The world has seen some monumental changes recently. Between COVID itself, and the general trends of the government, both local and national, there has and will be a lot of upheaval. In particular, the so called ‘disabilities community’ has been a silent victim of this upheaval. Services are getting cut, funding for those services is barely coming in, and there is the general sense that things are regressing. However, there are many spheres of life in this world, college being one of them. There has been no coverage about the impact of COVID on college students with disabilities, as far as I can tell. This is a travesty that must be brought to light, to see if, indeed, there are any struggles within the college.
So far, contrary to what might be expected, Century College is still maintaining its commitment to helping people with disabilities. However, there are many issues stemming from the nature of this stressful time, and the implications from it are diverse and far reaching. So, don’t worry, Century College students—If you are in need of disabilities accommodations, or need support. The college will still be able to help you, as the budget has not been affected in a major way, according to Kristin Hageman, Dean of Student Life at Century College. But resources have shifted, and the energy surrounding them has shifted as well. Speaking with Melissa Traxler, the head of the access center, to find out more about how the disabilities community is being impacted in terms of services and any issues relating to that, revealed her account of how students and the access center have been impacted by COVID-19. It was one of encouragement, hope, and determination, as well as a very real sense of frustration due to the strained resources available. The Access Center initially planned to be in person, giving the same amount of resources as they had before… But due to the pressures of COVID-19, it appears as though they have had to scale back quite a bit. While there are still in-person services available, they are very limited and of course, accompanied by the ubiquitous, all-encompassing precautions that we have come to expect from literally every major in-person institution: plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer, and the like. Obviously, the scope of services has changed, but the students are still the priority.
Meanwhile, the mental health of students and the challenges of adapting to an unfamiliar social context continues to be an area of intense concern. To that end, I reached out to Sherri Kittelson, a student at century with disabilities, as well as Kristin Hageman, the director of student life. From what I gather, the students are still being taken care of, there aren’t really any financial hurdles or external pressures facing the college. The students can still get what they need, it’s more of a matter of how that is coordinated with the students. So, in the face of adversity, what does Sherri have to say about this time? She offers many points of insight, but some of the things that struck me were the commonalities she shares with all of us in regard to being away from campus and truly effective, in-person learning. She also mentioned the importance of being mentally engaged, something that rings true for all of us in these challenging times.
So, after looking into the situation at century, there is both encouragement and difficulty. The good news is that there’s no sign of services being cut for students with disabilities. The harder truth behind that, however, is that there is a real struggle to adapt, and that is something we will have to reckon with.