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How Center for Students with Disabilities has transitioned online

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The transition online for the end of a semester meant professors assigning alternative learning from home, video calls and email correspondence.

Part of this change were the accommodations that had to be made for students and professors involving the Center for Students with Disabilities. 

The CSD is providing resources remotely for students to better facilitate online learning and have worked in BlackBoard to provide accessibility for all students.

Accessibility for a student could look like closed captioning on a video lecture or a provided interpreter. There are also alternative file formats for online courses and time extensions for online tests, said CSD director Cheryl Spadaccia.

“We have been proactively communicating with both faculty and students about these resources to ensure students achieve their educational goals during this challenging time,” Spadaccia said.

When students or instructors notify CSD of a difficulty in terms of accessing online learning, they reach out to the student, their instructors, the electronic and information resources coordinator and others to develop solutions to any difficulties, she added

Human development and family studies senior Clara Smith is a student who works as an intern at CSD under the site director. 

“All UH services, including the Center for Students with Disabilities, have had to make significant changes to their normal operations,” Smith said.

“However, since the CSD provides disabled students with necessary services to support learning equity, the online transition has posed quite a few challenges,” Smith added.

The CSD is constantly adapting services, but cannot be uniformed to be adaptable for every student. In those cases, more modifications and adaptations are made, Smith said.

All CSD services are currently being offered remotely, including Smith’s project of establishing a peer support group called UH Disability Alliance. Through social media platforms for the group, Smith will be posting tips, encouragement, support and establishing the online community.

“This gives the UH community a chance to shift their focus to more positive things and focus on our strengths,” Smith said.

Smith said her own transition to online learning was relatively smooth as most of her coursework was already online and it provided her with more time flexibility as she finished her undergraduate degree.

For other students registered with the CSD, the online transition, while still being a difficult process, can make things like mobility easier. 

“I, personally, am registered with the CSD, but do not work with them to get accommodations other than when I need help with labs,” said biotechnology senior Maheen Ukani. “During this pandemic, I found that the CSD did a great job of reaching out to me and making sure all my needs were met.”

Ukani said she finds it difficult to stay motivated when working from home. Although online learning doesn’t completely match her learning style, from a physical perspective it was much more accessible than in person classes for her.

Ukani, in particular, struggled with accommodations for particular lab courses and her mobility in the past. These same courses became accommodating with the transition online, which is something Ukani said she would keep in mind for future lab courses.

“Regardless of this, I have found that UH faculty is extremely open-minded and willing to listen,” Ukani said. “This is something that can change a student’s experience.”

The center continues to offer resources on their website including counseling and financial and academic support, Spadaccia said. 

“CSD continues to serve our students every day, albeit remotely,” Spadaccia said. “We are here to help students who have disabilities achieve their academic goals and to support faculty however we can.”

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