Leslie Hemphill, Advising Students with Disabilities Commission Chair-Elect
To be successful, those responsible for advising students with disabilities must look beyond what would be considered the normal scope and range of advising office responsibilities. This requires flexibility, coordination, and a willingness to step outside prescribed administrative roles.
On some campuses, large and proactive Disability Student Services (DSS) offices facilitate a number of services for students with disabilities including advisement, counseling, technological assistance, and tutoring. Although this kind of organization provides the opportunity for the coordination and flexibility of services suggested earlier, bureaucratic adherence to job descriptions may prevent a DSS office from fully utilizing its resources. One of the ironies of higher education is that the flexibility and coordination so often found in large DSS offices can also be found in much smaller institutions where a few individuals must wear many hats.
In fall 2002, Cloud County Community College, a small, rural two-year college, lost its only sign language interpreter. Through the use of student signers, parents and note takers, the two students who required sign language services were able to successfully complete the academic year. However, it was apparent that if the college was going to provide appropriate services for deaf students, a dependable method of providing services must be developed. Attempts to obtain a new interpreter proved unsuccessful since no one was willing to commute to north central Kansas for a part time signing position.
During this time, the college received a flier from the Midwest Center on Postsecondary Outreach (MCPO) describing their program to train C-Print Captionists. C-Print captioning is a method that provides real time captioning for students with hearing impairments. Laptop computers and specialized phonetic software are employed to allow a typist to equal the conversational speed of a classroom instructor.
Normally C-Print training would not be an area of concern for an Advisement Office. However, due to our college's size, the faculty and staff of the Advisement and Counseling Center are responsible for a variety of programs and services, including both advisement and accommodation for students with disabilities. Our difficulties meeting the needs of hearing impaired students meant that we viewed the training described in the flier with great interest and seriously discussed the possibility of training someone on our campus to become a C-Print Captionist.
Two salient issues quickly emerged as we brainstormed possibilities. Who would receive the training, and how would the training be funded? A candidate for C-Print training must type 60 - 70 words per minute and possess good language skills. The candidate must also be conscientious, reliable and dedicated to our students. Looking at these skills, the obvious candidate was DeeDee Coppoc, long-time NACADA member and our Advisement Center Coordinator. Of course, accommodation in general, and C-Print training specifically, are not in the job descriptions of most advising coordinators. But, with administrative permission, the coordinator was willing to participate in the C-Print training.
Funding became our next concern. MCPO agreed to provide $400 to assist in underwriting the cost of the software, meals, lodging and transportation to the C-Print training site in Milwaukee. The Advisement Center Staff turned to the college's Perkins Grant coordinator for a laptop computer and the funds necessary to complete the project. With this support, we were set.
Training began through a series of taped assignments that familiarize the trainee with the basics of the software and the more common phonetic abbreviations. Over forty hours of this training is required before the trainee actually leaves for the week-long training session in Milwaukee. The College's C-Print 'Trainee' arriving in Milwaukee, is greeted with an intense nine to four schedule for the first four days with a two-hour reprieve on Friday. Each day consists of review, introduction of new material, testing and practice, practice, practice.
The training has been worth it. As soon as the advisement coordinator returned to campus, she began providing C-Print captioning for students with hearing impairments. Now advisors and instructors working with these students are assured that quality accommodations are provided.
This story is not offered as a model but as a metaphor. Many advising offices have no need to offer C-Print Captioning. However, other needs exist that can, and do, affect our ability to advise students with disabilities. Given the opportunity to address problems in creative ways, solutions are available. It requires a willingness to stay current with innovations in technology. But, most importantly, it requires advisors who remain open to new, and sometimes unorthodox ways, to provide accommodation for students.
Want to discuss creative solutions or C-Print Captioning? Join the Advising Students with Disabilities Commission list-serve
Leslie L. Hemphill
Cloud County Community College
Cite this article using APA style as: Hemphill, L. (Year, Month). Using creativity to assist students with disabilities. Academic Advising Today, 27(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]