Students with Disabilities Club seeks support for academic success

On Feb. 13, the Students with Disabilities Club met with Vice-Chancellor’s representative Michelle McIlvoy, who is also the director of student development.

The meeting was called to address concerns the club has regarding relations with their note-takers, the accessibility of Blackboard and the installation of more automatic door activation buttons for campus bathrooms. Also present at the meeting was Michael Dunn, associate professor in special needs and Sally Dost, coordinator of the access center. James Torres, secretary of the Students with Disabilities Club, served as moderator for the meeting.

The first item of discussion was the relationship students have with their note takers. Paula Achter, president of the club, stated that disabled students do not get notes if they miss class, even if the absence is due to a doctor’s appointment or a hospital visit. Dost responded and said that “it is state policy, no class no notes. Making changes to that would be difficult.” However, if the student made previous arrangement with their note taker, they would still be able to obtain the information they missed during class. Rusty Wray, vice president of the club, said that he reaches out to his note takers before each semester begins and maintains a good relationship with them. Wray said, “it is our responsibility as a club to enable us to be successful in the classroom. We need to take more personal responsibility in making sure our accommodations are met.”

Other concerns surrounding note takers included the lack of availability and the fact that some note takers quit towards the end of the semester due to heavy course loads. McIlvoy and Dost agreed that this was an issue that needs to be addressed and they would work together to come up with reasonable solutions.

The second issue addressed by the club surrounded the lack of ADA buttons for bathroom accessibility. McIlvoy said that the cost of buttons was a factor, as they are $4,000-5,000 a piece, though that was not the limiting factor. McIlvoy said, “current buttons are reactionary, students have to ask for buttons in locations that are most needed. We will do an accessibility audit in the near future to decide locations for future buttons.” McIlvoy also stressed the importance in student voice to let administration know where buttons would be most useful. The first floor of the Undergraduate building and the second floor of the Multimedia Classroom building were specific examples the club mentioned.

The final issue addressed was the accessibility of Blackboard. With the conversion from Angel going into full effect fall semester, would accessibility for disabled student’s meet both theirs’ and the University’s standards? McIlvoy said that Michael Stamper, Washington State University Vancouver’s newest IT director, will be putting together tutorials for all students to use regarding Blackboard. McIlvoy said Blackboard is nationally known for their accessibility and said she would talk to Stamper about letting disabled students have early access to Blackboard in order to familiarize themselves with the new program. McIlvoy once again stressed how important the student voice is in understanding what the specific needs are regarding the software switch.

Students who have any questions regarding the issues talked about in this meeting or those who are interested in becoming involved with the Students with Disabilities Club can contact Paula Achter at pmachter@gmail.com or Greg Rose, faculty advisor for the Students with Disabilities club, at grose@vancouver.wsu.edu

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