DSPS on campus helps students acclimate to college life

lThe Disability Support Programs & Services has been helping students with physical, psychological and learning disabilities for over 10 years.

The program has facilities that help students with disabilities acclimate to college life and make it easy for them to graduate. One program offered is a software called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which helps students who are either blind or unable to type on the computer. The program uses voice recognition and speech dictation, said learning disabilities specialist and DSPS counselor Scott Hamilton.

“Some people with physical disabilities cannot type or write, or if they do it is very slow,” said Hamilton. “So to some students that might be the difference between them finishing school or not.”

The program was once located near the portables, but this semester it has moved to a more central area on campus, room 104 in the Business and Social Science building.

“It is more central to the rest of the campus,” said Hamilton. “The space itself is designed much better for the tasks that are supposed to happen.”

There is another system for DSPS students called note-taking and it is for students who can’t type or write at the speed their professor speaks. The professor picks a student who can take notes well from the class that can help. Then the student goes to DSPS and gets materials that they need, and at the end of the semester they get a thank you stipend for their work.

“If that individual [notetaker] drops the class or says, ‘You know what, this is not working. I have a hard time taking notes for somebody,’ we work with the instructor of the students to try to find someone to replace them,” said DSPS coordinator Yolanda Garcia-Gomez.

The one thing that the new location has given DSPS is more space for test taking. There are rooms that are designed for students who need to get away from their classrooms and take tests because of pressure from their peers or professors.

“The main service that I use is the testing center because I really have bad test anxiety,” said 35-year-old veterinary technology major Katie Jordan. “With the service I can have extra hours or time so if I am taking a test and I start to get tired or start to get overwhelmed. I can take a five minute breather and then go back and make sure I fully answered the questions.”

There are a lot of technological advances that DSPS has made to help their students and one of these programs is a CCTV document magnifier that enlarges texts and documents for students with low vision. Document readers are an available feature on softwares like Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF’s.

Another software that DSPS has is the livescribe pen, which has a special recorder for the students. As they are writing, the pen records what the teacher is saying and it makes it easier for students when they go home and study materials.

Hamilton wants to improve DSPS services by adding curriculums that will help students understand how to use the technology and understand a bit more about the program. He hopes to challenge stereotypes of what it means to have disabilities and educate other students on campus about what the program does to help.

“We could add courses to the curriculum that are focused on teaching students with disabilities different things like how to use the assistive technology.” said Hamilton. “But we do not have a class yet for that and that would be more efficient for the students.”