Assisting BC’s disabled community

July 26 marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act was put into law in 1990 and went into effect in 1992, during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. Some of the disabilities addressed by this law include mental illnesses, cancer, muscular dystrophy, blindness and attention deficit disorder.

As described by the Disability Resource Center website, “The ADA is the civil rights guarantee for persons with disabilities in the United States. It provides protection from discrimination for individuals on the basis of disability. The ADA extends civil rights protections for people with disabilities to employment in the private sector, transportation, public accommodations, services provided by state and local government and telecommunications relay services.”

Susan Gjolmesli, the director of the Disability Resource Center at Bellevue College, said that currently “The social model puts barriers and prevents you from doing what you want to do. A lot of the barriers are attitudes of people who don’t see that they’re being a barrier.” Gjolmesli believes that “people have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.”

Gjolmesli commented on the current state of disability accommodations at BC, saying, “Bellevue College is a very large school compared to many of our sister schools. I think students would say that by large their accommodations are good.”

In addition, Gjolmesli believes that there are still some improvements that BC can make. “As a system we have work to do because there are videos out there that aren’t captioned,” explained Gjolmesli. “There is technology that isn’t accessible and some of the software in classes is not accessible by all.”

“There is a lot of training developed by ITS that everybody can benefit from. I would like to see those numbers increase,” said Gjolmesli, “We have task forces that are looking into this and making recommendations and we really need to be doing that.”

The Disability Resource Center offers services such as the assessment of disability accommodation needs, facilitation of referrals for support services on and off campus, and assistance with problem-solving concerning educational barriers.

For students who need special accommodations, Gjolmesli advised, “They should come to our office and get the ball rolling, start the process to have them be an official student with us.” According to Gjolmesli, students would need documentation from their doctor or clinician “letting us know what their diagnosis is and how they are affected by it.”

After the process, students meet with the DRC staff to discuss specific academic accomadations in order to ensure success. “We go through a thorough meeting and get to know you as a person,” said Gjolmesli.