DSS makes education possible for students with challenges

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Terrence Jones, assistant technology specialist, works Sept. 17 on post-graduate studies for classes at UTSA in Room 147 of Moody, a new testing center for disability support services.  Ian Flores

Terrence Jones, assistant technology specialist, works Sept. 17 on post-graduate studies for classes at UTSA in Room 147 of Moody, a new testing center for disability support services. Ian Flores

By Justin Rodriguez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Disability support services are there for the students when it matters most.

The services allow students with disabilities to seek help with class assignments, notes, and test-taking among other services.

Delia De Luna, a student services assistant for more than 20 years, said, “We focus on their ability, not their disability.”

Some of the services include note-taking and extended test-taking time. “[The services] get us motivated to do something and help to figure out what the class is doing,” sociology sophomore Sara Gabel said.

Available in the DSS computer lab are adaptive software programs to help students better comprehend class material.

One such service is Kurzweil, a software program that scans documents and is able to read them back to the student. Other programs include JAWS, which reads text to blind students, and ZoomText, which magnifies text more than 10 times the normal size to ease reading on computer screens.

“Sometimes, the students need that little extra something, and that’s what we’re here for,” De Luna said.

However, accessibility to the center has sometimes been a struggle because of the limited physical entrance and exit access. Although issues such as these might be present, De Luna said, “We make it work.”

This is a step in the direction of virtual accessibility, but Gabel expressed a different point of view.

Gabel is not just a student but also an assistant at DSS. She frequently visits the lab outside of her work hours to use the computers for classwork, and says it is more accessible than in the past and easier to use based on the technology available.

She said it’s sometimes easier to use Kurzweil and tell it to “read this.”

She believes more people would use online class notes if they were available. She said that DSS wants students to “go to school and finish.”

Currently, one limitation of the resources are notes online not being up to date. Gabel said, “It’s difficult to use the same notes every year because things change.”

She said because of campuswide budget cuts, there is not as much help available as there has been in the past.

“People think we’re not really that necessary … nobody expects students with disabilities to pursue education,” Gabel said.

De Luna and Gabel share suggestions for improvements. Gabel also urges students to maximize resources the center offers.

De Luna has noted that more student assistants, test center monitors and lab assistants would benefit from the program.

One option this college is considering is the installation of adaptive software at computer labs in Moody Learning Center. Students would be able to visit these labs and not just the support center lab.

“Just because they have a disability does not mean you can’t answer their question, so you have to] be understanding and patient,” De Luna said.

DSS is on the first floor of Moody next to the advising desk.

Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday, and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday. The center is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m the first Saturday of each month.

Testing hours are 8:15 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call DSS at 210-486-0020.

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