With arms wrapping Natalie Portillo, an elementary education major from Plains, a teacher slowly lifts her out of the wheelchair, placing her into the van. Having to be carried by someone was not something she was expecting to face when going on the TRIO trip to Kansas City.
This uncomfortable experience has been brought to the attention of the SCCC faculty and administration.
To SCCC President Brad Bennett’s understanding, the college has never encountered this situation before but Seward’s lack of preparedness is inexcusable. Bennett and Joel Figgs, TRIO’s student support services director, have already started to look into alternatives to accommodate those in the future.
“We have already set up several meetings to talk with some area businesses that have similar type products or needs so we can accommodate not only that student but other students like that in the future,” Bennett says. “ It’s so important to accommodate every single student and that is always our goal.”
Seward’s goal of accommodating all students lacks in more areas than just transportation. The SCCC website doesn’t meet all the needs of those with disabilities that are described in the Americans with Accessibility Act Title II. Although this part of the act is not legally binding, it does provide an action plan of suggestions for websites to be more accessible.
One of the issues of the website is the format which can bring difficulties when trying to use a reader. Sight-impaired individuals use readers to scan websites so the material is read out loud to them. Seward’s website is sectioned off and cluttered, making it difficult and confusing when read by a program.
The website is an issue that Bennett has reinforced as a primary focus.
“We want something very simple, student-friendly. On our current website, we have too many clicks… the information gets lost out there,” Bennett says. “Something that fits the needs of both students and the community.”
Bennet explains the process an SCCC committee is currently going through to improve or create a new website. The group is exploring different websites and getting feedback from students as well.
“We have a company that’s helping us with the RPF process. I think that will probably go out later this spring, hopefully, mid-April to the first part of May with the goal of having a website in place by October or November of next fall,” Bennet says.
Dennis Sanders, vice president of finance and operations, enforces this timeline, stating they are working on getting a new website, hopefully within a year.
Although the website has issues with accessibility, Deedee Flax, the Canvas administrator and director of online learning, explains how SCCC’s course management learning system, Canvas, provides ways to accommodate all students. Canvas is heavily utilized since COVID and with Zoom classes growing.
A feature Flax mentions Canvas offers is closed captioning for all Zoom videos and a new feature that can be utilized is Canvas studio. She hopes to train instructors within a matter of time on how to use closed captioning in the studio.
“Instructors can export videos from Youtube or their own videos and turn on the captioning tab,” Flax says. “The thing about that is you can actually turn it on for different languages which is kind of cool.”
All videos shown in the classroom must have closed captioning as per the ADA guidelines for educational institutions.