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STLCC’s Focus on Abilities Help Individuals with Disabilities Achieve Success

June 07, 2016

Geographic accessibility is one of St. Louis Community College’s cornerstones. And long before the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, St. Louis Community College has worked diligently to open doors to opportunity for students with disabilities through its Access offices.

STLCC provides support services to students with disabilities, as well as the faculty and staff who work with them. The mission of the Access office is to collaborate with faculty, staff, students and the community to encourage a college environment in which individuals are viewed on the basis of ability, not disability.

STLCC has served an average of 973 students with disabilities a semester during the past 10 years alone. Linda Nissenbaum, manager of the Access office at the college’s Meramec campus, said more individuals now qualify as students with disabilities due to amendments to the ADA.

Technology Enhances Services

Technological advances have dramatically changed how services now are delivered and received.

“Many services are easier for students to obtain,” Nissenbaum said. “This allows students with disabilities to have a much easier time accessing their accommodations once they are approved by the Access office each semester for their accommodations.” 

  • Students can receive alternate textbook formats via email, and can download them onto the device of their choice.
  • Software can scan textbooks or materials into a computer, and then after editing the materials, the computer can read the materials to the student instead of hiring ‘live’ readers to read and record on CDs.
  • Students on some campuses can go directly to the Assessment Center to set up out-of-class testing and accommodations.
  • Students who need readers for tests now are using screen readers to read their tests rather than relying on a human reader. This allows them to be more independent while taking tests.
  • Students in the Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) program serve as part-time captioners.
  • Students taking online classes can request and receive verification of accommodations via email from their home campus.
  • The Deaf students and the Deaf community use Video Relay Services or email to communicate with STLCC offices rather than Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf.
  • Adaptive technology such as hand-held braille readers, smart pens and phones, can be used to record lectures.
  • Phone apps make some assistive technology available all the time. The Dragon Dictate app, for example, allows students to dictate and send emails, notes, letters, etc.

Dedicated, Engaged Staff

STLCC has an excellent reputation locally, regionally and nationally for serving students with disabilities, Nissenbaum noted. Area institutions such as Washington University, Saint Louis University, Maryville University and St. Charles Community College looked to STLCC for training and guidance in setting up their policies and procedures for their Disability Support Services offices. 

“Students have come from other schools in the summer and compliment the services that they were able to receive from STLCC,” Nissenbaum said. 

STLCC Access staff members have received awards from the Missouri Community College Association and the League for Innovation in the Community College. They have served on boards and committees of the Missouri Association on Higher Education and Disability (MOAHEAD), National Association on Higher Education and Disability, (AHEAD), and the Journal of Post-Secondary Education and Disability. 

Staff members also have presented at conferences such as AHEAD, AHEAD Management Institutes, National Association for Career &Technical Education, the Postsecondary Training Institute-University of Connecticut, and other local organizations.

In Their Own Words

Ty Krewson's Story

Grace Mehan's Story

Catherine Hawkins' Story

Denise Williams' Story

Tyra Williams' Story