ERIC Identifier: ED467984
Publication Date: 2002-02-00
Author: Prentice, Mary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Serving Students with Disabilities at the Community College.
People with disabilities make up the single largest minority group in the
United States. Over the past ten years the traditional profile of disabled
persons as older, poorer, less educated and less likely to be employed has begun
to change. This is due in part to a "dramatic increase" in the number of
students with disabilities who are seeking higher education (Smith, 1998). This
increase is attributed to, among other things, enhanced technology, expanded
support service programs, and higher expectations of what students with
disabilities can accomplish. A majority of these students have turned to
two-year colleges for their educational needs; of the students with disabilities
in higher education institutions in 1997-1998, fifty-five percent were enrolled
in community colleges (Lewis and Ferris, 1999).
To begin serving students with disabilities, college personnel must require
documentation of the disability so that appropriate services can be arranged.
Once a student has indicated that he or she may need assistance, an assortment
of curricular, pedagogical, and technological services can be offered in a
variety of configurations. Norris and Vasquez (1998) and Smith (1998) detail
these services as follows:
Curricular: special course groupings and faculty training on strategies that
faculty can use to integrate students with disabilities into their classrooms.
Pedagogical: providing oral testing, tutors, sign language interpreters,
readers, note-takers, and extended testing time
Technological: books on tape, assistive computer technology, tape recorders, and
In addition to providing services, many community colleges have designed
specific programs to help students with disabilities, including strategies to
assist students to be successful in the classroom and to locate employment when
they have completed their education. Faculty acceptance and the development of a
student-oriented approach have been found to be essential components of creating
effective disability programs (Treloar, 1999).
This Digest presents two examples of successful community college initiatives
designed to aid students in accessing the educational offerings of the college.
It also provides two examples of initiatives designed to enhance career
placement options for students with disabilities. The Digest concludes with
suggestions for serving this population.
PROGRAMS FOR CLASSROOM SUCCESS
Community College, Lee's Summit, Missouri
At Longview Community College, Academic Bridges to Learning Effectiveness
(ABLE) is a support service program designed to teach individuals with learning
disabilities or brain injuries the skills needed to become independent learners.
ABLE's advantage is that it provides a structured curriculum to help students
learn the skills needed to succeed in college. Every student in the program
takes a basic core of courses related to personal awareness, assertiveness
skills, and college survival skills. Other courses are offered for students who
need to build basic academic skills. Additionally, former ABLE students, as well
as students recruited from Phi Theta Kappa, are paired with new ABLE students to
strengthen peer relationships and increase integration into mainstream campus
life (Gugerty and Knutsen, 2000a). Through the support of the ABLE program, the
majority of students pass their classes with a "C" or better, and over 80% of
ABLE students are retained from one semester to the next. ABLE students are also
more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than students with
disabilities who are not enrolled in ABLE (Gugerty and Knutsen, 2000a).
Technical College (FDTC), Florence, South Carolina
The Program Accessibility Committee (PAC) at FDTC was designed to recommend
appropriate action to the administration to ensure access into FDTC by students
with disabilities, and to provide any appropriate accommodations that might be
necessary to assure entry into FDTC (Gugerty and Knutsen, 2000b). The majority
of the students at FDTC have cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities,
neurological disabilities, and health impairments. One unique feature of the PAC
is the training and orientation that staff provides for newly hired faculty. PAC
has been able to influence how instruction is provided to students with
disabilities through a guidebook given to new faculty and staff. This guidebook
addresses questions and concerns that may arise when assisting students with
disabilities, including issues dealing with curriculum, course requirements, and
testing. Because of this level of involvement, the majority of students report
satisfaction with the services that are provided at FDTC (Gugerty and Knutsen,
PROGRAMS FOR EMPLOYMENT SUCCESS
Community colleges have
also created programs that help students with disabilities attain jobs after
their educational goals have been met. Traditionally, graduates with
disabilities have needed a significantly longer time to locate employment,
partly because people with disabilities may lack the skills needed to sell
themselves in an interview and may feel discomfort with self-advocating for
accommodations that would help them succeed at work (Norton and Field, 1998)
Iowa Area Community College, Mason City, Iowa
Staff members at North Iowa Area Community College have developed a career
placement project with four areas of placement services to assist students with
disabilities to prepare for successful careers. The four areas of placement
services are career exploration, job readiness, job-seeking skills, and job
shadowing. Students are given individual career counseling, access to
computerized career exploration, and job shadowing opportunities, and are
enrolled in a 15-session job-seeking skills class. During an evaluation of the
first three years of the program, it was ascertained that career preparedness in
students with disabilities enrolled in the program had been greater than in
students with disabilities who had not participated (Norton and Field, 1998).
of Dupage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois
The College of DuPage, a Midwestern suburban community college, has a career
placement and preparedness program designed to help community college students
with disabilities find employment after college. Students with disabilities at
this community college are given access to the cooperative education (co-op)
program on campus. Co-op programs may benefit students with disabilities because
they have multiple objectives such as academic skill development, career
development, and personal growth. Indeed, participants in this program have
indicated that they have more awareness of the world of work and a better
understanding of the emotional, educational, and skill requirements for various
occupations (Trach and Harney, 1998).
SUGGESTIONS FOR WORKING WITH STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
commonality among the four programs highlighted here is an understanding and
acceptance of the support needs of students with disabilities. Staff members in
the programs described have been educated in disability issues and how they
might be addressed in a community college. Unfortunately, most educators have
not had the benefit of such training. As Treloar (1999) stated, "Few teachers in
community colleges have any significant prior exposure to disability. As a
result, disabled persons may feel misunderstood in educational settings and
negatively affected by teacher perceptions about disability" (p. 31). To better
serve students with disabilities, faculty and staff members at community
colleges should be trained in four areas: creating receptive environments,
becoming aware of language, applying the ADA to community college settings, and
promoting the success of students with disabilities. This involves treating
students with disabilities as people, seeing them as able and accepting their
differences, learning the appropriate language of disability, recognizing a
student who may have a disability and modifying teaching and learning situations
appropriately, and adopting a student-oriented approach to providing education
for people with disabilities (Treloar, 1999).
People with disabilities are increasingly
turning to higher education to achieve their career and professional goals. As
they arrive, community college personnel need to welcome these students to their
campuses while constantly searching for additional curricular, pedagogical, and
technical approaches to support these learners in achieving their goals. More
professional development, focusing on recognizing a student with a disability
and making appropriate teaching and learning modifications, needs to be designed
for community college faculty and staff. If college personnel continue to
develop the attitudes of inclusion and acceptance that have shaped the
disability programs described here, students with disabilities are likely to
continue choosing community colleges as the avenue for fulfilling their academic
aspirations. Indeed, it is this acceptance of all that should be at the heart of
disability programs on community college campuses.
Gugerty, J., & Knutsen, C. (Eds.). (2000a).
Serving students with significant disabilities in two-year colleges: ABLE
program, Longview Community College, Let's Summit, Missouri. Madison, WI: Center
on Education and Work. (ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED 447 635).
Gugerty, J., & Knutsen, C. (Eds.). (2000b). Serving students with
significant disabilities in two-year colleges: Program accessibility
committee--Florence-Darlington Technical College, Florence, South Carolina.
Madison, WI: Center on Education and Work. (ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED
Lewis, L., & Farris, E. (1999). An institutional perspective on students
with disabilities in postsecondary education, (NCES 1999046). Washington D. C.:
National Center for Education Statistics.
Norris, M., & Vasquez, L. (1998). Creating structured collaboration in
implementing assistive technologies in a community college setting: Library
access: A case study. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and
Improvement. (ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED 423 637).
Norton, S., & Field, K. F. (1998). Career placement project: A career
readiness program for community college students with disabilities. Journal of
Employment Counseling, 35, 40-44.
Smith, M. C. (1998). The College Access, Retention, and Employment (CARE)
program model. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative
Services. (ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED 418 751).
Trach, J., & Harney, J. Y. (1998). Impact of cooperative education on
career development for community college students with and without disabilities.
The Journal of Vocational Education Research, 23 (2), 147-158.
Treloar, L. L. (1999). Editor's choice: Lessons on disability and the rights
of students. Community College Review, 27(1), 30-40. (ERIC Document Reproduction
No. EJ 590 042).