Accessibility services move forward post-COVID

Published by Robin Bruns on

Colleges are required by The Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure equal access for students of all abilities. By these standards, campuses must be architecturally, educationally and systemically accessible for everyone.

So how does a school like UCC adapt to shifting needs in accessibility? “It’s called a campus ‘self-evaluation‘ and transition plan,” Les Rogers, Accessibility Services coordinator and Veterans’ Club advisor says. “We have one. It’s a matter of needing to update it every so often, right?” he continues. “I think now’s a pretty good time to do it.”

Vice President of Student Services Jim Pittman, who was hired last year, is also interested in tackling the issue of inaccessibility on campus. “I couldn’t tell you the last time we did a walk-through,” Pittman says. “It was before my time. I’m guessing it was probably pre-COVID.”

With eight years of experience at a previous institution under his belt, Pittman has gained hands-on knowledge in campus accessibility evaluation. “Every term we would pick a building as a committee and do a walkthrough of that building. We should have some sort of group [at UCC] that does what we’re talking about.”

Rogers is in the process of trying to secure funds, either through a grant or his department, to replace the exhausted collection of on-campus electric scooters. “The first two were here when I got here,” Rogers says. He was first employed in November 2014, making those scooters at least eight years old. “The smaller one was purchased right before I started [at this position].” That was three years ago.  

Currently, these three scooters are available for use by student request; they’re stored in the Warehouse, behind the LaVerne Murphy Student Center. There used to be four, but one fell into disrepair and no replacement was sought out because at the time there was no immediate demand.

However, times have changed, and UCC is seeing a student population increasingly in need of accessibility services. Rogers reported that the total count of students utilizing his services has climbed in recent years: from around 100 in 2019, 150 the year after and 130 so far this year.

Pittman mentions Rogers’ intent to write a grant for better scooters. He notes UCC isn’t required to provide them, and the fact that they do is “above and beyond.” Elaborating on this idea, he says, “To be clear, there is the legal minimum — which we have to meet — and then there is looking at things from the way it should be, and that’s where I’d rather sit.”

Pittman and Rogers express similar desires toward standardizing accessibility on campus. In a recent meeting, they spoke about building systems that would meet a “universal standard.” As of now, no classrooms have automatic doors, available seating on walkways is limited and the college website is not as accessible as it could be.

Rogers has been writing grants to provide more access to students throughout his time at UCC. One recent grant updated resource stock of Livescribe smartpens. Rogers explains how this act replenished already-aging inventory and consumable smartpen supplies, like specialized ink and notebooks.

For students with disabilities like hand tremors or ADHD, taking notes or remembering long lectures can be difficult; these smartpens allow users to store notes or drawings taken and record audio while writing. Audio and writing can be accessed later by students for reference via the database: a simple click on any text will play its associated recording, acting as a digital memory aid.

For the future, Pittman suggests a broad plan going forward: “Having that committee, doing those walk-throughs. I think that’s one of the places where we need to start.”

Accessibility Services, located in the Student Center, provide voluntary programs that can help students with all manners of needs: time extensions; alternative testing and media formats; educational aides; preferential classroom seating and deadline flexibility; and mobility aids, transportation, and/or parking permits. Anyone interested in these services can schedule an appointment by calling (541)-440-7900, emailing AccessibilityServices@umpqua.edu, or dropping by the Student Center and speaking to Rhonda Stearns at the front desk of the Student Service offices.


Contact me at:
UCCMainstream@yahoo.com

For more articles by Robin Bruns, please click here.