Community Colleges offer Disability Resource Centers designed to keep students on track
By Gene Heppard
The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has been a resource for people of all kinds who are interested in gaining further education both during and beyond high school in a myriad of different and interesting areas. Individuals with a disability who reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area often begin their educational journey at one of the ten colleges or two skill centers that comprise the entire district.
Granted, the process to enroll as a college student and receive ADA accommodations in the postsecondary setting is different than that of grammar and secondary schools (Kindergarten – 12th grade), but keep in mind, it is well worth the effort to learn about resources available to you as a person with a disability.
MCCCD has been in existence over 50 years. Some colleges in the district, such as Phoenix College, have been around even longer. Assisting students with a disability has always been viewed as an opportunity rather than an obstacle within MCCCD. As such, accommodating the academic needs of students with a disability pre-dates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar legislation since. MCCCD has developed a model of service that not only complies with disability law but addresses students’ needs in an effective and proactive way.
MCCCD is comprised of ten college campuses and two skill centers. Locations vary throughout Maricopa County and serve the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Each location has a Disability Resources & Services (DRS) office to assist students with a disability. The purpose of the DRS office is three-fold. First, the DRS assists students with a disability with reasonable ADA accommodations. It is important to understand that each student’s accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, so meeting regularly and often with the staff at the college you are interested in attending is encouraged. Second, the DRS is responsible for providing equal access to programs at the college as well as physical access on the college premises. Third, the DRS provides information about resources on the college campus and within the community at large.
It is important, as a person and student with a disability, to be proactive and informed about your own disability and how it will affect you in a college setting. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses will help you when you are trying to schedule classes each semester. For example, if you are not a morning person, do not schedule a class at 7:00 AM on Monday and Wednesday. You need to make informed decisions regarding your ability to attend classes in order to succeed in college.
Funding in order to pay for tuition, textbooks, and supplies as well as other miscellaneous expenses is often an obstacle for many individuals. You should consider planning ahead and meeting with the Financial Aid office at the college where you intend to enroll. Another option is to visit the local public library where resources exist to assist you with getting started in college. The College Depot at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix, Arizona, is a perfect example.
Many individuals interested in receiving financial assistance with paying for college begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – better known as FAFSA. This application is published by the United States Federal Government and consists of three types of funding – grant, loans, and federal work study. Applications are accepted for the academic year beginning in January and it is required that the form be updated and submitted annually. Anyone interested in completing the FAFSA application can do so online at fafsa.ed.gov.
There are numerous grants and scholarships that you may be eligible for based on disability, ethnicity, degree interest, talents, or even hobbies. Many libraries have financial aid sections that have books and online resources for you to explore. Do yourself a favor and take the time to investigate all funding options available to you before enrolling in classes. Millions of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed every year simply because nobody applied for them. Do your research and it will mean the difference between graduating debt free or with a pile of loan debt!
Everyone’s educational journey is unique to them. MCCCD and the DRS offices located on each campus and skill center are there to assist you on your path to a degree or certificate. Planning ahead, knowing your own learning style, and working within your strengths are key to being successful in college, and ultimately in life. Education is that tool that can bring independence and security within reach.
The DRS can assist students with a disability by working together with the student and faculty on campus. Reasonable ADA accommodations may include, but or not specifically limited to, the following:
-Testing Accommodations (extra time, private room, alternate format, reader/scribe)
-Alternate Textbook Format (audio, digital, Braille)
-American Sign Language Interpreters
-Auxiliary Services (CCTV, FM System)
-Hardware & Software (JAWS, MAGIC, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil)
The DRS does not provide the following:
-Personal attendant care
-Perform specialized testing to determine if you have a disability of any kind
-Adaptive technology for personal use off campus
Maricopa Community Colleges
Chandler –Gilbert Community College
Phone (480) 857-5188
Estrella Mountain Community College
Phone (623) 935-8863
Southwest Skill Center
Phone (623) 535-2700
Gateway Community College
Phone (602) 286-8170
Maricopa Skill Center
Phone (602) 238-4390
Glendale Community College
Phone (623) 845-3080
Mesa Community College
Phone (480) 461-7447
Paradise Valley Community College
Phone (602) 787-7171
Phone (602) 285-7477
Rio Salado Community College
Phone (480) 517-8562
Scottsdale Community College
Phone (480) 423-6517
South Mountain Community College
Phone (602) 243-8395
Gene Heppard, MA, is the Director of Disability Resources & Services and TRiO Programs at Phoenix College. He previously worked at Arizona State University and Mesa Community College. Gene firmly believes in the opportunities available for achieving a higher education degree.