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Educating Students With Disabilities in Cyberspace

  • Published: 2009-10-28 : Ashford University.
  • Synopsis: Online higher education readies this workforce and makes earning a college degree accessible for more students

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National Disability Employee Awareness Month in October recognizes contributions made by Americans with disabilities to the workforce and in society. Online higher education readies this workforce and makes earning a college degree accessible for more students.

"We believe that everyone who is academically qualified deserves access to a high quality, higher education," said Jane McAuliffe, president of Ashford University and senior vice president/chief academic officer of Bridgepoint Education. "Online higher education brings down barriers and provides opportunity to overcome obstacles. Educating non-traditional students in the cyberspace world is becoming increasingly popular."

Specifically for the disabled, the Ashford University Disability Services Office ensures equal opportunities to student success through accessible education programs, assigns reasonable accommodations and provides advocacy.

Disabilities served range from visual impairment and hearing loss, to mobility restrictions such as paraplegia and muscular dystrophy, to traumatic brain injuries and epilepsy. Some of the university's accommodations include extra time to complete coursework, assistive technology and disability related advising.

"To receive accommodations, students are responsible for disclosing their disability. However, disclosure of a disability is entirely up to the student," said Ashford University's Disability Service Manager Poppy Fitch. "Many students that are disabled choose to pursue an online higher education with no outside assistance. The online classroom doesn't discriminate. For many students that are disabled it's the first time they feel like they truly fit in."

"Online higher education equals the playing field among all students, regardless of whether or not they have a disability," Sidney Crouch, an Ashford University student who is legally blind, said. "Nobody has an advantage...or a disadvantage."

Fitch says people with disabilities attend online universities and enjoy many of the same advantages as their classmates - primarily flexibility.

"Online students attend classes when and where they want, so long as they are academically qualified," she said. "I believe education is the best reward a person can give themselves, not only for their career aspirations, but for the kind of life they wish to lead."

Back when Candy Scatchell, 55, graduated with an associate's degree from a community college, advisers told her she couldn't be a teacher because her disability was a liability. She was crushed but never gave up. "Earning an online degree is harder than a traditional setting, and you have to be committed," Scatchell, from Melrose Park, Ill., said. "I graduated last May, participated in graduation ceremonies at the Clinton, Iowa, campus and have begun a master's degree program in Education. I still want to be a teacher."

About Ashford University - Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (www.ncahlc.org). The University offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs online and at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable online and on-campus programs. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, director of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.



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