DSPS affected by budget cuts

With a projected budget cut of 54 percent for the spring, City campus Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS) are being forced to cut back on federally mandated services and will possibly fall out of compliance.

Through accommodations ranging from adapted computer equipment and assistive listening devices to talking calculators, DSPS offers assistance to address and meet the concerns of disabled students on campus.

These services, among others, are mandated through the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1990, wherein the act holds employers and all public facilities to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Located in room A-115, the program staffs 11 employees, but as a result of the budget cuts, some positions may be eliminated. Not only are jobs at stake but services, such as proctoring and specialized counseling, are also at risk.

“It’s difficult for staff and students,” says Vince Ceccacci, a counselor at DSPS. “Our high tech lab can only remain open for 3 days; down from 4 days a week. I’ve seen many cuts in 28 years, but never to this degree.”

The high tech center provides basic skills training in word processing and the Internet. DSPS is only one of the programs on campus facing drastic cuts, but DSPS is unique in that its services are mandated by law.

“It’s frustrating. We have returning veterans, disabled students, and an increase in disabled student enrollment, matched by a decrease in funds,” Debra Wright-Howard, DSPS Program Activity Manager, said.

Howard added that she is not sure how DSPS will avoid falling out of compliance with the law, other than cutting services offered.

“We’ve been looking at this issue for several months. We have no firm answers yet. If we don’t exist under the law, ultimately the college is held responsible,” she said.

With the budget cuts, the students will experience longer wait times for appointments and less services to help accommodate them.

Reached for clarificaion by e-mail, DSPS counselor Pamela Finkel indicated that, while access is a general requirement, any denial can be seen as non-compliance. “Instructors may need to provide accommodiations rather then DSPS to keep City in compliance,” said Finkel.

“Whenever we’re faced with cuts to students, it’s unfortunate,”Denise Whisenhunt, Dean of Student Affairs, said. “Our students need these services, and we’re trying to be advocates to secure funds for them.”

The program is serving 551 students this semester.

DSPS staff is urging students affected by the cuts to write their elected officials and demand a solution. Recently, DSPS staff posted up in their office a sheet of contact information for government and education officials that students can contact.

Odell Wilson is a DSPS student who views these cuts as unnecessary.

“I think it would be a shame,” he said. “Without this program, people wouldn’t be able to go to school. The governor needs to learn how to balance his checkbook and stop locking people up in prison.”

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DSPS affected by budget cuts