Campuses accommodate all students

Campuses accommodate all students

By Odin Amador Staff Writer

April 30, 2010

Elissa Ray was temporarily disabled when she first started taking American
Sign Language (ASL) classes at ACC. Due to a car accident which caused her
serious back injuries, she could barely walk. After an arduous yet
successful recovery, the experience of being temporarily disabled left her
with an insider’s respect for the courage and perseverance of people with

Ray is one of many students enrolled in Rio Grande’s Interpreter Preparation
Program who is learning to sign and interpret ASL. In addition to promoting
deaf culture by offering ASL classes to students like Ray and welcoming deaf
students, ACC works with all of its students with disabilities. The
school’s Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) helps to provide
academic support and physical accommodations to students who are deaf,
blind, physically disabled, or have a learning disability.

Judy Hay-Mullen is the Disability Services Coordinator at Rio Grande. She
works with ACC students as well as local high schools and Austin’s Texas
School for the Blind.

“Riverside has the largest population of deaf students. We have the ASL
program here at Rio Grande, but we’re teaching hearing students, for the
most part, to sign,” she said in a recent interview. “This campus also has
the largest population of blind students.”

ACC is working to make Rio Grande more accessible to everyone. “Rio Grande
campus, in particular, is problematic as far as accessibility,” said
Hay-Mullen. “For example, we don’t have an elevator in this building. (the
Annex) The current remodeling that’s going on will address all that”.

“I had a lot of problems when I started taking classes at Rio Grande. The
campus isn’t very accessible, with all the hills and steep ramps. And
initially the restroom was inaccessible to me. I came to OSD about that,
and since then they’ve converted restrooms on the second floor. I think
they’re going to fix some restrooms on the ground floor soon,” Students with
Disabilities Senator Anna Aleman said.

Aleman has a mobility disability and uses a wheelchair.

The entire Rio Grande campus remodel, which includes neighboring buildings,
is predicted to be completed by 2025.

“We’ve increased disability parking spaces this year,” she said. “Other
than that, [at Rio Grande] we have made sure that we have some accessible
bathrooms, plus some push-button doors.” When Austin High’s former gym
reopens as Rio Grande’s newest office building for the summer 2010 semester,
it will bring the campus one step closer to realizing universal access.

Remodeling an older, historic campus like Rio Grande has its challenges.
“We have a lot of issues to deal with, plus there’s the Historical Society.
We have to make sure we’re following all the rules in that regard.”

ACC’s new Round Rock campus, opening in fall 2010, was built with a
universal design in mind, meaning it will be accessible to everyone,
including students with disabilities.

Deaf and non-deaf students can get involved by taking ASL classes.

OSD doesn’t just help students reach their goals. “It’s usually the
instructors that have more problems,” she said. “A lot of our job is to
educate everyone, not just the student, but make sure the instructor knows,
no, you really don’t have to spend a whole extra hour helping this student,
we’ll provide the accommodations and everything will work out fine, for the
most part.”

“Students with disabilities value their independence. Especially if you’re
dealing with a disability where you might not be as capable later in life,
you want to make the most of things now. Things other people might take for
granted are a big deal,” Aleman said.

Students are encouraged to get to know one another. “One of the most common
opportunities [for student interaction] is note-sharing in a classroom
situation,” says Hay-Mullen. “Students can take notes for another
individual in the classroom who may be blind or learning disabled. They’ll
be providing a service to that student, plus they get to know them.”
Students interested in taking notes for a classmate should contact their
campus OSD for more information.

Emily Anderson teaches interpreting classes at Rio Grande. “I first got
interested in interpreting at my college,” Anderson said in and e-mail.

“I distinctly remember watching an interpreter in one of my Anatomy and
Physiology classes. I almost always paid more attention to what the
interpreter was doing instead of the teacher.”

“Later on I took ASL classes and was completely fascinated by ASL and deaf
culture,” she recalled. “This led to me entering an interpreting

Terrylene, a renowned poet in the deaf community, will perform at the main
stage theater at Rio Grande on Friday, May 14 at 7:00 PM. Advanced tickets
are $15 and $20 at the door.

The production, titled “I Wonder Why,” is a fund-raising event for the
National ASL and English Bilingual Early Childhood Education and ACC’s
Interpreter Program Scholarship.

Ray is nearing the end of her ASL degree program at ACC. She recently
attended a state certification workshop for ASL interpreters at Rio Grande.
The classroom where the workshop was held was almost full with prospective
interpreters. Aleman was just re-elected to her position as OSD senator for
the spring 2010 semester.


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