Now there are 450 on that campus alone, and around 2,000 college-wide. In January 2015, when Stubbs began her current position as director, she saw an opportunity to expand the existing program to provide all different types of learners with technology, support and accommodations. That meant not only a name change, but also a complete revitalization of the department.
Students say the tools and resources provided by the department are helping them be successful in their classes.
“Everyone from the department has been very nice and helpful. They set me up with captioning for my classes, extra time for exams, a formula sheet for my math tests and many apps to use for organization,” said student Joey Weatherford. “They are the people to go to if you ever need help with anything.”
New Name – New Game
The change from Disability Resources to Accessibility Services was made in hopes of encouraging students who may not consider themselves as having a disability to investigate how they might use services such as assistive technology and accommodations.
“We want to make everyone aware that our department’s mission is to provide access,” Stubbs said. “Not just physical, but also educational access for all learners. So we revisited our mission to make sure everything we did had the purpose of access.” A Seamless Experience The program’s success has been bolstered by getting all faculty and staff on board. Stubbs said that there is truly no aspect of St. Petersburg College that Accessibility Services doesn’t deal with.
“Whether it be facilities, furniture, instructional design, faculty and staff, security, online services, web compliance, testing – this is an institutional approach. We’re all working together to support our students,” she said.
The department believes the use of Accessible Information Management (AIM) Software will make it easier for faculty and staff by automating accommodations, paperwork, notes and providing them access to student records all in one place. “This will reduce barriers to case management for students,” Stubbs said.
Access to Resources
There are several applications available to address the differing needs of students, including those with dyslexia, auditory processing issues or time management challenges. Stubbs hopes that students will feel empowered by technology and that the use of it will help them become as autonomous as possible in their learning.
Assistive Technology Specialist Regina Miller recommends apps that would be helpful for students’ differing needs and offers instruction on how to use them.
“Before the explosion of technology in general, students usually depended on others for support with writing, reading, or typing,” Miller said. “Today, assistive technology supports all of those things. It’s a communication gateway between peers and faculty and other areas of support that a student may seek.”
Mallory Michael recently earned her bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies. She said she was blown away by the number of helpful apps available.
“Accessibility Services was great about telling me what I needed. They offered me Dragon Dictate, which I’d never heard of before,” Michael said. “You speak into it, and it types for you. I eventually started using my keyboard, but I know a lot of less-functioning people who rely on it.”
Community partnerships are important to learning institutions, and Accessibility Services is currently partnered with more than 30 local agencies that can provide the resources students may need to succeed in class. Workshops are offered that address topics like time management, study skills, test anxiety and helpful apps.
Students attest that Accessibility Services’ multi-angle approach is truly helpful. Betsie Hughes earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education this spring, and she credits the department for helping her with seating, testing and other accommodations that she needed to navigate a college campus.
“I always feel like they’re a support team for me. It’s hard enough being a college student and studying, and if you don’t get a level playing field that other students have, that makes it more stressful,” Hughes said. “But it really helped to know someone had my back.”