Equal Access: Student Services

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Over a collage of images, the screen reads: student services, web sites, dorm rooms, financial aid, food services, access, recreation, admissions, counseling. "Equal Access: Student Services".
[Narrator] "College is the best time of your life." We've all heard that, and we all know that it means more than great classes.
[John Pedraza] Whether it's in residence life or participating in a club or organization on campus, that's where most of their time is spent.
[Narrator] Students have to go places, get inside, and use the materials, or they can't participate in college life. Admissions, financial aid, libraries, career centers, tutoring services, and recreation need to be accessible to every student.
[Rosezelia Roy] What we try to do is to make it as accessible as we can to them, and make it as a user-friendly atmosphere.
[Narrator] Making services accessible involves the entire college or university, not just the disabled student services office.
[Rodney Pennamon] I think one of the key things at any institution is making sure that the administration is committed and open to working with students and meeting their needs.
[Narrator] A good place to start is to include students with disabilities in your planning process.
[Bea Awoniyi] Communication is essential. Once we are able to communicate, once we are able to allow the student to really let us know exactly what is working and what is not working for them, we can learn a lot.
[Counselor] Here's a couple of forms I need you to fill out.
[Narrator] We're going to share some of the things we've learned while making campus services accessible to students with disabilities. For many of those students, it's important to have an admissions process that's based on more than grades and test scores.
[Tim Washburn] Today I think most selective universities have moved to an application process where we ask the student to provide a personal statement, and part of the personal statement is getting to know that person better.
[Student] Hi Mr. Armstrong...
[John Armstrong] Hi Agnes, Come in.
[Narrator] Once a student is ready to declare a major and apply to a particular school within the university, it's critical to help the student understand what it will take to be successful in that field. Admissions personnel can provide information.
[John] It's a way, I think, for people to get a better sense of what it is they're getting into before they get into it and start spending a lot of money on tuition and find out that maybe this isn't something that they are able to do or wanting to do.
[Narrator] Starting college and planning a career are challenging for all students, and institutions shouldn't make the process harder for students with disabilities. Let's look at the campus itself. Can they get into all buildings and offices and dining areas? Are dormitories designed for students with a wide range of abilities? If not, the disabled student services office can help.
[Grace Hanson] I think one of the keys is really establishing good relationships with other departments on campus in order to be able to provide those services, and not only does that help us in getting the things that we need to get done, like ramps and electric doors for instance, done on our campus, but it also helps to promote disability awareness amongst all of our colleagues on the campus.
A woman in a wheelchair is helped down a ramp from a car to the sidewalk.
[Narrator] Some accessibility features include:
[Narrator] Accessibility issues need to be addressed in dormitories as well.
[John] For example a single room, or have an accessible bathroom, or their room may need to be accessible physically, because if they're a chair user, or if they're blind or visually impaired, or if they're deaf or hard of hearing, we need to keep in mind things such as from the evacuation procedure to, you know, the fire alarms, how do we make those accessible for students with disabilities?
[Linda Walter] For example, we have someone right now who has cystic fibrosis and diabetes. So we had to spend not only time with the residence hall staff, but also with the maintenance staff and the public safety staff in case she has an issue on campus. What happens if we lose power, and she needs to have her equipment running 24 hours a day? You know, does she stay where she is, can we provide that type of accommodation, or do we have to move her to another location, who needs to know about it?
[Narrator] Priority dorm registration helps in planning accommodations for students with disabilities. Priority registration is important for classes as well, to ensure academic accessibility.
[Patricia Richter] Students with mobility impairments need time to have between their classes to get from one class to another. So having a wider choice of classes to select from helps them very much. Also, students with learning disabilities who have the accommodation of extra test time may make use of creating more time between classes in their schedules so that they can make use of the extra test time accommodation.
[Narrator] It's also helpful when various student services are located close together.
A woman who is short in stature reads a map on a low bulletin board. The screen reads: "Office staff."
[Bea] We have the obligation, within our university, everyone, every employee within the university will have that obligation to help remove the barrier in the way of student success.
[Narrator] Staff training and communication is as important as physical access. Staff members should:
[Narrator] And of course, attitude is the most important part of good communication.
[Student] I didn't get the login [Staff] Oh, I see...
[Rosezelia] Just take time to listen; if you have a person with a speech impediment, not try to say what they're going to say, just give them time you know to express themselves....if a person is blind, then you think they can't hear or you have to talk loudly, and you....don't have to do that. So it's...an ever-evolving learning experience for all.
[Karalee Woody] It's very important that all our clients are treated the same way. You know, respectfully; and so our staff are trained, we have a very intensive training program for our staff, so hopefully they are sensitive to wherever the client's at, at that time in their life, and what their needs are, and able to accommodate that.
The screen reads: "Assistive technology for computers."
[Narrator] Service offices with just a few computer workstations, such as a career center, may not find it practical to have a wide variety of assistive technology available for students with disabilities. A good plan is to purchase commonly used items to start. Consider providing: Have a procedure planned for purchasing additional hardware or software when a student makes a specific request. Services that support campus technology and those that provide services to students with disabilities can offer suggestions.
[Susan Terry] It's really important to partner with units that have the skills that you need. And, for example, the disability student services office is a great place to contact on any campus. They know federal law, they know state law, they also know about accommodations, and they have equipment, and they provide great consultation so that we can provide a good service to the student.
The screen reads: "electronic resources." A student is using a computer.
[Narrator] Web accessibility is essential.
[Tim] We get about 65 percent of our students now applying to us now on the Web....so it is important to have them functional for every applicant.
[Alice Anderson] Once a student's registered, they may need to fill out forms on line, financial aid, housing requests; these applications, again, if they're Web-based, need to have some sort of awareness of the issues, the barriers, and the solutions, so that everyone can access them.
[Narrator] Providing text alternatives for graphic images is necessary for students who are blind and using speech output systems. Being sure that all content can be accessed with the keyboard alone helps those who can't use a mouse. You can follow accessibility guidelines set by your institution or state, or consider using standards adopted by the federal government.
[Sheryl Burgstahler] On our campus the library staff work with the computing staff to help them make their web sites accessible to students with disabilities. And we also have a user group. And this a is group of people on campus who develop web sites. They meet regularly and they have a discussion list where they can share ideas with one another about making their web sites accessible.
"Printed Materials". A woman in a wheelchair reaches for materials in a wall rack.
[Narrator] When resources start out as paper copy, be sure to address access issues. For one thing, students have to be able to reach them.
[Elaine Robison] We do try to make sure our forms racks are accessible by anybody, because we have people who may not necessarily be in chairs but also can not reach.
[Narrator] Other accessibility considerations include:
The screen reads: "Events." Students are lined up outside, near a tent.
Again, college life is about more than classes. Special events require planning, so that all students can choose to attend. In promotional materials, include a statement about how to request accommodations such as sign language interpreters. Locations should be accessible to wheelchair users, and everyone should be able to find the event.
[Susan] You forget how difficult it is for other people to find elevators in buildings and it's really important to map that out carefully on your Website, to have handouts for students, to get the information out for easy access and to use a facility that does provide that access.
[Interviewer] Do you consider yourself more of a nuts and bolts person or a big picture person?
[Narrator] Smaller events, such as practice interviews in a career office, may also require accommodations.
[Susan] If it's a deaf student, it's fairly apparent what we need to do; or a student in a wheelchair who needs access, it's apparent. But...there's a lot of hidden disabilities. If a student has back injuries, for example, or some situation that prevents them from sitting in a chair for a long period of time, throughout an interview, then we need to hear about that from a student, so we can create that accommodation.
The screen reads: "Planning and Evaluation."
[Staff] And you can actually work on it, and the computer's back there.
[Student] Okay
[Susan] What we're prepared to do is find answers...and it's our responsibility to provide this service to any student, which is let us problem-solve, let us help you track down the particular office that's going to provide you the information that you're looking for.
[Narrator] Plan your facilities and services using principles of universal design. That means, designing for a broad range of potential users, including those with disabilities.
[Meryl] You should be able to access the same things that everybody else is in the same manner that everybody else is, really, without causing an undue commotion to yourself, or making a spectacle of yourself.
[Narrator] You can't just wait for a student with a disability to walk through the door. Preparation is essential. Having these in place is important:
[John] It's pretty important work. It's stuff that will make a difference in the number of people who come to college, who have disabilities; the number of people who are successful while they're here, and graduate; and the number of people who will be successful then in society and go on to bigger and better careers.