BY ANISSA GROUT
The month of October has been dedicated to bringing awareness to disability employment. National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEAM) dates back to 1945, when Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”
In 1990, NDEAM was signed into law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA is civil rights legislation that works to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including employment opportunities. With this act in place, schools are required to accommodate and provide equal opportunities to their students.
College of the Desert (COD) offers Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) which currently serves over 800 students each year. DSPS at COD is committed to providing students with disabilities equal access to a community college education. Through the utilization of specialized instructional programs and disability related services, DSPS encourages and fosters independence and assists students in attaining their educational and vocational goals.
The disabilities are broken into 10 different categories but are not limited to: deaf and/or hard of hearing, autism, learning disability, vision, acquired brain injury, other (i.e speech), mental health (psychological), intellectual disabilities (delayed developmental learner), mobility, and ADHD. DSPS offers academic accommodations to assist them in achieving their educational goals and to participate in the college classroom.
The DSPS reaches out to instructors to teach them how to recognize any disabilities that a student may not yet be aware of that could be affecting their ability in the classroom. DSPS offers a learning disability assessment to COD students who may be struggling in their courses and are unsure as to why. Other accommodations offered to students by DSPS include, but are not limited to: adaptive equipment loan, adapted physical activity classes, adaptive technology, assistive technology lab, communication services for the deaf and or hard of hearing, disability-related counseling, disability-related supplemental tutoring, e-text or alternative media, note taking services, priority registration, and test taking accommodations.
DSPS Interim Director Paul McKinley showed some of the technology used to accommodate students which included a 3D printer, echo smart pens, and JAWS (job access with speech). The 3D printer is used to raise pictures so people with loss of vision can feel it. The DSPS allows students to borrow these echo smart pens after they pass a test to ensure they know how to use it. The echo smart pen is used for note taking, which allows the student to record everything in lectures and then play it back later. DSPS also offers JAWS software which is a computer screen reader program from Microsoft that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen with a text-to-speech output.
According to McKinley, “students with disabilities in community college is roughly 12 to 13 percent, about 1200 students, and we only serve 800 which is due to students not coming forward about their disability or not knowing they have one.” He continued stating that he has gone through life with a, “learning disability and visual processing disorder.” He encourages any students that may be struggling or want more information to visit the DSPS, which is located in the Cravens Student Services Center on the COD campus.