Disability services offered for PJC online students

Home Features Disability services offered for PJC online students

Rose Janson, Amanda Nelson, Lauranne StouderThe Corsair

Students with disabilities may find that taking online classes can have great benefits if they follow a few suggestions from teachers and other students who have experience with this form of education.

“I liked [online classes] because they allowed me to set my own pace of learning, but also somewhat disliked them because they require a higher degree of scheduling management skills,” said student Wade Manns.

These management skills are also what instructors who teach online classes may see as a problem for other students as well.

“Students, with or without disabilities, sometimes under-estimate how much time is needed for an online class.” said Mrs. Christine Prendergast, Learning Lab Supervisor.

Helping disabled students with online classes can introduce additional challenges to instructors. Prendergast said that in her experience students may have difficulty with online classes because of the lack of face to face contact.

“Students need to be more proactive with online classes.”

If students have difficulty or need additional help they should be sure to contact their teacher for assistance.

Teachers may not know what kind of help a student with a disability may need.

“I get info from Student Services when someone may need more time to do their work.” said Mrs. Dorothy Perry, Warrington Campus Librarian who also teaches online classes.

If a student has a special need that is preventing them from succeeding with their online class they should be sure to let their instructor know about it.

“I never had any problem with teachers because of my disability; in fact, my access was improved and many helps were given because I brought it up,” Manns said.

“Since I was able to be at home while I did the material, I found it much easier and more laid back than if I had gone to class for the same material,” Manns said.

While some students have problems with online classes and using the computer for most of the class, Manns prefers using the computer because it makes doing assignments easier for him.

“I feel that it does take me longer to complete assignments in class, because I have to write to accomplish them, and my cerebral palsy does affect my wrists by making them develop cramps after heavily repetitive tasks such as writing,” Manns said.

So, what exactly does constitute a disability that would allow for students to get additional help in their online classes?

“Disability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment,” according to federal statutes.

But there are laws that can help a student have access to his or her education.

The Rehabilitation Act section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid.

“The ADA law says anything to a person without a disability received to work in education and government has to be accessible to students with disabilities.” said Mrs. Becky Adkins, department head of Disability Support Services at PJC.

Studies have shown that students with disabilities “have reaped the benefits,” Richard Allegra, director of Professional Development for the Association on Higher Education and Disability, says.

“Anecdotal information suggests that online education classes for students with disabilities are most beneficial simply by nature of being flexible. The classes meet people’s schedules. If someone is at home mostly or doesn’t keep regular working hours, then online classes seem to work well for them. Also, the amount of course material that is offered in alternative formats has increased greatly.”

At PJC, students taking a face to face class can, “have note takers, tape recorders, Braille, interpreters, and extended time taking tests. [but, students taking an on-line class] can get extended time taking tests,” according to Adkins. This is because of the fact that all the materials are right on the screen.

Many students, with the help of their teachers can pass their online class; teachers and students can also learn a lot about their rights though the ADA laws and the Rehabilitation Act.