You never know when your life can change, when something that seemed so simple (taking notes in class or even taking certain kinds of classes) becomes impossible. It can happen to any of us: tripping over a curb we didn’t see, falling on the ski slope, discovering the reality of a serious illness, or complications that develop as a result of other conditions (high blood pressure as a result of pregnancy, for example.)
In many ways, the TMCC Disability Resource Center (DRC) is one of the campus’s best-kept secrets (although it shouldn’t be) and is something of a misnomer—it’s really a Total Resource Center, offering student support so that everyone has equal access to learning. For students who have a documented disability or a recent injury/condition that makes meeting classroom standards impossible, the DRC can help in ways that you may not have even considered.
Virginia Judge, a recent graduate with two associate degrees, utilized the DRC because a medical condition that made it impossible for her to take a foreign language class. “I couldn’t pronounce the words,” she said. However, by making an appointment with a DRC Specialist (and with the on-site Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor), Judge was able to get both support and an accommodation that enabled her to complete the foreign language class and her degree program.
It can also be a resource in other ways. “Sometimes students come into the DRC for what they think is a disability, but that does not meet the ADA’s definition of a disability,” said DRC Executive Director Joan Steinman. One example she cites is test anxiety which, as debilitating as it is, doesn’t qualify for any DRC accommodations. “Unfortunately, that just means you’re human,” she said. “However, we can refer students to the Counseling Center where they can address their anxiety and learn coping skills so they can move forward successfully.”
And this is why the DRC is a Total Resource Center: no matter your concern, speaking with a DRC Specialist is the first step in taking action to ensure your own success.
“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses,” said Olga Mesina, a Specialist at the Disability Resource Center. “Nobody is 100% in all areas of life. If nothing else, we are a resource for students who are seeking additional support--even if we don’t provide you with accommodations, we know of other services that can help.”
What You Need to Know About the DRC
Currently, the DRC serves 500–700 students every semester. TMCC’s DRC program is unique in that, in addition to its on-staff specialists, it is also one of the only programs to provide an on-site Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor as a part of the CareerConnect cooperative agreement with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR). This partnership provides additional counseling, tutoring, and other support services to students who qualify for support through the DRC.
DRC accommodations are varied, but all fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and must be approved through a specific application process that follows the DRC Requesting Accommodations Policy. Some of these accommodations include note takers, extended quiz/test time, a reduced distraction testing environment in which to take tests and technology-assisted supports like recording devices, amplification devices for the hearing impaired and literacy software.
Three big takeaways about the DRC that you should always keep in mind are that:
- The supports students receive through the DRC are free if you qualify for them;
- Student information disclosed to the DRC always remains confidential, and;
- Students have to identify themselves to the DRC in order to receive accommodations.
Becoming an Advocate for Yourself
If you’re new to higher education, one of the best things you can do is to learn to become an advocate for yourself. The process for addressing a disability—no matter if it’s one you picked up at the skate park or one you were born with—needs to happen before it becomes an issue in class, not afterward. Gone are the days of re-taking failed tests: higher education is the land of the future and it only works by moving forward, not back. Once you take a test or a class ends, the DRC cannot retroactively put in place accommodations to change a grade.
It’s best to plan ahead when requesting a little help with a class because these requests take time. Asking for help before a class begins (maybe up to six to eight weeks in advance, depending on the type of accommodation that’s being requested) is ideal. If the semester has already started, the golden rule for asking for help is that sooner is always better than later, and later is better than not asking at all.
It’s also your responsibility to make an appointment with the DRC to initiate the process of getting an accommodation in place. Your parents can’t do it, nor can a former special education coordinator or caseworker. Accommodations made at another institution, whether at a former high school or another college, do not transfer.
The silver lining in all of this is that if you need help, all you have to do is ask. Judge, who utilized the DRC throughout her pursuit of two associate degrees adds: “Just because you get an accommodation doesn’t mean you have to use it,” she said. “But it can be nice to have—if you discover that you need a note taker because a professor just speaks too quickly, then that support is there for you to use.”
Want to Help?
If you would like to help with supporting other students in need, the DRC is always looking for note takers who can supply neatly written (or typed) notes to a student in need of them. Interested students need to be currently registered for classes, have a 2.75 GPA and (obviously) a good attendance record for the class in which they are acting as a notetaker. This is a contract position for which a stipend is included.
As with all DRC services, the nature of the student’s disability is kept completely confidential. For more information about the Disability Resource Center, call 775-673-7277.
By Rebecca A. Eckland