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Student doesn’t let disability get in his way

Todd Orlowski was born with retrolental fibroplasias, a condition that permits him to only have about 50 percent of 20/20 vision.  Orlowski is a non-traditional junior at Missouri Western and is majoring in computer science and music education.

Although Orlowski is visually impaired, it would be hard to tell if you see him around campus.  Despite his condition, his classes and work load are no different from any other students.  Orlowski feels that he receives the same opportunities as every other student at Western.  Orlowski also believes that the university is making learning for him possible through the use of alternative text, adaptive software and note takers.

Originally from Leavenworth, Kan., Orlowski currently resides in St. Joseph.  Orlowski transferred from Kansas City Community College a few semesters ago and has really enjoyed his time at Western thus far.

“My experience at Western has been much better than KCK because there are much more resources here,” said Orlowski. “I would recommend Western to anyone with a condition similar to mine.”

Orlowski is currently taking 16 credit hours at Western as well as working 40 hours a week at Sam’s Club in St. Joseph, where he stocks shelves at night.  He cannot operate a vehicle so he currently takes taxi cabs back and forth to school, which cost him roughly $15 per day.  Co-workers help him get back and forth to work.  In addition to a hefty work and school schedule, Orlowski is also married.  His wife Janelle, who is also visually impaired, attends Western as well.

Orlowski says the most challenging thing he has had to deal with at Western is navigating the campus during the winter months.

“The only thing I wish Western would do better is taking care of the sidewalks during winter,” said Orlowski.  “The sidewalks get pretty slippery and that can lead to some tough falls.”

When asked if he had a favorite professor at Western, Orlowski stated that all the ones he has had have been so great to him it would be impossible to pinpoint one.

Being a music education major, Orlowski enjoys singing as one of his hobbies.  He also enjoys sports, especially basketball because he played it for a time in his youth.  Orlowski is a big fan of the Missouri Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Orlowski also takes pleasure in bowling and bowls every Tuesday night at the Belt Bowl.

Mike Ritter, disability services coordinator, states that it has been challenging assisting visually impaired students at times, but he really enjoys his job at Western and is very proud of the work he does in Disability Services.  Ritter also states that the staff at the Instructional Media Center and Adaptive Technology has been very helpful to visually impaired students.

“Students with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else, and to be part of making sure they have the same opportunities as their peers is really rewarding,” Ritter said.

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