Redefining Disability: Who Does McBurney Serve?


#FutureBadgers arrive at UW-Madison with a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, and needs. While our campus offers a number of identity-based resources, the UW-Madison McBurney Disability Resource Center serves as the main hub for need-based services and accommodations.

While some students come to college knowing that they need services (perhaps after receiving accommodations in high school or being connected directly with the McBurney Center), others may be unsure of what assistance is available.

In fact, according to Jessica Kourliouros, McBurney’s transition services program manager & accommodation specialist, many students utilizing McBurney services have not received accommodations prior to college.

“I would say the majority of our student population are those who are diagnosed with mental health conditions (primarily depression and anxiety),” says Kourliouros. “A lot of those students are coming to us once they’re into their college career…when symptoms start to spike, and they receive a diagnosis later,” said Kourliouros.

According to the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness is the “leading cause of disability worldwide,” with one-in-five adults experiencing its effects. The typical stress associated with a college environment can make students an especially at-risk population, with #FutureBadgers being no exception.

In fact, from 2015-2016, UW-Madison’s University Health Services (UHS) treated nearly 5,000 students for mental health issues, an 11% increase from the previous year.¹ Due to this prevalence, it is not surprising that McBurney accommodates so many students with similar situations.

While UHS offers some mental health services to students (such as free counseling sessions, yoga, and more);  a McBurney Student Visa can provide additional support to help address impacts on students’ daily lives. One example of this is the flexibility accommodation, which allows eligible students to request academic extensions and makeup exams for deadlines that are missed due to a mental health issue.

Even outside of the classroom, McBurney works closely with University Housing, the UW-Madison Writing Center, Greater University Tutoring Services (GUTS), and other campus partners. With a direct referral from their office, students do not have to choose between disclosing their disability and receiving proper services.

“While you might typically think of a visual disability or somebody in a wheelchair…For the majority of the students, [their disability] is mental health, totally. It’s just not as well known, for some reason, that they can come to our office too,” said Kourliouros.

Students who wish to connect with McBurney staff can speak with a representative at each #UWSOAR Resource Fair or visit their office at 702 W. Johnson Street. If you are interested in receiving accommodations:

  1. Consult with a McBurney staff member by phone or in-person to discuss any symptoms, diagnoses, and/ or impacts.
  2. Visit the McBurney website and complete the Online Contact Form to get started.
  3. Plan to attend the McBurney Orientation and Service Training (MOST) sessions on August 28, 29, and 30.

For any other questions or comments regarding disability services and accommodations, please contact the McBurney Center directly at 608-263-2741(voice) or 608-225-7956 (text).

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