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Accessibility is What it’s All About at QCC’s Disability Services

October, 2019
  • Director of Disability Services Kristie Proctor (L) and Associate Director of Disability Services Terri Rodriguez
    Director of Disability Services Kristie Proctor (L) and Associate Director of Disability Services Terri Rodriguez with alpacas from Angel Hair Alpacas. The alpacs often visit during the start of a semester and during exam times to help alleviate stress.

Thirty years ago three offices serviced Quinsigamond Community College’s students who had disabilities. Today, those offices have evolved into one office, dedicated to taking the “dis” out of disability and paving the way for an inclusive, accessible collegiate experience for all. Director of Disability Services Kristie Proctor and Associate Director of Disability Services Terri Rodriguez have spent countless hours educating the QCC community about disability services: its mission, the services, what it means when someone has a disability, and now, creating accessibility for the classes, online and face-to-face courses, and the campus environment.

“The ‘D’ in disability services stands for diversity. Disability is an aspect of diversity,” said Ms. Proctor. “QCC has a diverse population and in our population, as with all populations, there are those with disabilities. It crosses all boundaries, age groups, ethnicities, socio-economic groups, etc. No group is excluded.”

Disabilities can run the gamut from invisible disabilities to cognitive and physical disabilities. While many may think that disabilities begin when a person is born or is very young this is often not the case. A person can acquire a disability as they go through life, whether that’s due to a debilitating accident, illness or other life-changing events.

“Many people also don’t realize you can have a disability that’s hidden. Many of our students with hidden disabilities are incredibly bright and gifted, Ms. Proctor said. “These students are also some of our best advocates.”

“For some, their disability is their superpower,” Ms. Rodriguez added.

College can sometimes be the first place that a person must figure out how to deal with his or her disability. This is when the Disability Services department comes into play. Unlike high school, where the school has the responsibility to deliver needed services to students with disabilities, the approach is much different when a student enters college. Colleges do not seek out students who are in need of services, rather the students themselves must disclose and provide documentation of a disability to the institution’s Disability Services office, where one will find out what type of services are available. At QCC, students who are eligible for services must have an initial intake done and then a check-in each semester in order to figure out what barriers they are experiencing in the classroom and how to mitigate these with accommodations. While this sounds straightforward, there are times when students do not disclose their disabilities.

“There are still stigmas attached with disability services and sometimes students don’t disclose a need when they come to college. They want to try it on their own,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

This can sometimes backfire on a student who is in need of an accommodation and both women strongly encourage students to stop by the Disability Services office in order to get the information they need to make informed decisions.

“Don’t ever hesitate to call to ask us a question,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “Come in and talk to us about what you need. Tell us what barriers you’ve experienced in the past and let’s plan ways to lessen them.”

The field of disability services is continuing to evolve and service delivery practices are changing. QCC’s Disability Services office has already taken a holistic approach in how it operates. The Disability Services staff works collaboratively on problem-solving with students, faculty and staff in order to offer inclusive, accessible education for all students.

“We work on what we can do for the student, which will give him or her access to higher education the same as any other student,” Ms. Proctor said. “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a case-by-case interactive process.”

Beginning in July 2020, QCC’s Disability Services will become Student Accessibility Services as a way to clearly promote their mission of equal access for higher education to all in the QCC community.  “We are taking steps to reframe our office as being proactive in terms of access, and building partnerships with faculty and staff to ensure the barriers in the campus learning environment are removed for the student.”

To learn more visit Disability Services.