This is a summary of a recent “Questions and Answers Session” that We Connect Now (WCN) had with Everilis Santana (ES), an Assistant Professor at Bristol Community College in Falls River, Massachusetts, where she teaches courses in Mathematics.
WCN – As a professor, have you had to accommodate students with disabilities, and if so, describe the process that results in the accommodation?
ES – At Bristol Community College, there is a Dean for Disability Services. This is a high level position that works with the issue of disability services and accommodations and gives visibility to the issue within the organizational structure of the institution. At Bristol, the student has to assert his/her right to receive an accommodation by personally delivering the letter of accommodation to the professor. Personally I think it is good to request this step as part of the accommodation process because it personally involves the student and prompts that the student advocates for herself/himself. Once an accommodation has been established tests are administered to the student providing for the approved accommodation(s).
At the beginning of my career as a professor I taught at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and there the professor learned about a student accommodation through a notice of an accommodation that came through intra-office mail. At times I did not know who the person was that was receiving the accommodation. At North Hennepin there is a testing center where most of the students receiving accommodations take their exams so the testing environment is more uniform and centralized than if the tests are administered in different spaces on campus.
WCN – What types of disabilities have you had to accommodate in your classroom?
ES – I have had blind students, and students with Asperger Syndrome, traumatic brain injury and general learning disability.
WCN – Have you ever been approached by a student with a disability for him/her to make you aware of his/her needs?
ES – Yes. A student with Asperger Syndrome approached me and gave me a pamphlet about his condition. I think that it is a good idea that helps professors become more educated on issues that affect individual students.
WCN – What types of accommodations have you administered as a professor throughout your career?
ES – For a student with a learning disability, I have given extra time to answer the tests, up to double time. For a student with Attention Deficit, I have administered tests in a reduced distraction environment and for a student with Traumatic Brain Injury it has been allowed that the student have access to the class notes during the test. I have also divided a test in parts and administered it at different times and tests have been given in Braille. Accommodations during class, and not just for testing, include preferred seating and the use of a notetaker.
WCN – Are there some resources or procedures that you have used during your professional career that you believe are helpful in serving college students with disabilities?
ES – Here at Bristol, we use a form that provides the professor with questions about the performance of a student with a disability that is receiving accommodations. The professor fills out the form and sends it to the Disability Services office. The filled out form gives them an idea of the progress in the student achieving academic success. This form gives an idea of the effectiveness of the accommodations in the student’s academic performance.
WCN – In your opinion, are students with disabilities well integrated and visible within Bristol?
ES – Yes, they are visible and vocal in the classroom too.