Disability Resource Center adapts to remote and in-person servicing, emphasizes student role

By Shannon Hernandez, Sept. 21, 2021

As students transition back to campus this semester, Cal Poly Pomona’s Disability Resource Center has adapted to service the needs of students both remotely and in person.

DRC services, available to any student with a disability, are currently used by about 1,400 students. With the various forms of instruction in the fall semester, the center is emphasizing students taking a lead role in asking for the services which would most benefit them.

Director Tracee Passeggi and Associate Director Ann Loomis oversee the program along with other staff members and have adapted to serve the needs of students in different environments.

“We’re providing our services both in person and online,” said Loomis. “For example, if a student is in a fully online course, we continue to provide our accommodations for that environment. If a student is in an in-person class, we’re providing them the services as well. Students who have online classes can have access to any of our services. Those who have all online classes can still come in person if they want to.”

The DRC provides services to students with disabilities such as test and note-taking accommodations, modified attendance, mobility assistance, real-time captioning and printed text conversion.

Passeggi emphasized that students are encouraged to ask for the services which would help them most.

“I think that our operational processes really lend itself to a student being kind of the driver of their accommodations, so they are able to pick what they want,” said Passeggi. “They never have to talk to a faculty member about it since everything is confidential, so it really is in the hands of the student, and I think that’s really a great thing for students because they never have to step into the DRC; they can utilize our DRC online services. I really think it lends itself to students who may have been apprehensive to utilize DRC services so now they are kind of in control of their accommodations plan.”

Quinn Dougherty, a mechanical engineering student who is in the DRC program, described that initial apprehension.

“It’s intimidating at first to ask for help because I have never done anything like this before,” said Dougherty. “I was a part of the cultural stigma built around asking for help, but after talking to a counselor, it helped ease my anxiety.”

Elizabeth Castro is a testing and notetaking assistant for the DRC who assists students needing those accommodations. As the first transition to online courses due to the pandemic occurred, there was a new challenge for counselors to assist students in receiving the help they needed.

“With the different modes of instruction and not knowing what to expect out of synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid courses, we continue to make sure students are receiving their requested accommodations and make sure all modes of instruction are working and how we can best communicate with students and faculty,” said Castro. “We have a great team that makes the entire process of organization run as smoothly as we possibly can.”

For new students, the DRC has worked to “remove barriers” in procedures like the application and documentation processes, according to Passeggi.

“I think we’ve done that with our intake process, which I think really resulted in the increase of students because we are really about access and supporting students so that they have the accommodations that they need to be on an equal playing field,” added Passeggi.

While DRC servicing currently assists 1,400 students, the center is also working to spread the word to incoming students.

“We also collaborate with orientation services so that incoming students know about our services and know how to apply,” said Loomis. “So, we’ve really done a lot to encourage students to take advantage of our services.”

The DRC operating hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 5 p.m and students can to access any services through myDRC online system that’s available any time.

Feature image by Nicolas Hernandez

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