You may have walked by the Disability Access Center (DAC) at your college, but do you know what they do there?
Students like Marieliz Landa know first-hand how important that student resource is – she lives with cystic fibrosis, a disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in the body. Because it was impossible to attend school full-time with the amount of time she was spending in the hospital, she was forced to drop out of Clemente High School, but later got her GED. She returned to school in 2010 to get her Basic Nursing Assistant Certificate from City Colleges, then decided to come back to continue her education four years later, opting to take a hybrid of both online and in-person classes. Studying pre-nursing at Wright College, she was pleasantly surprised at the support she’s received, especially from the Disability Access Center (DAC). Each and every staff member at the DAC offered warm welcomes, accommodations, and support to ensure Marieliz succeeded in her classes, and they helped her to remember that her illness did not define her.
The Disability Access Center at each City College provides coordination and supportive services for any student with documented disabilities. Wright’s DAC includes full-time and part-time professionals – all of whom are vital in providing equal access to programs and services for students with disabilities. Vinita Subramani, Director of Wright’s DAC, has been at Wright for more than five years, but has made a career out of serving individuals with disabilities. She, along with Patrice Henderson and Wright alumna Sylvia Brown, help eligible students get the services they need, but Vinita says that it is the note takers who are the unsung heroes of the DAC. Note takers don’t just take notes for students – they go above and beyond by serving as readers, scribes, and proctors for students with disabilities. DAC note-takers are also enthusiastic adopters of assistive technology and train themselves and others on assistive technology like smart pens, digital recorders, and Intel Readers.
“All of the note takers are part-time, but they give 100% each and every day. Our students see them as mentors and guides. They do an amazing job – we wouldn’t have a team without them! I’m so inspired by them. They do the real work.”
And while note takers don’t get much recognition, the Wright DAC did just celebrate one of their own – Terry Fircowycz just marked 20 years as a note taker at Wright College.
As Marieliz prepared to graduate from CCC last spring, she reflected on the obstacles she’s overcome, saying “Living with cystic fibrosis has been hard – I fight for my life every day with this disease. But DAC and each of my professors have been so understanding and helpful. I never thought I could be a college graduate, but with the support of the DAC, here I am!”
Vinita says that Marieliz is a very dedicated student and hasn’t let her health challenges deter her. “We are so proud of Marieliz. One’s ability lies in finding what strengths one has to work with, not focusing on perceived weaknesses. So much of student success depends on the support that students use. Marieliz has utilized the resources available to her – she was determined and it has paid off.”
Marieliz plans on pursuing her bachelor’s in public health so she too can help others with health challenges feel supported.
For Vinita and the DAC team at Wright, this is one of many DAC success stories: “If we do our job right, maintaining an inclusive environment for our students, we know that success will follow.”