Disability Services creates healthy learning environment for all

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Graphic by Spencer Light | The Broadside (Contact: slight@cocc.edu)

By Emma Kaohi | The Broadside (Contact: ekaohi@cocc.edu)

Striving to build a better learning environment for all, Central Oregon Community College’s Disability Service offices provide services to 500 to 600 students per year, meeting in person with students to discuss accommodations that will help the individual learn more effectively.

The disabilities services office’s policies and procedures follow the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, what is considered best practice in the field according to Disabilities Services Coordinator Jamie Rougeux.

The ADA specifies those with disabilities as “any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a record of having such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment is protected by the law, as discrimination has many faces.”

A 2014 National Survey of College Counseling Centers surveyed counseling centers across hundreds of college campuses across the nation and found that 52 percent of their clients had severe mental health issues.

In another study done by the American College Health Association, 39 percent of students surveyed reported that their depression had become bad enough to affect their ability to function in the past 12 months.

Working with other departments, the disabilities services offices are able to provide support to individuals who may encounter setbacks in the classroom due to psychological factors.

The COCC testing center that is located in the CAP Center offers ADA testing for students which “ensures that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to fairly compete for and pursue such opportunities by requiring testing entities to offer exams in a manner accessible to persons with disabilities,” Rougeux said.

“A student comes to our office for an appointment with me and I review their documentation and hear their experience with their disability. From there I approve what kind of accommodations they would have to help eliminate those barriers they’re experiencing with their disability,” Rougeux said.

ADA accommodations in the testing center can include, but aren’t limited to distraction-free rooms, extended time, and visual prompts for those with a hearing impairment. In addition to the testing center, COCC’s services also provide a sign language interpreter for the hearing impaired.

“I never had a point ever where an interpreter didn’t show up to class. Even if the student was absent, the interpreter was there and they would have sub interpreters, too,” Health and Human Performance Performance Professor Suzanne Audette said. Working with the student, the interpreters, and COCC, Audette was able to create a space to teach a physical course, which typically requires a lot of verbal direction, using expression and visual cues.

In addition, COCC’s campus shuttle is ADA certified, making access for those with walkers and wheelchairs easier.

Benefiting from this service, second-year Teresa Neeson explained the accommodations COCC has made to better suit her disability and learning environment, including reserving a desk in the front of the room with a cushioned seat to help her back.

“Just because you have a disability, don’t think you have to give up. I’m 64 and in college, so I want young people to know that just because you have disabilities, it shouldn’t stop you from doing your thing,” Neeson said. “Just go for it.” 

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