How Assistive Tech Improves Student Experience

How Assistive Technologies Improve the California Community College Student Experience

Illustration of a online education tools and web development in action

Ryan Rohrich, a student at Cerritos College, has a visual impairment. He has been totally blind since recovering from a cancerous brain tumor that nearly took his life in 2015. One of 121,748 disabled students across the California Community Colleges per the Disabled Students Programs & Services’ (DSPS) most recent figures, below Ryan discusses some of his accessibility experiences.

What is the focus of your studies at Cerritos College, and what are your career aspirations?
I’m currently working on my associate in arts degree in psychology for transfer. My long term goals are to earn a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology and pursue a career in organizational psychology. I want to work in a professional community in which I may bring as much intrinsic value as possible and help transform the workplace into a flourishing community where we can all gain meaningful insight into our relationships.

How have assistive technologies helped you as a student?
The DSPS is always a great help to me. They typically translate my textbooks into an accessible format, the Tech Center is equipped with screen reading software, and the staff are always open to new ideas and tackling new problems. My specialist and I also have been collaborating to educate staff to prioritize accessibility. Far too often, faculty choose unaccessible software that creates barriers to students who have quite enough barriers to their education. All in all it’s a great community, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

When teachers use Canvas in their courses and most of the documents, slides and other relevant information are uploaded before the semester starts, it gives me a chance to prepare. It also provides insight into the potential accessibility issues I may encounter.

I had a wonderful experience participating in a few student psychology studies too. Initially, the students were unsure of how to proceed, but with some coaxing we discussed how they could alter their lab procedure to accommodate a person with visual impairments. By the time we finished, we were all excited. I was able to participate in the experiment, and the other students learned a new skill. Without both of us being open to new ideas, we would have lost a golden opportunity.

How about outside of the classroom?
We have wonderful adaptive physical education classes at Cerritos College, ranging from weight training to swimming, with volunteer assistants from the kinesiology department. It’s a great opportunity for physical therapy students to acquire real world experience while fulfilling the needs of students with various disabilities. I’m currently working with an instructor to provide tactile markers and braille to help visually impaired students use the cardio machines with little to no assistance. Having a safe, comfortable and welcoming space to exercise in is no small thing. 

 

Assistive technologies offer individuals with disabilities opportunities for increased engagement and participation within the California Community Colleges. Learn more about how the CCC Accessibility Center facilitates an accessible environment for students, faculty, staff and the public at cccaccessibility.org.