National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October recognizes contributions made by Americans with disabilities to the workforce and in society.
Online higher education at Ashford University makes earning a college degree accessible for more students, including those with disabilities.
"We believe that everyone who is academically qualified deserves access to a high quality, higher education," said Jane McAuliffe, president of Ashford University, an accredited university offering associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs. "Online higher education brings down barriers."
Ashford University's Student Access and Wellness Manager Poppy Fitch said that "The online classroom doesn't discriminate. For many students with disabilities, it's the first time they feel like they truly fit in."
For example, Natasha Hubbard of Hampton, Va., began losing her vision at age 12 and was completely blind at 17.
"I knew that having a visual disability would keep me from getting many jobs. I decided that I would equip and qualify myself to the best of my abilities in order to prove myself as a necessary asset in the social work field," Hubbard said.
To attend Ashford University online classes, she utilizes a multitude of audio technology to assist with her online education including JAWS (job access with speech) on her computer, which says everything she types and reads everything that appears on the computer screen; a digital book player; a talking scientific calculator for math; and software that allows her to scan documents and verbalizes the text to her.
Hubbard has two classes remaining to obtain her bachelor's degree and then plans to begin a master's degree program in psychology. She is supplementing her education as an intern at the Center for Child and Family Services, where she plans to work after graduation as well.
"With two kids and a disability, every day is an obstacle. However, I am strong, capable and determined, so every new day is a new success," Hubbard said.
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."
About Ashford University -Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 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.
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