Student ACCESS provides equal access for all

Larry L. Medina
lmedina@hawaii.edu

Jonz Stoneroad
jonz@hawaii.edu

For a student with a disability who might find college life difficult to approach, support from Student ACCESS makes the college transition easier.

Student ACCESS (Academic Accommodations, Confidentiality, Case-by-Case, Equity, Standards, Services) is run by Cassandra Y.I. Kam, Disability Specialist, and Beth Nishimura, Instructional and Student Support Specialist, up on the third floor of Kaukahoku (Building 7) and “is charged with ensuring that all the students have equal access to the same educational facilities and programs that any other student would have on the campus,” said Kam.

Kam feels that “education is the key, because a lot of people are afraid of what they don’t know. If they had an understanding of it (disabilities), then it’s not the stereotype that people believe it is. Knowledge dispels stigma.”

“There’s still that stigma that if your disabled, it means that you are blind or in a wheelchair, and (people) don’t know or understand that many disabilities are non-visible. ‘You don’t look like a disabled person’ is what’s said a lot,” said Jonz Stoneroad, HonCC student representative to the Committee on Disability Access (CODA). Student ACCESS is humbly working to turn the tide against that stigma.

Student ACCESS examines barriers in the academic environment and makes available appropriate aids and support services. These include on-campus parking authorization, equipment loans (digital recorders, audio amplification devices), sign language interpreters, class materials in alternative formats (i.e. braille, audio recordings, larger printed format), chairs and adjustable-height desks, notetakers, testing accommodations, scribes, accessible computer workstations, registration assistance/program advising/course selection/credit loads and academic counseling, and note-takers.

Students submit documentation to Student ACCESS of any physical, mental, or other learning disability from licensed medical or testing persons (i.e. physician) to be evaluated for eligibility for services. Students can self-refer to Student ACCESS. College staff and faculty may also suggest a referral to a student. Student identity is kept in confidence and not revealed to instructors, other college staff, or students.

Student ACCESS provides services to students throughout the regular academic year and during the summer session as well. As Student ACCESS prepares for the Fall 2017 semester, Kam said they would be working with the new incoming students who apply and qualify for services to determine what their individual needs are. Nishimura takes on additional responsibilities, where notetakers are needed in particular classes; if sign language interpreters need to be contracted; if creating captions for videos or transcripts are needed.

Nishimura said that “no one department demands more services from ACCESS than another. It all depends on the semester. It is individualized for each person.” The number of students vary by semester, from anywhere between 60 – 160.

College staff and faculty are regularly updated by Student ACCESS on what services the department provides, and provided specialized workshops, ex. working with different learners and introduction to disabilities. Student ACCESS provides such workshops to other student support departments including CARE, TRiO-SSS, and the various campus tutoring centers.

Student ACCESS works with CODA, made up of different departments and student representatives, who meet regularly to discuss disability access issues at the college, staff/faculty/student concerns, and how to resolve them.

One example is the current renovation of the Science Building (Building 5). “How people are going to have access to the classrooms (during ongoing construction)” said Kam. “[Students] need second floor access – elevators? During construction [there’s] dust, vibration, etc.” that could affect the learning of students.

Student ACCESS was originally located in the Science Building, and was asked if they wanted to return once the renovations are complete. “It’s better if we stay here [in Building 7, 3rd Floor] because most of the services and interactions we do here are on the same floor (as) testing and tutoring, CARE, TRiO-SSS, so it’s convenient for the students” to have centralized services on a single floor.

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