Return to collection

Students with disabilities sought education, independence at Ohio State Lima


Trailblazers, Carol Hicks and Coreen Shipp, make way for increased disability services at Ohio State Lima.

When Carol Hicks started her freshmen year at The Ohio State University Lima campus in 1964, the spinal polio she’d contracted as a child posed unique challenges.

Hicks had had quite a stellar high school experience—graduating salutatorian from Wapakoneta High School in May 1963 with a 3.96 grade point average. She’d been president of her freshmen class, a member of National Honor Society and editor of her school paper. But to continue her education at Ohio State, Hicks had to leave the iron lung she’d been living in since age seven to make the 15-mile trip to campus from her hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio.

To leave the iron lung for a few hours, she had to teach herself “frog breathing.” In a February 1964 profile in The Lantern, Hicks explained that by taking 10 or 11 gasps of air, she was able to take the equivalent of one full breath.

At Ohio State, an assistant attended classes with Hicks and took notes for her. When she returned home to study, “a special frame strung with nylon cord is placed on the [iron] lung above her head. Open books are placed face down on the cords,” said The Lantern.

Hicks’ experience may have helped pave the way for Coreen Shipp, who began attending Ohio State Lima in the mid-1970s. Growing up with cerebral palsy meant that throughout her life, she’d been “told by others what she can’t accomplish,” said a January 1983 story in The Forum, a newsletter of Ohio State Lima and Lima Technical College. She graduated from Ohio State Lima with her Associate of Arts degree in 1981, then took classes in the Department of Art at the Columbus campus.

Shipp was an artist, and by 1983, the Kenton-native had a one-woman show of her pencil sketches, felt marker drawings and acrylic paintings at Ohio Northern University’s Elzay Gallery of Art. Not only was painting “therapeutic and relaxing” for her, wrote The Forum, but she “also sees a career as a painter as a way to become self-sufficient.” Said Schipp, "Mom taught me to be very independent. Her belief in me as an individual has made me stronger. After all, no mother can live forever, so I must be independent and able to rely on myself."

Thanks to trailblazers like Hicks and Shipp—as well as breakthroughs in technology—students with disabilities at Ohio State Lima now have the resources they need to be successful, including textbooks in alternative formats, screen readers and Braille readers. “The use of technology has opened doors and helped make resources accessible to all students, no matter what their needs may be,” says Karen Meyer, coordinator for disability services at Ohio State Lima’s Office for Disability Services. She points out that the term “disability” has expanded since Hicks and Shipp were students; it now includes mental health conditions, chronic health conditions, temporary injuries, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as physical and learning disabilities. “Our office is committed to creating an accessible educational experience and environment for all students through partnerships with students, faculty and staff.”