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A GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
compiled by: Ardis Bazyn
Ardis Bazyn is a motivational speaker, business coach, and author and may be contacted by email: or through her website www.bazyncommunications.com.
Sponsored by the California Council of Blind Students
List of 9 items
After I decided to attend college as a nontraditional student, I investigated how to accomplish getting a degree. However, I did not pursue all the areas that I should have. I did not understand the ramifications of all my decisions. I had to learn by trial and error the pitfalls that can and do occur during a typical college experience. Even though I graduated with my B.A.s in four years and my M.A. two years later, I found several obstacles I could have bypassed had I known more information earlier. I wrote this handbook with these Challenges in mind.
Since choosing the correct college or university is paramount, I’m covering this topic first. I wanted a college near where I lived due to my family situation. First, I chose a local community college and then a four-year college, also where I lived. Various reasons dictate where you should attend classes. It is important for all prospective students to first select a major, if possible, and then understand and diligently pursue the process of admissions. If you are interested in a very prestigious college or university, the way forms and essays are completed is crucial.
Applications for financial aid need to be completed simultaneously with your search for the right college. It is likely one of the criteria you may use in evaluating your final college or university choices. Your decision may be determined based on the amount of loans you will need to accomplish your education. I attended a community college my first two years primarily to save money. The community college also offered me a wider schedule of courses, which suited my busy family life.
The next two sections cover some similar ground. First, examine and identify your own special needs. You will also need to evaluate and use disabled student services to some extent. If you are aware of your needs and what the Department of disabled student services offers, you can determine where you might need assistance.
If you know the laws that affect you in college, you will be able to advocate more affectively for yourself. You must be able to document or show reasons why specific services are necessary. Accommodation is expected in specific areas and you will be able to ask more easily if you understand and know the laws.
The section on training and recruiting readers and drivers is important since you will need many readers. I’ve elaborated on how to instruct readers to help you in the most efficient way possible. Also, you may need drivers to take you to get needed supplies that are not available on campus and/or to drive you home from time-to-time. Tips are included on recruiting them.
Since I use a cane for my mobility, I asked Sheila Styron to write a section on working a guide dog on campus. Sheila has had experience in working with guide dogs for thirty years. Your mobility aid, whether it is a cane or dog, is one of the most valuable assets on a campus. Students may guide you occasionally, but you ultimately are responsible for reporting to classes on time.
The final chapter gives a list of organizations which you can call for tips and assistance in advocating for services and accommodations. I hope this guide will serve as an important resource to anyone soliciting information before embarking onto the search for a perfect college or university experience. There will always be challenges; but, hopefully, this guide will keep you from making some of the same mistakes I made. Good luck!!
Choosing the Right College or University
In order to enjoy your time in college and fulfill your degree requirements, it is essential to choose the college OR UNIVERSITY that offers the appropriate accommodations and courses for you. First, you must ask yourself some basic questions in order to streamline the process of selecting the SCHOOL THAT will best suit your personal and educational needs. It is best to set goals for your college experience: How much time are you willing to commit to study? How much can you spend: loans, grants, or gifts? What outcomes do you want- type of job? The more you know at the outset of this process, the easier it will be to find the right school. You may want to read the next few chapters before you start looking
You must determine the fields of academic study that most interest you or major(s) you would like to pursue. You then need to research which colleges or universities are best qualified in these areas. Another question to ask yourself is where you would like to attend classes, weather you’d like to be close to home or far away. If you choose to remain near home, check out the colleges in your community and find what majors they offer.
You may choose to initially attend a local community college until you feel comfortable with the idea of pursuing a four-year college further away. A community college usually offers most of the general courses needed to fit with most majors you might want. Once you’ve selected a number of schools to consider, you will need to speak with a counselor or advisor at each one to learn about those departments. Research those campuses in order to determine whether or not they fit your specific needs, and continue to contact colleges that are recommended by others.
You may prefer in state schools in order to receive in state assistance for tuition and other expenses. Don’t forget to check each school for applicable scholarships. The more expensive the tuition, the more likely there will be scholarships or applicable grants.
Sometimes it is more feasible to go to a community college for the first two years. This is especially true if your rehabilitation counselor cannot guarantee you the financial assistance you will require in order to attend a prospective four-year college. If you do decide to go to a community college of any type first, make sure that all the courses you take have credits that transfer to the four-year colleges you are most likely to attend later. Each school has particular transfer policies. Some four-year institutions have a maximum of credits that can be transferred into their system.
Another consideration is course requirements for your major at the four-year college. You will want to make sure that two-year institution courses will be the correct ones for your intended major at the four-year school. Often, the community or two year colleges offer a more general degree and you may be able to take all the preliminary courses there. In some cases, you may use course credits which aren’t in your major area as elective credits. However, electives are limited in some majors where many courses are required.
Some other considerations for choosing a prospective college are: the proximity to your home, recreation and libraries in the area, close shopping and restaurants, similarity to your home community and the geographical challenges offered on the campus. If you are someone who has not been away from home much in the past, you may feel more comfortable in a community closer to your home. This will allow you and your family to visit each other more often.
Also, make sure recreation facilities, libraries, and shopping are available near your dorm or living quarters. Dorms on campus often have some of these features, but you may want to get off campus once in a while. You should check out the bus and train services in the area and see how easy they will be to access during your off school time. If you need to work, each college can let you know the availability of work-study programs. If you want a part time job off campus, the size of the community will be a factor in determining availability of jobs.
If you have grown up in a conservative or close knit community, you may want to live in a similar environment. Another consideration may be the physical layout of the campus and the O&M challenges you will encounter when traversing it. Some large campuses may have a blind pedestrian friendly network of sidewalks and other campuses may feel like walking through a big parking lot due to sprawling areas of wide-open space between buildings. Some campuses are spread throughout a town or city and require using public transportation or campus buses.
You will want to take into consideration your travel skills when selecting your school. Of course, planning your schedule to include enough travel time between classes is always a good idea. Unless you are very shy, it is usually easy to ask for directions on campus, since other students will be walking between classes just like you. By being friendly to them, often students will even ask where you are headed.
In some colleges, you may have more prerequisites before taking some courses in a given area. Also, some schools may allow some opportunities to test out of courses. (Check “Selecting the Right Major”). Each college has varying numbers of students. If you decide to attend a smaller college, the class sizes will likely be smaller as well. This would allow you to make easier contact with instructors. In large state schools, you can have hundreds in a freshman class and it may be harder to have in-depth contact with an instructor.
Selecting the Right Major
You may have already considered what area of study to pursue. Perhaps, you just have some particular interests in mind. If you have some ideas, a Rehabilitation counselor may be helpful. He/she may be able to introduce you to a blind person in an interesting career who can provide valuable information or serve as a role model or mentor.
The American Foundation for the Blind also sponsors the “Career Connect” and is a good resource for locating blind individuals who are employed in hundreds of different fields. They are willing to be interviewed by phone (possibly in person if you live near one) by any student or other blind person interested in their career or the types of technology they use. The website is www.careerconnect.org. It also can be accessed through www.afb.org/careerconnect. The main www.AFB.org site also has technology information and other links for blindness related products and services.
One feature, “Window on the Working World”, has first person accounts of the day-to-day joys, hardships, and innovations of the blind or visually impaired worker. All articles have been submitted by mentors. You can find the stories of “Window on the Working World” by clicking on the Mentor link on the home page of CareerConnect, and then clicking on “Success Stories”. New stories are posted periodically so check back from time to time.
In many colleges, you are required to pass exams to qualify for some math, writing, or science courses. This may be a consideration in deciding on a major, since you may have to take additional classes if you cannot test out of these preliminary courses. However, some of these required courses might qualify as elective courses for your major.
Additionally, you may want to pursue the possibility of testing out of some courses at the school you are interested in attending. If you feel particularly strong in a subject area, most schools have college level equivalency program exams or tests for obtaining course credit. If you are a nontraditional student or have worked in high school in a particular field, you might be able to test out easily. This would eliminate the need to take the course. There is a fee for these tests so it is not advisable to choose this option unless you have taken near college level courses in high school or have a lot of experience in a prospective test area. Institutions can usually provide the textbook on which the course test is based.
Finally, if you are not sure of your choice of major, it may be wiser to attend a community college first unless the four-year college you choose has a large number of major choices. You can take a general degree path, which allows you to take a variety of general courses and familiarize yourself with the various subject areas. Then, you can transfer to the best four-year institution possible. I did attend a community college first and found it helpful to consider the best four year college later.
If you choose a major too quickly, you may find yourself changing it later. If you change a major after a year or two has passed, you may have to take additional courses because of this change. You may have to attend college an additional semester or two.
Understanding the Admissions Process
Once you have selected a few colleges, you need to investigate each admissions process. Usually, you are required to submit an application, a high school transcript, college transcript (if transferring or continuing your education after a break), an admission fee, and applicable financial aid information. Some applications have an essay or interview requirement. Many colleges may waive the interview if you live a great distance from the campus, but it is always best if you can visit the campus anyway.
Be as clear as possible when you apply regarding the major(s) in which you are interested. Find out what courses are required for each major or minor and what prerequisites are necessary. I had originally planned on attending one college until I learned that major required me to take courses that would not really benefit me in the long run: lay-out and design, photography, etc. Another school had the same major but allowed me to be more creative in my choices. I was required to complete an internship, which can sometimes be difficult for a visually impaired person to find.
You will want to ask for a campus tour. You should be accompanied by a friend or relative, if possible, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the campus layout. This is especially beneficial if you are looking at large schools, which might cause orientation or mobility problems for you. A scattered campus or one without any particular landmarks may be intimidating to some students. Sometimes it is also helpful if you can ask an O&M specialist to orient you to the campus either at this time or after you have been accepted. This will assist you in setting up a class schedule that will work best for you.
Usually, the admissions process is written clearly in the college handbook, which you will receive when you request information on any college or university. Sometimes, these are available on-line. However, ask any questions about items mentioned in the catalog or handbook that you do not understand, haven’t had time to read, or simply want clarified. This is the time to find out anything you might possibly need to know. After you are accepted and attending classes, it is much more difficult to make changes.
Applying for Financial Aid
If you need financial aid of any kind, first speak to your rehabilitation counselor. If you don’t have one, see if you qualify for services. A rehabilitation counselor may be your best resource for obtaining financial aid information. However, there are also some other places scholarships or grants can be located. Many states offer loans or grants to students who qualify on a need basis. Grants are usually available from the state you live in for state schools.
Libraries also carry books with scholarship and grant opportunities. Many websites offer financial aid information, scholarships and loans. You can do a general search for scholarships on www.google.com, www.dogpile.com, and numerous other search sites. One website for scholarships is www.fastweb.com, which lists specific scholarships available at the featured institutions.
You may also want to talk to consumer, civic, and service organizations in your local community. They are often willing to give small grants and scholarships. Disability organizations offer scholarships to disabled students as well. For example, the California Council of the Blind offers scholarships to students from California. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) also offers scholarships annually. Other state affiliates of ACB offer scholarships to residents as well.
Usually, business related organizations offer scholarships, which are linked to specific course areas. For example, advertising related organizations may give scholarships for students studying majors in a related area (such as marketing). Lions Clubs and other service organizations may give small grants ($500 or less) to local students, regardless of study area.
Some colleges have grant or scholarship opportunities listed in their financial aid department. They may even help you determine which if any will meet any of your needs. Colleges may also offer work-study programs to help pay for tuition.
Some schools facilitate job hunting if you need a job while attending school. Some offer other jobs on campus besides work-study programs or maintain a job hot line to connect students with interested employers. Others have a bulletin board or job related website for students to check.
Student loans are also available from the federal government. The colleges and universities you investigate will have the appropriate financial aid forms for these loans. You may also apply for federal loans on-line. Once you have applied for one of these, you can use that information for any other college you are interested in researching. If you are using federal loans, you must sign agreements each year; but if you take more than six months off in between, you may have to go through the whole process again.
Loans may be available from all the schools you have an interest in attending. Schools may have both student loans and parents’ loans to assist their kids. These usually offer lower interest rates than loans from banks. In most cases, all students are able to obtain loans for any school they choose to attend.
Identifying Your Special Needs
One of the most important things to remember is that you must be able to communicate your needs when it is necessary to do so. Communicating well and advocating for yourself allows others to understand what assistance you require to achieve success. Each student has particular needs. If you have multiple disabilities, it may be even more crucial for you to use good judgment in scheduling your classes in order to manage medication requirements.
Time management is a must when planning and arranging a variety of college activities. This is particularly true if you are an older student with a family. If so, check out the area in Student Services that handles non-traditional students. Nontraditional students may have to work around jobs, families and other situations, which are not necessarily issues for younger students. Some colleges may employ counselors who can address your particular needs.
It is imperative to find an advisor you can talk to comfortably about the course area in which you wish to study. The advisor should be able to guide you in choosing the appropriate courses for completion of your degree. If transferring is required, an advisor will be particularly helpful in informing you regarding these circumstances. If the advisor to which you are assigned originally doesn’t seem to agree with your choice of major, ask to talk to another one. Some have preconceived ideas about what a blind person can and cannot do. However, if two advisors have the same response, you may want to re-evaluate your career choice to make sure you can handle all the requirements.
Contact the Disabled Services center of any college in which you are interested. Some may order books for you in your format of choice and some may have you do that yourself. In either case, make sure you know that it is handled far enough in advance to insure you have them in time. E-text may be the most efficient, but recordings or scanned text work well too. Sign up with www.bookshare.org, because they may often have texts you need and are able to get them more quickly.
Some Disabled Student Services Centers set specific hours for reading tests to disabled students or for scanning materials. Some have computer labs with accessible computers. This information is also important when planning class schedules. Some disabled student centers do not remain open in the late afternoon or evening hours, which can also make planning your class schedule more difficult.
If you learn the instructors’ names before the classes start, you can call them and ask if they can give you your class syllabus on a disk, cd, or in an email. Make sure you let them know what document format you need. I asked an instructor to give me a disk and received it in a format for a Macintosh computer not a PC. If you wish it in Word, ask for that format.
Listen carefully when instructors state specific course requirements. This usually occurs on the first day of class. If you hear any assignments that might cause a problem for you, speak to the instructor immediately after class. Together, often the two of you will be able to devise alternative methods for completion of course work. For example, an instructor may use overheads extensively to illustrate math equations. You might ask for a copy of overheads a couple of days before the class.
Another professor may consistently administer pop quizzes in class. Ask him/her if they could be scheduled either at the end of class so you can go to the test center then or if he/she could proctor the test him/herself. Another solution would be for you to take tests orally with answers in multiple-choice form if you are able to print letters. Another option might be to ask teachers to email you quizzes with time requirements.
Of course, you will have to agree on a time so you know when the email is expected back. For example, you may have a class immediately afterwards, and might not be able to return the answers for a couple of hours. An instructor may prefer to email you at a scheduled time to guarantee that another student won’t see the quiz.
You can also ask instructors to send you the class schedule of assignments and handouts by email. Often, instructors will agree to these types of requests.
If a course requires students to read websites and respond to them, you must ascertain if these sites will be totally accessible to you. If a site is partially accessible but you have trouble responding or replying to the site; disabled student services may be able to help. They can either assign another student to get the information you need or the instructor may be willing to accept alternative assignments. If it is a class where participation in chat rooms is required, research how accessible it is to use. It is always best if you can participate in all activities since the instructor’s alternative assignment might not give you the same results.
Most instructors are willing to accommodate you. If they are not, you might talk to the registrar about switching classes. If this is a small college, you may not have the option to take a similar course with a different instructor and may need to talk to the dean of students. If you do decide to take a different class within the first few days of the term, it will not cost you any extra money. If you choose to drop the course later, you may pay a penalty or lose the money already spent on the course. Changing courses may also cause you to become behind in the new course chosen if you can’t get the new books in time. Remember, you must be forthright regarding your needs. Attempting to make impossible situations work, rather than addressing your particular needs with a counselor or instructor will only create problems, which may have been avoided through better planning.
Finding your own reader for homework may work better for you if you are able to pursue this option. Your college may provide some readers, but often, readers may not be assigned to you in a timely manner. A good use of readers is to help with textbooks not Available through Learning Alley (RFB&D). You may be able to get textbooks in e-text or from www.bookshare.org. Sometimes you can get to know other students in your classes who might be willing to read course assignments or materials to you. Also, if you can have a student scan textbooks onto a disk, cd, or file to be sent by email; this may be more efficient than cassette tapes, especially for review.
Using Disabled Student Services
If you are disabled, you will be eligible for specialized student services. It is important to get a list of eligible services you can use and the time-lines for giving them the information they need to provide the necessary service. These may include: compensation for readers, adapted testing environments, and access to adaptive technology. The school will pay costs of reading course materials, taking tests with a proctor in a private room, having the test read to you, and you may receive additional time for taking exams. In order to facilitate this process, the professor and the student may both have to sign a form detailing the testing accommodations needed for the exam. These forms may differ from school to school but must be filled out, signed and returned to the disability resource center in advance of the exam. Make sure you understand the time line necessary for your particular school. Sometimes it is easier to work with the instructor to have him/her proctor his/her own test in the office or classroom instead. He/she might even be willing to have you take a test by email.
Another option is for the instructor to provide the test on disk or cd, allowing the student to submit results via email, disk, or cd. Sometimes, a quick turn-around might be required along with a request that the student return all materials. Teachers often reuse tests and want to make sure no copies are floating around. In fact, some professors don’t even allow you to keep returned tests once you have viewed them. Many professors do not plan their courses far enough in advance for students to know when the tests will be given. During a term, a professor could decide to change the date of one of the tests. When this happens, you may be unable to receive an accommodation in the disabled student services center. This is why it’s important to know the rules of testing in the Disabled Student Services Center so you can relay them to the instructors well in advance of test scheduling.
If you use readers through the disabled student service center, only certified or hired readers by the disability services department may be permitted to read for you. They might have to be on their payroll to be paid. You may have to go into the disability services office each semester to be awarded reader hours based on your course load. All of the counselors at the resource center are supposed to be aware and informed on all of the accommodations necessary for each type of disability. However, this is not always true. Often, rules are not well defined as to how many hours are assigned for each student. Find out before you sign up for courses how much reading is involved and make sure you will be accommodated for the amount of reading you need.
Having books scanned is another possibility. However, some people may not edit scans so they may have areas which are not as clear as you’d like. Ask about accessible textbooks. Many publishers now have the capability of providing electronic texts of all the books for courses. You may have to contact your rehabilitation counselor if the school doesn’t seem willing to assist you in this area.
Knowing the Laws that Affect You
While you are in high school, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that protects you as a disabled student and provides direction to parents and educators regarding the types of accommodations and services entitled to students with disabilities. These laws require parents and teachers to fill out a form each year (some are for more than one year) stating which services you need. Unfortunately, if you find you need additional assistance during this period of time, it may be more difficult to get this additional assistance if it was not listed in this form. It is very important to consult a professional in the blindness community to help evaluate what your future access needs may be.
While you are in college, you may have a rehabilitation counselor who will fill out a similar individual education plan form. However, this form is written up more as a guide than a requirement for specific services. For example, even though your division of rehabilitation services may allow for funds or accommodations to assist you, the college is not required to follow this particular law.
For college and university students, Section 504 of the Rehab Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) apply. Colleges, which receive government funding, must accommodate students with disabilities. However, there are not specific requirements in all cases. General requirements about accessible signage and equal access to materials are accepted. It is usually left up to each school to adapt their facilities for disabled students.
In many cases, the accommodations the school seeks to provide are not always the most accessible solutions for disabled students. For example, the law requires that schools have materials available in accessible formats but does not specifically require that they be made available in Braille. You may request materials in your format of preference; but if it is not readily achievable, you may not receive it in that format. Some larger universities are more likely to have Braille printers for transcribing printed materials for blind students. Unfortunately, even universities that have Braille printers do not always have knowledgeable staff trained to properly operate the equipment.
It is important for you to know that you are supposed to be given a reader for exams, given texts in an alternative format if not available from known sources, and provided with other reasonable accommodations as necessary. However, often, colleges do not know these laws, so as a student, you would benefit from reading all sections of these laws that are applicable. If your college or university does not accommodate you, you may file a complaint. However, these complaints take time and are not easily resolved through this process. It is more effective for you to be tactfully persuasive and work with the college yourself.
The Department of Justice offers technical assistance on the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and other ADA provisions applying to businesses, non-profit service agencies, and state and local government programs. It also provides information on how to file ADA complaints. The ADA Information Line for publications, questions and referrals is 800-514-0301 (voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY). The Internet address (ADA Home Page) is www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.
The Access Board (or Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) offers technical assistance on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Publications and questions can be answered by calling 800-872-2253 (voice) 800-993-2822 (TTY). The Internet address is http://www.access-board.gov. The Department of Education provides technical assistance on the ADA. Disability & Business Technical Assistance can be reached by calling 800-949-4232 (voice/TTY). The Internet address is http://www.adata.org.
Training and Recruiting Readers and Drivers
It may be difficult to calculate how much reader and driver time will be necessary each semester. Since this is the case, it is best to have as many options available as possible. Of course, disabled student services will provide some paid reader hours and be able to acquire these readers. However, sometimes they don’t assign readers on a timely basis. If you need a textbook read, in the cases when these aren't readily available, the college might assign a student who isn’t able to read when you need those particular chapters read. At times, you as the student may need to engage other readers.
If you can, try to get rehabilitation services, parents, or other funding sources to buy you a note taker to facilitate note taking. This is much easier when reviewing notes and completing assignments than relying on a mp3 recorder, DAISY recorder, or digital recorder in class. Many times supplemental material discussed is not necessary for future review. Another way of obtaining adequate notes is by asking a fellow student to copy notes for your reader to read to you later. If you choose this route, make sure this student is a responsible, above average one. Also, a reader will need to read these notes on time for you to use them for assignments or tests.
You should be careful with the Internet as a source of readers or drivers. However, any advertising, whether or not it’s on the Internet, requires taking some precautions. References should always be requested for any potential reader or driver especially if you are planning to permit them to enter your home or dorm room. Other students may be a good source; but you should not rely on them alone, since test study times may be similar for them.
If you attend church, are a member of a service or consumer organization, or belong to a gym, you may be able to network with fellow members and acquaintances to get names of interested potential readers and drivers. Sometimes, it is necessary or even preferable to identify several suitable readers and drivers. One exclusive reader may not always be able to provide adequate services for you to complete your assignments on time. You may need a reader for a couple hours a week during slow times or many hours a week during term paper or testing times.
Advertising in campus newsletters, local newspapers and bulletin boards often will glean more possibilities. You may choose to have them contact you through a P.O. Box number or email address rather than a home phone number. If you are receiving calls or applications from readers or drivers you don’t know, you may wish to have someone with you when he/she first arrives. When looking for drivers, mention the destinations to which you need to be driven. Make sure you express how flexible you can or cannot be.
Sometimes, you can have readers scan items when you are not with them and read other materials on mp3/DAISY cds flash cards or thumb drives you can listen to later. Training readers to "clean-up" text that is scanned so your speech synthesizer or Braille note taker can read it to you is helpful. You may clean it up yourself but it is much more time consuming. Even though it might save you reader hours, most of your assignments are time sensitive and you will be better served by having someone else perform this task.
When you make the initial contact with a possible reader, ask questions about their schedule and the amount of time they have available. This will need to coincide with your schedule well enough for you to complete your work. Let them know that you will want to test their reading skills. Don’t feel compelled to hire the first one who calls. You must work with someone you can understand clearly and who can read the material properly. Some courses require more experience in reading since they may not be the normal reading material of a non-college student.
Also, make sure the reader understands how he/she will be paid and when. If someone else is paying for the service, make sure you know what the reimbursement policy is and whether it goes directly to the reader or to you. Also, you may have to pay extra to get a reader you prefer.
If you want them to spell difficult words, let them know. Some students like to know when the reader reads a new page, reads a diagram, or whether there are pictures on the page. Instruct your reader about specific items you want to have read and which items can be skipped. At first, you may wish to have a reader read you everything on the page and decide as you go which tables or side notes can be skipped. If you are not told all that is there, it may be hard to know which might benefit you.
When hiring drivers, you will want to make sure they know the area in which you are traveling. Some people read maps well but others do not. Inquire about their driving records, their habits such as smoking or eating while driving (if either of these bother you), and anything else you may want to know about them. Make sure they are available the times you may need them. If you can be flexible, you will have better success. You might want to test them on a short trip first to see if their driving style bothers you. Sometimes other students may work out as drivers especially if you only need one to drive you home on specific weekends.
Of course, larger schools might present greater possibilities for hiring. Some consumer organizations, service organizations or civic organizations might have volunteer services. AARP sometimes has lists of volunteers or people looking for part-time work. "Green Thumb", local hospitals, and senior centers might also have volunteer lists or people looking for part-time work.
Working Your Guide Dog on Campus
by: Sheila Styron
Dog Guide handlers face many challenges when working their dogs on college and university campuses. Dog guides also provide students with many opportunities to enhance travel but often, creative thinking and planning are required to ensure the efficiency of using a guide dog for mobility in these complex environments.
Many guide dog schools now provide some campus work for students before graduation, and these schools are also willing to be available for follow-up work on college campuses after graduation. This on campus work provides students with just enough information to realize that no two colleges or universities are alike and that these situations are all unique O&M and guide-work experiences. Acknowledging that all students and guide dog handlers have varying O&M skill sets as well as different personalities, needs and communication styles, here are some general suggestions and points to keep in mind when learning your way around campus in the company of a guide dog.
Colleges and universities are not famous for being organized in recognizable grid patterns like regular city blocks. There are often wide, open areas to be negotiated in order to reach buildings, which are laid out to be aesthetically pleasing rather than easy to find for guide dogs and their handlers.
Do not despair though, because college campuses are also full of people walking to class just as you will be, and one of the keys to successful travel is learning to communicate your orientation needs to these fellow students and pedestrians. Because of the irregular architectural layout of campuses, it is extremely useful to develop a mental map or somewhat accurate spacial image of your campus, which will prepare you for the surprise of ending up in the same place via more than one route. If you retain professional O&M assistance in learning the way from the dorm to the math building for example, don’t get too hung up on the small details of one route, and take the time to ascertain the big picture in terms of general orientation. Patterning or walking a route with a fellow student can be just as effective in assisting you and your dog to learn the way from point A to point B.
Make finding places fun for your dog rather than confidence eroding experiences. It is extremely helpful to develop the skills of working your dog while carrying on conversations with others in order to use their voice as a point of reference in your travels with your dog. Establish good guide dog etiquette with your campus mates, while also working with your dog on remaining calm in harness while interacting with the public. People can be very helpful when traveling on campus and your dog for better or worse is a key factor in relating to the public. It is much more efficient to accustom your dog to politely and calmly dealing with some attention from the public than it is to train dog lovers not to make eye contact or not to want to pet your dog. You have only one dog to train compared to thousands of students, not to mention the rest of the world out there.
If you and your dog become lost or disoriented, take time out for a little petting up, or simply provide a little cheerful encouragement to urge your dog to show you something, anything when nobody is around to assist. It is easy to become frustrated at these times, but it is vitally important not to do anything which discourages initiative in your dog. Sometimes stopping and quietly talking to or playing with your dog will bring someone to your assistance just when you need one. It is also effective when lost to stand still and look around as a sighted person might when seeking information or assistance.
If you find in the course of your campus travels that your dog shows you places where you’ve been before but you don’t want just then, make sure and praise quickly before urging your guide on to the desired destination.
Campuses can be challenging environments in which to work a dog. However, they also provide invaluable opportunities for honing your travel skills, creative problem solving and perfecting techniques for interacting with and relating to the general public.
Auxiliary Aids and Services for Students with Disabilities
Higher Education's Obligations under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA
Congress passed Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability (29 U.S.C. Section 794). It states: No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education enforces regulations implementing Section 504 with respect to programs and activities that receive funding from the Department. The Section 504 regulation applies to all recipients of this funding, including colleges, universities, and postsecondary vocational education and adult education programs. Failure by these higher education schools to provide auxiliary aids to students with disabilities that results in a denial of a program benefit is discriminatory and prohibited by Section 504.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits state and local governments from discriminating on the basis of disability. The Department enforces Title II in public colleges, universities, and graduate and professional schools. The requirements regarding the provision of auxiliary aids and services in higher education institutions described in the Section 504 regulation are generally included in the general nondiscrimination provisions of the Title II regulation.
Postsecondary School Provision of Auxiliary Aids
The Section 504 regulation contains the following requirement relating to a postsecondary school's obligation to provide auxiliary aids to qualified students who have disabilities:
A recipient... shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure that no handicapped student is denied the benefits of, excluded from participation in, or otherwise subjected to discrimination under the education program or activity operated by the recipient because of the absence of educational auxiliary aids for students with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.
The Title II regulation states: A public entity shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity. It is, therefore, the school's responsibility to provide these auxiliary aids and services in a timely manner to ensure effective participation by Students with disabilities. If students are being evaluated to determine their eligibility under Section 504 or the ADA, the recipient must provide auxiliary aids in the interim.
Postsecondary Student Responsibilities
A postsecondary student with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aids is obligated to provide notice of the nature of the disabling condition to the college and to assist it in identifying appropriate and effective auxiliary aids. In elementary and secondary schools, teachers and school specialists may have arranged support services for students with disabilities. However, in postsecondary schools, the students themselves must identify the need for an auxiliary aid and give adequate notice of the need. The student's notification should be provided to the appropriate representative of the college who, depending upon the nature and scope of the request, could be the school's Section 504 or ADA coordinator, an appropriate dean, a faculty advisor, or a professor. Unlike elementary or secondary schools, colleges may ask the student, in response to a request for auxiliary aids, to provide supporting diagnostic test results and professional prescriptions for auxiliary aids. A college also may obtain its own professional determination of whether specific requested auxiliary aids are necessary.
Examples of Auxiliary Aids
Some of the various types of auxiliary aids and services may include: taped texts, notetakers, interpreters, readers, videotext displays, television enlargers, talking calculators, electronic readers, Braille calculators, printers, or, typewriters, telephone handset amplifiers, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, voice synthesizers, specialized gym equipment, calculators or keyboards with large buttons, reaching device for library use, raised-line drawing kits, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telecommunications devices for deaf persons.
Technological advances in electronics have improved vastly participation by students with disabilities in educational activities. Colleges are not required to provide the most sophisticated auxiliary aids available; however, the aids provided must effectively meet the needs of a student with a disability. An institution has flexibility in choosing the specific aid or service it provides to the student, as long as the aid or service selected is effective. These aids should be selected after consultation with the student who will use them.
Effectiveness of Auxiliary Aids
No aid or service will be useful unless it is successful in equalizing the opportunity for a particular student with a disability to participate in the education program or activity. Not all students with a similar disability benefit equally from an identical auxiliary aid or service. The regulation refers to this complex issue of effectiveness in several sections, including: Auxiliary aids may include taped texts, interpreters or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students with hearing impairments, readers in libraries for students with visual impairments, classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments, and other similar services and actions.
There are other references to effectiveness in the general provisions of the Section 504 regulation which state, in part, that a recipient may not: Provide a qualified handicapped person with an aid, benefit, or service that is not as effective as that provided to others; or
Provide different or separate aid, benefits, or services to handicapped persons or to any class of handicapped persons unless such action is necessary to provide qualified handicapped persons with aid, benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided to others.
The Title II regulation contains comparable provisions. The Section 504 regulation also states: [A] Aids, benefits, and services, to be equally effective, are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for handicapped and nonhandicapped persons, but must afford handicapped persons equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person's needs.
The institution must analyze the appropriateness of an aid or service in its specific context. For example, the type of assistance needed in a classroom by a student who is hearing-impaired may vary, depending upon whether the format is a large lecture hall or a seminar. With the one-way communication of a lecture, the service of a notetaker may be adequate, but in the two-way communication of a seminar, an interpreter may be needed. College officials also should be aware that in determining what types of auxiliary aids and services are necessary under Title II of the ADA, the institution must give primary consideration to the requests of individuals with disabilities.
Cost of Auxiliary Aids
Postsecondary schools receiving federal financial assistance must provide effective auxiliary aids to students who are disabled. If an aid is necessary for classroom or other appropriate (nonpersonal) use, the institution must make it available, unless provision of the aid would cause undue burden. A student with a disability may not be required to pay part or all of the costs of that aid or service. An institution may not limit what it spends for auxiliary aids or services or refuse to provide auxiliary aids because it believes that other providers of these services exist, or condition its provision of auxiliary aids on availability of funds. In many cases, an institution may meet its obligation to provide auxiliary aids by assisting the student in obtaining the aid or obtaining reimbursement for the cost of an aid from an outside agency or organization, such as a state rehabilitation agency or a private charitable organization. However, the institution remains responsible for providing the aid.
Personal Aids and Services
An issue that is often misunderstood by postsecondary officials and students is the provision of personal aids and services. Personal aids and services, including help in bathing, dressing, or other personal care, are not required to be provided by postsecondary institutions. The Section 504 regulation states: Recipients need not provide attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature. Title II of the ADA similarly states that personal services are not required. In order to ensure that students with disabilities are given a free appropriate public education, local education agencies are required to provide many services and aids of a personal nature to students with disabilities when they are enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. However, once students with disabilities graduate from a high school program or its equivalent, education institutions are no longer required to provide aids, devices, or services of a personal nature. Postsecondary schools do not have to provide personal services relating to certain individual academic activities. Personal attendants and individually prescribed devices are the responsibility of the student who has a disability and not of the institution. For example, readers may be provided for classroom use but institutions are not required to provide readers for personal use or for help during individual study time.
Questions Commonly Asked by Postsecondary Schools and Their Students
Q: What are a college's obligations to provide auxiliary aids for library study?
A: the recipient must make Libraries and some of their significant and basic materials accessible to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities must have the appropriate auxiliary aids needed to locate and obtain library resources. The college library's basic index of holdings (whether formatted on-line or on index cards) must be accessible. For example, a screen and keyboard (or card file) must be placed within reach of a student using a wheelchair. If a Braille index of holdings is not available for blind students, readers must be provided for necessary assistance. Articles and materials that are library holdings and are required for course work must be accessible to all students enrolled in that course. This means that if material is required for the class, then its text must be read for a blind student or provided in Braille or on a recording. A student's actual study time and use of these articles are considered personal study time and the institution has no further obligation to provide additional auxiliary aids.
Q: What if an instructor objects to the use of an auxiliary or personal aid?
A: Sometimes postsecondary instructors may not be familiar with Section 504 or ADA requirements regarding the use of an auxiliary or personal aid in their classrooms. Most often, questions arise when a student uses a recorder. College teachers may believe recording lectures is an infringement upon their own or other students' academic freedom, or constitutes copyright violation. The instructor may not forbid a student's use of an aid if that prohibition limits the student's participation in the school program. The Section 504 regulation states: A recipient may not impose upon handicapped students other rules, such as the prohibition of recorders in classrooms or of dog guides in campus buildings that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped students in the recipient's education program or activity. In order to allow a student with a disability the use of an effective aid and, at the same time, protect the instructor, the institution may require the student to sign an agreement so as not to infringe on a potential copyright or to limit freedom of speech.
Q: What if students with disabilities require auxiliary aids during an examination?
A: A student may need an auxiliary aid or service in order to successfully complete a course exam. This may mean that a student be allowed to give oral rather than written answers. It also may be possible for a student to present a recording containing the oral examination response. A test should ultimately measure a student's achievements and not the extent of the disability.
Q: Can postsecondary institutions treat a foreign student with disabilities who needs auxiliary aids differently than American students?
A: No, an institution may not treat a foreign student differently. A postsecondary institution must provide to a foreign student with a disability the same type of auxiliary aids and services it would provide to an American student with a disability. Section 504 and the ADA require that the provision of services be based on a student's disability and not on such other criteria as nationality.
Q: Are institutions responsible for providing auxiliary services to disabled students in filling out financial aid and student employment applications, or other forms of necessary paperwork?
A: Yes, an institution must provide services to disabled students who may need assistance in filling out aid applications or other forms. If the student requesting assistance is still in the process of being evaluated to determine eligibility for an auxiliary aid or service, help with this paperwork by the institution is mandated in the interim.
Q: Does a postsecondary institution have to provide auxiliary aids and services for a nondegree student?
A: Yes, students with disabilities who are auditing classes or who otherwise are not working for a degree must be provided auxiliary aids and services to the same extent as students who are in a degree-granting program.
For more information on Section 504 and the ADA and their application to auxiliary aids and services for disabled students in postsecondary schools, or to obtain additional assistance, see the list of OCR's 12 enforcement offices containing the address and telephone number for the office that serves your area, or call 1-800-421-3481.
Contacting Advocacy Organizations of the Blind and Visually Impaired
The California Council of the Blind and its parent organization, the American Council of the Blind are great sources for finding mentors, blindness related resources, scholarship information, and more. The California Council of the Blind has a website with information about the various local chapters, advocacy assistance, employment loans, emergency grants, and other helpful links. The website is www.ccbnet.org. The American Council of the Blind also has scholarship information, helpful listservs, and numerous resource links on its website: www.acb.orb. To contact the California Council of the Blind by phone, call: (916) 441-2100, or in CA toll-free: (800) 221-6359. To contact ACB by phone, call: (800) 424-8666 (from 2-5 p.m. Eastern) or (202) 467-5081.
ACB also has an Internet radio site that offers programming for a variety of audiences, some live shows and some recorded. Check out the various options on: www.acbradio.org. Each of these organizations has regular publications for members and other interested persons. The “Blind Californian” is published quarterly and “The Braille Forum” is published more often. Please contact the respective organization for more information on subscribing to these publications in your format of choice. You can also ask each organization about public email lists for students.
The American Council of the Blind Students (ACBS) has an email list for interested students and friends. To subscribe, go to www.acb.org and go to the link for email lists. You can find contact information for the ACB Students under special interest affiliates on the www.acb.org website. You can find contact information for the California Council of the Blind Students (CCBS) on the California Council of the Blind website: www.ccbnet.org. To sign up for the CCBS email list, a discussion group for high school and college students, contact the CCBS president which is listed under the chapter and affiliates link on the CCB website. Participate in the general CCB email list where members and friends discuss a variety of blindness related topics, send a message to: CCB-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Many other state and special interest affiliates also have publications and email lists for members and friends. A listing of all ACB affiliates is on the American Council of the Blind website. You can also find links on that site to subscribe to a variety of email lists of ACB affiliates. Several special interest affiliates have members who work in those related careers: teachers, entrepreneurs, B.E.P. vendors, government employees, technology related fields, etc.
Both the California Council of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind offer many scholarships for blind or visually impaired students attending college. Contact each organization for copies of the application and criteria for the scholarship application process. Each has scholarship applications available on-line a few months before the applications are due. The CCB also has loans and grants available to assist with technology purchases, employment assistance, and emergency situations. Check out the websites or call about particular programs.
Both of these organizations have advocacy committees which assist visually impaired persons with access issues which individuals have been unable to resolve on their own. Also, the American Foundation for the Blind has many links on their website which may be of assistance to students of all ages. Check their website at www.afb.org.
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