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Not all students with disabilities make use of services available to them at College of Lake County

CLC nursing student Darya Ganyuchenko uses an amplified stethoscope she received through the Office for Students with Disabilities. (Photo courtesy College of Lake County)

CLC nursing student Darya Ganyuchenko uses an amplified stethoscope she received through the Office for Students with Disabilities. (Photo courtesy College of Lake County)

Through high school, educators are required by law to identify and help students with disabilities make the best of their educational opportunities.

But by the time those students enter college as adults, they don’t always seek the assistance available to them, according to Thomas Crowe, director of the Office for Students with Disabilities at the College of Lake County.

“Many have left the disability back in high school,” Crowe said. “They don’t want to use it as a crutch.”

There are 852 students eligible for the services Crowe’s office can provide, but just 600 regularly seek that assistance, the director said.

That’s still enough to keep the growing office busy — serving people with medically diagnosed disabilities that range from physical, hearing or vision impairment to attention deficit disorder, autism, and anxiety.

Remodeling should be finished by March on space in the college library that will give students better privacy when they consult with staff members, Crowe said. Most of the department’s nine full- and one part-time time staff now work out of separate offices adjacent to the library computers.

The department offers a variety of technology, such as voice-recognition software to assist note-taking and software and other devices to enlarge printed text. Two media conversion technicians scan textbooks into a PDF format that can be magnified or read aloud by a digital reader. Last fall, the department honored 75 requests by processing 141 text books. Orders for next fall include 86 requests to process 180 books.

Other services include sign language interpreters for deaf students and note-takers for students who have vision problems or difficulty with fine motor skills. The department also arranges for special accommodations — such as extra time to take a test — for students with learning difficulties.

Deaf students account for one of the fastest-growing segments of students served by the Office for Students with Disabilities, said Karen Adams, disabilities services specialist and coordinator of deaf services. Word-of-mouth among the deaf community has contributed to growth from 11 students in 2009 to 31 in 2010-11, she said.

In the past, deaf students commonly took specialized courses, such as automotive or health medical technology. Now, more students are taking general education requirements to prepare for a wider variety of careers.

“I have seen a completely different shift is what the deaf students are enrolled in,” Adams said.

Darya Ganyuchenko lost her hearing at age 6, after contracting spinal meningitis. She uses hearing aids in both ears.

She’s pursuing a life-long dream to become a nurse, and plans to graduate with an associate’s degree in 2013. She said that some educators she encountered were skeptical that nursing was an appropriate career for a deaf person.

Through CLC’s Office for Students with Disabilities, Ganyuchenko said she received a combination of technological support and other services. They helped her achieve a level of understanding on par with her fellow students, she said.

The department equipped her with an amplified stethoscope, which she credits with helping her pass an exam to become a certified nursing assistant in 2010.

The office also provided real-time lecture transcription for an anatomy and physiology course. A Skype computer connection linked the classroom to an off-campus speed-typist who transcribed the lecture and sent the words instantly back to Ganyuchenko’s computer screen.

Reading the lecture in real-time allowed her to laugh at a joke in the lecture at the same time as the rest of the class.

“I no longer had the delayed laugh that hearing impaired people often have in a classroom situation,” Ganyuchenko said

Ganyuchenko also expressed thanks to the department for making sure she was treated fairly and had access to the tools she needed for success. She urged others to find the help they need.

“A lot of people with disabilities underestimate what OSD can do for them,” Ganyuchenko said. “People are shy. That can pose a big barrier.”

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