U.S. Community Colleges Serve Disabled Students
Being an international student at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California, I had to face a lot of challenges every day. The challenges of fitting into a brand new lifestyle, new culture, new habits, new environment, and new ways of thinking. From Sophia, Bulgaria to Weed is a big distance in many ways!
In my first semester at the college, and with the help of my advisers, I was able to accommodate and adjust to the new environment much more easily. The very same semester I was also able to work with other students who had to face challenges in their everyday life too, and these were the disabled students on campus. How do you suppose I did that?
First, I had to gather my courage and go to the people who might be able to give me a job on campus. I needed to demonstrate that I was skilled, helpful, and interested. At the same time I had to fit into a new working atmosphere and I had to be prepared to learn from my mistakes and try my best not to repeat them again.
Being a tutor in the Disabled Student Program and Services Office (DSPS) I met with those students who came in for assistance. They had everything they needed without having to be worried about some extra difficulties because of lack of access.
As a Computer tutor in the DSP&S High Tech center, with the help of director, I learned a lot, and also I have seen how much assistance every disabled student gets anytime he or she needs it. This is because the center offers academic advising, registration assistance, learning disability assessment, tutoring, note taking, readers & transcribers, assisted computer technology, adaptive educational equipment, and much, much more. It's also centrally located near the International Programs Office and other similiar programs at the college.
At a small college, the service providers and the students really get to know one another in a way that seems different than in big schools where the programs have to serve a larger amount of students.
For instance, the student learning computer system is supported by such
powerful software programs as Dragon Dictate, Zoomtext, VisAbility, Window Eyes & JAWS for Windows, Open Book Unbound with an Arkenstone
Scanner & Text Assist, Expended Keyboards, and other amazing tools.
My surprise was even bigger when I found out that every single classroom, every single restroom and every single door were equipped to be accessible!
Maybe a lot of people in the United States would ask why my amazement is so big? Well, because I am an international student from Bulgaria, and I have read and heard that some international disabled students are hestitant to travel abroad. And I want to tell them, that they shouldn’t be, because the United States is one of the countries that is offering very advanced help for disabled students. The students will find this access even in the airport when they first arrive. Almost all the public transportation is equipped to help disabled people.
The College of the Siskiyous, with its center for disabled students, is another excellent example that a student, no matter from what country, will get the best professional and friendly assistance that is needed. Community colleges are an especially good and economical place to start college education as I and many of my new friends have done.
Our Intercultural Club, which is a part of International Programs, is also ready to give assistance to any international disabled student who joins us. Once we had a student in a wheelchair from Kuwait, who was the charter president of the Intercultural Club. The club certainly would welcome more students with disabilities from every country in the world!
Finally I want to say to any disabled student, no matter from what country, that facing challenges every day has gotten me this far! Studying abroad is an experience that requires a lot of hard work, but with a little assistance, that hard work can earn great satisfaction in getting to the goal.