WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Access Service department works with students with disabilities

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By Alex McWhirt

Not every student can attend college without some sort of help. For students who have disabilities preventing them from getting the most out of college, the Access Services Department aims to assist these students in the classroom.

“Largely, we provide and coordinate accommodations for…students with disabilities,” said Rick Moehring, dean of Learner Engagement.

The college provides benefits through the Access Services department as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The act requires that public institutions, especially colleges, must provide assistance to students with disabilities,” Moehring said.

Unlike high school, where it is the school’s job to identify students with disabilities in addition to providing them assistance, the student must provide documentation of their disability before they receive any benefits. Dane Dunham, a student who was born without vision in his left eye, said the college required reports from an eye doctor in order to prove he had a disability.

The Access Services department has a long history of assisting students with disabilities.

“The college made a commitment to providing services to students with disabilities in 1972, which was a year prior to any legislation mandating such services,” said Holly Dressler, Access Services facilitator and adviser.

Access Services provides different ways to aid students with disabilities.

“Certainly, a very common one is note taking, because there’s a lot of people with a disability, whether it’s visual or if it’s hearing, or if it’s just processing, they might use a note taker in the classroom,” Moehring said. “We have quite a few students who use interpreters, we have a lot of students who use extended time on their tests, and we provide tutoring also for students with disabilities.”

Other students can also provide assistance for students with disabilities through Access Services.

“Students provide a huge support to Access Services when they sign up to be a note taker in their class,” Dressler said. “As of now, that’s the formal process in which we utilize students within our office.”

Dressler also said the department is open to any ideas students have to help out around campus.

The Access Services department uses the concept of universal design to assist students with disabilities without inconveniencing students without disabilities.

“Universal design is a concept that makes environments accessible to all people,” Dressler said. “There are many examples of Universal Design at [the college] but one of my favorites is the way in which the COMPASS test is now administered. Years ago, all students took a timed paper/pencil test. Students with learning disabilities often needed the accommodation of extended test time and students with physical disabilities had trouble filling in the bubbles on the Scantron. When the format changed to an untimed test on the computer that allowed examinees to use a calculator, our requests for accommodations went down significantly.”

As for assistance moving around campus, Moehring said that Access Services cannot provide someone to transport a student who needs help moving around campus, but they can provide tables to better accommodate the students in the classroom.

Dressler is pleased with the level of accessibility of the campus.

“We are very fortunate that we have an incredibly accessible campus,” she said.

Dunham said he is pleased with the benefits he receives from Access Services.

“I am very happy with it,” he said. “It’s going great.”

Moehring encourages students to contact Access Services if they think they have a disability.

“The most important thing to know is if anyone has any question about how they learn best, and they think it might have to do with a disability, or if they have a question about what might be available, they should go and ask,” he said. “Sometimes, people are afraid that if they go to Access Services, that somehow, they won’t be able to shake the label that they have a disability.”

Access Services is located in the Student Success Center on the second floor of the Student Center. Their phone number is 913-469-3521.

Contact Alex McWhirt, special to the Ledger, at amcwhirt@stumail.jccc.edu.

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