By Les Jones and Allison Ricenbaw:
As human beings, we all face challenges one way or another, but some students and staff members at Amarillo College face a unique challenge. It is the challenge of being disabled.
Disabilities come in many forms, from mental to physical. AC provides the help and accommodations those students with disabilities require. There are more than 500 students enrolled at AC who have identified as disabled.
AC has taken steps over the years to improve accessibility on its campuses, from wheelchair ramps to larger bathroom facilities and elevators.
“I think AC is extremely accessible for people in a wheelchair. I am in a wheelchair and I find it easy to get on every floor and every room on campus, including bathrooms,” Luciano Arellano, a psychology major, said.
Other students said they do have a harder time when it comes to certain situations. Liberty Jennings, an art major, contracted early onset Parkinson’s disease and Dystonia at a young age, which left her immobile and confined to a larger wheelchair.
Jennings’ older sister Mariah Jennings is an EMT major who helps care for her disabled sister. “It is harder to get in some of the other bathrooms on campus due to the larger size of her wheelchair, so we have to use the ones in Parcells Hall,” Jennings said.
AC faculty member, Marcie Robinson, is a speech communications instructor who began losing her vision in 2005.
Despite the challenges related to her disability, Robinson obtained her masters from West Texas A&M University in 2008 and now teaches at AC.
Being blind comes with many challenges, according to Robinson. “The two biggest challenges I face are mobility, if I have to go from one end of campus to the other and technology, working with computer programs,” she said.
Before 1997 it was difficult for those with disabilities to access places, get jobs or even go to college. Companies would often decide against putting in accommodations because it would cost them money.
The American Disabilities Act of 1997 made it easier for people with disabilities to have access to everyday things. The act states that employers can’t discriminate against people with disabilities and that they must have aids and services to allow easy access.
“You’ll see handicapped parking, you see accessible ramps, there’s rumble strips and thresholds that are smooth. There’s wide doors, tables, sinks and bathroom accommodations so that someone that’s aided by the use a wheelchair is able to access things that you and I take for granted,” Dennis Sarine, disabilities services coordinator, said.
The AC disAbility services office is responsible for making sure that the college meets the standards as required by law of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The goal of the AC disAbility service is to see our students succeed, to facilitate the accommodations needed in the classroom, and to act as a liaison between the students and staff,” said Tyler Grisham, the academic adviser for disAbility services.