoping to expand testing hours after spring break so that students in evening classes could take tests after those classes. To do this, Carrubba-Whetstine would have to hire more staff to work those evening hours.

For now, though, Rinella's hours of service will remain 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"I'm hoping that it works, but anytime you have these situations, it's a, 'Let's try it out and see,'" Carrubba-Whetstine said.

Despite the obstacles that come with a move, Carrubba-Whetstine and Zeisler agree they are happy in the new space.

"It's been the best thing for the office and I'm excited about it," Zeisler said.