By Elliot Langkam
York College of Pennsylvania’s Student Accessibility Services provides equal academic access to students with disabilities and health issues.
Per the website, “While we are here to support students, we also empower them to be strong self-advocates. We do not see a student’s disability as a limitation, which is why we provide a range of customizable accommodations to level the playing field and ensure each student has the resources available to help reach their academic and professional goals.
As part of that, many of its departments work together in an attempt to make our campus more accessible to its students.
Two departments that have been looking into this are Student Accessibility Services and the Writing Center.
Dr. Kim Peck is the Writing Center director. She was contacted for some more information regarding accommodations for students within the classroom and within the writing center. She said that generally from what she knows about the process of going about getting accommodations, it may be a bit of a difficult transition for people who are used to having it being handled for them like with getting accommodations from high school.
She had said that while she only generally has a few students who do actually fill out forms for these accommodations, she thinks that the ones that are using them are benefiting. She also does this by ensuring that her and her students have very open communication so that they feel more comfortable with requesting their accommodations if they have any. Within the writing center she has it set up so that students are able to get access to whatever they may need in order to learn successfully and comfortably.
Something else that had been looked into was the possibility of accommodations in regards to using virtual learning. The technology that was developed for virtual learning can be very useful and helpful for students who due to their disability may not be able to be physically present for class.
One York College student who wished to remain anonymous asked Student Accessibility Services whether virtual attendance “was an option, as part of an attendance modification, to help students who are unable to attend class on occasion due to a documented disability. If so, is there a way to apply for this accommodation? If not, why is this not considered a reasonable accommodation?”
Student Accessibility Services first responded that “as an as-needed basis” it was still an option, but then received an email from a professor stating that “we have been informed by the Provost’s office that Accessibility Services incorrectly listed virtual attendance as an acceptable accommodation option for students needing attendance modifications.”
Since then, Accessibility Services has been asked for clarification. It stated, in a response, “It is true that the Provost has said that virtual attendance is not an option for students with the accommodation of attendance policy modification. Faculty are to use other means to provide you with the materials and information you miss when absent.”
Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith was asked about accommodation overall and this specific case during an interview session with our class on Sept. 20. She stressed the importance of maintaining an in-person setup as much as possible.
“We have always had a variety of different types of accommodations,” she said. “We have students that have some special situations. Those actually include such things as a student might be ill or have some type of emergency, and on a case by case basis, faculty members normally work with students to [accommodate them].”
She also said that last year, with the pandemic, “we were using high-flex, which you know about that, where we had half in and half out. Some students elected to be all out, not turn on their cameras, etc. etc., and we are an in-person institution, that’s what we value. We have worked very hard to be in-person and also to help our faculty to be the best that they can be. So, yes, we did say that for a normal type of accommodation, we were not going to remote type of learning.
“We do have some remote classes, some that are asynchronous. They are mostly graduate programs. There might be a few courses like that, but this is because we are an in-person institution. We do not intend to be an online institution.”
Elliot Langkam is a Professional Writing major with a Music Performance minor. They are a senior and are expected to graduate by the Spring 2022 semester.