Leveling the playing field for students with disabilities 

Leveling the playing field for students with disabilities 

T hrough no fault of their own, some students struggle in school due to their disability. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Georgia College provides academic accommodations through the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) to help these students achieve academic success.   
   
Student Disability Resource Center Director David Anderson believes that there may be some misconceptions about academic accommodations.   
  
“These accommodations allow students who need them to perform on a level playing field with their peers,” he said.   
   
There are many different ways that the SDRC works with students to help them succeed. Some of the most common ways of providing such support is given by the Testing Center – granted by the SDRC.  
  
Admissions makes students aware of the Student Disability Resource Center right from the start.  
   

We want to get to students who need us as quickly as we can. As soon as we can get a face and a name, they become part of our family.
– David Anderson, SDRC Director

Over the last year, the center saw a rise in the number of students asking for accommodations. Currently, 530 students use the service — around six percent of the student population. Some of this increase was due to the pandemic with students testing online now.   
   
“There was a huge spike in testing online, which a lot of students weren’t prepared for,” he said. “It’s one thing for students to test in class, and completely another to test online.”   
   
This presents a challenge for Anderson. Ideally, he wants students who use the SDRC to stay on track when they take their tests in a virtual environment. So, Anderson and his team work hard to accommodate their students’ needs to make online testing a smooth transition.  
   
The SDRC also works to support the career aspirations of our students by having a strong partnership with the Career Center.   
   
“One of the first things we do is define success for each student,” he said. “So, we have a very strong relationship with career services, where we can help these students reach those milestones and achieve their goals.”   

David Anderson, Director of the Student Disability Resource Center
David Anderson, Director of the Student Disability Resource Center

Nearly every student who comes into the SDRC has multiple diagnoses, for example, ADHD and anxiety. As students are exposed to the news and social media around the clock, many become overwhelmed with this influx of information. That’s where Anderson and his team help identify their students’ personal priorities.   
   
Anderson helps students get organized by reminding them that they can only control what is within their sphere of influence. He also helps them organize their schedule by meeting with students weekly.   
   
There’s a tremendous amount of freedom when students arrive on campus. And for those who don’t know what to do with their downtime, chances are they’re not going to use that time wisely, according to Anderson.  
   
“We try and help them fit everything in,” Anderson said. “And the biggest thing we find is for students to treat school like it’s a job and to find a healthy balance.”  
My hope for students is that they graduate and find that job they love. It’s one thing to graduate, but it’s another thing to have the essential skills to be employable. And that’s what we want. College is just the beginning of their professional journey.
– David Anderson, SDRC Director

   
The SDRC helps students interact more effectively with their professors through the use of a newly developed interactive database. According to Anderson, it’s easier to use and has more capabilities than the previous one. For example, students can choose which accommodations they want to use for their classes. Once the students choose their accommodations, a letter is sent to their professors. This helps facilitate a conversation between the student and the professor.  
  
The mission of helping students succeed is the same whether it’s through the Student Disability Resource Center or through the care and commitment of faculty.  
   
“Our professors are doing everything they can to pull greatness out of our students,” said Anderson. “That’s what we do at Georgia College. Everybody’s on the same page to get students to graduate. I just love that team mentality.”   
   
In addition to the support services provided by the SDRC, there are also anonymous student note takers, Smartpens that capture everything you hear and write, digital recorders, and laptops available for students. Anderson hopes students take what they’ve learned from Georgia College and apply these techniques in their careers.  
   
“My hope for students is that they graduate and find that job they love,” he said. “It’s one thing to graduate, but it’s another thing to have the essential skills to be employable. And that’s what we want. College is just the beginning of their professional journey.”