City College students with disabilities struggle with remote learning

The disAbility Support Programs and Services office offers support, services

Campus computer lab

San Diego City College offered an on-campus computer lab that assisted students before transitioning to remote learning. Breanne Kennedy photo

Sophia Traylor, Staff Writer

San Diego City College offers resources for students with disabilities through its disAbility Support Programs and Services office, but there are still many overlooked difficulties and misconceptions with remote learning.

DSPS logo
October was Disability Awareness Month. DSPS graphic (DSPS)

Students like Maxine Amaru suggests mandatory training for all teachers, along with more inclusion in decision making for DSPS students. 

Amaru, who is president of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society Club, a club for honors and DSPS students at City, expressed her struggles during this semester.

“It is not conducive to my learning style,” said Amaru, who has dyslexia, as well as a visual and physical impairment. “Sitting at the machine over 10 hours, we miss things and have to wait until after (a lecture is) recorded and given back to us.”

Students with a range of disabilities at San Diego City College have had a difficult time acclimating to remote learning due to accommodations needing refinement and the drastic change of their learning dynamic. 

Maxine Amaru photo
Maxine Amaru sits at her dining room table for hours uncomfortably to get through remote schooling. Maxine Amaru photo

At the start of the semester, while students register for classes, DSPS students often stray away from classes they know would be too difficult for their learning style.

“I visually have to see it in front of me, so physical science was a no,”  said DSPS student Shay Dangerfield, who ended up dropping the class. “My professor was trying to create labs for us to do at home and I didn’t get it, but if I had a lab kit at home with instructions to physically read, I’d know what to do.”

Students are also having to pay out-of-pocket for resources that would come free on campus.

“We had noise-canceling headsets all over campus,” Amaru explained, adding, “learning at home, even in a quiet place, there is still outside noise, cars driving by, family moving around. It’s not the regular environment that DSPS students need to be the students they need to be.”

Samantha Jones, an English major and member of DAPHSC, said common accommodations like extended time on quizzes and tests are more challenging in an online environment. 

Computer lab
San Diego City College offered an on-campus computer lab that assisted help for students before transitioning to remote learning. Breanne Kennedy photo

“What professors may not know is while we’re utilizing extended time, there are several other things going on,” Jones said. “I have to slow down my heart rate. When I first start an exam, I hear the clock ticking, the (air conditioner) running, the minutest of sounds, so there’s a whole mental monologue that I go through.” 

City College Faculty and DSPS advisor Brianne Kennedy said they hosted training in professional development for faculty prior to the semester starting to raise awareness of some of those challenges that were impacting DSPS students. 

“We’ve attempted to address some of that, but that’s a small portion of the faculty that are at the campus that are engaging in those activities,” Kennedy said. “Professors may not be thinking because it’s not the world they’re living in.” 

Some of the training has been successful, with new accommodations like extended time on due dates and flexibility. 

While resources are in the process of refinement, City College offers a wide variety of help.

The DSPS High Tech Center held an in-person tech support day for technological issues that couldn’t be resolved over Zoom. San Diego City College picture

DSPS counseling is available. To learn more, click here. Students can learn about accommodations and support, including club meetings for the disAbility club and Delta Alpha Pi honor society.

Faculty can also learn more about accessibility consultations available on Zoom.