Providing access to all

MINOT, N.D. – As Kelli Sem ’19/’22 started compiling answers from her graduate survey, she was disappointed at what she found.

“When I was in graduate school, I did my final project on Access Services — before I ever had this job,” the current Access Services coordinator said. “And according to my research, only 50% of the people that took my survey even knew what Access Services was. That’s why it’s really important to me to get the word out, so that people know what it is and what we’re here for.

“I want to see every student succeed.”

Located in the lower level of the Gordon B. Olson Library, Access Services promotes self-awareness, self-determination, and self-advocacy while ensuring individuals with disabilities have the same access to programs, opportunities, and activities as all students.

“When you’re in K-12, your IEP or 504 Plan is given to you. It says what you qualify for and the support you need is right there in front of you,” Sem explained. “When you get to college, though, your privacy is protected. The student has to disclose to us that they have a disability. They have to seek out the support — they have to initiate contact.”

Students complete that process by following three steps: filling out the Access Services New Student Application, sending Access Services documentation of their disability completed by a qualified professional, and scheduling an appointment with Sem.

After a student meets with Sem, they may have access to several different accommodations, including testing, alternative texts, class notes, priority registration, and disability modifications.

“I always say accommodations are about a conversation, not just about an application,” she said. “We’re going to talk about what has been successful in the past, what kind of accommodations they are looking for, and then we can discuss what may or may not work. And what we start with is by no means set in stone. Changes can be made.”

In addition to a fluid plan, accommodations can be used — or not — according to the student’s wishes from class to class. For example, while a student may want their mathematics professor aware they have a disability that qualifies them for a testing accommodation, they may not want to divulge that information to their criminal justice professor.

That freedom to choose does come with additional paperwork, however.

“Students need to apply for accommodations every semester,” said Sem. “I know I, as a student, got frustrated by that because my disability doesn’t go away every semester. But, because they get to choose which professors are alerted each semester, that’s why that they need to apply every semester: to help protect their privacy.”

In addition to applying every semester, Sem stresses the importance of requesting accommodations as soon as possible every single semester.

“If its 12 weeks into the semester and someone is struggling, I can’t do anything about their grades,” she said. “I can only move forward with the accommodations after they’ve completed the process. I can’t go back in time and just wished everyone knew from the get go, here’s what I should be doing before the semester starts.”

Sem knows firsthand the value of using Access Services.

“Using my extended time as a student was critical to my success,” she said. “Writing took me more time than other people and, even if I didn’t need to use it, just to know that there was extended time available was so helpful.”

To learn more about Minot State University’s Access Services, visit or email Sem at

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/09/23   

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