LaGuardia Community College Provides Solid Support Services for Students with Disabilities

November 28, 2006 | LaGuardia Community College

For more information, please contact
Randy Fader-Smith at (718) 482-5060 Randyfs@lagcc.cuny.edu

11.28.06

Long Island City, NY—After struggling academically at Touro College during his first two years, Paul Goldman was advised by an academic counselor to transfer to LaGuardia Community College because of the special services it provided for students with learning and physical disabilities.

Paul, who was diagnosed with a learning disability in abstract thinking, heeded that recommendation and transferred in 2000 to LaGuardia. There, the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) offered him the individual tutoring, especially in math, and the counseling that helped turn his academic life around.

“It was a miracle,” said Paul, who went on to become an honors student and graduated in 2002 with an associate’s degree in teacher education and recently received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and history from Queens College. “If I had not transferred and remained at Touro or went directly to Queens College, I can confidently say that things would not be as they are today. I needed the assistance at that point and the freedom to learn at my own pace.”

In describing Paul’s dramatic transformation, Matthew S. Joffe, director of the OSD, said, “I watched someone who was unsure of himself academically transform to someone who was so confident that he graduated from LaGuardia and went on to pursue his bachelor’s degree.”

So confident, in fact, that during his stay at Queens he did not use the college’s disability services. “All that he achieved at Queens, he did on this own,” Mr. Joffe added, “and that is the best realization of someone’s development that one could hope for.”

Paul is just one of several hundred LaGuardia students each year who looks to the office, recognized by the city and state for having one of the most active OSD within the City University of New York, for that extra help to achieve their academic goals. Along with tutoring and academic, career, and personal counseling, the newly renovated and accessible office has a host of computers with assistive technology—special adaptations for students with physical limitations or learning disabilities. There is voice-activated software where students speak and a computer records their words. For blind students there are screen readers that read out loud what appears on the monitor as well as magnified text for visually impaired and legally blind students.

Mokaddem Hossain, a legally blind student, who takes full advantage of the office’s services, said, “OSD is a great place for people who need some assistance to do well in college.” He explained that he reads exams on a closed circuit television, which reads and magnifies text and graphics; uses a computer to write essays because of the difficulty he faces in handwriting his assignments; and uses computers with zoom text when researching and writing a paper.

“This program also helps me inform my teachers and instructors of my vision condition,” he added.

Mr. Joffe explained that the only disability the office does not directly serve is the college’s deaf and hard-of-hearing students who are served by the college’s Program for Deaf Adults. “Having two distinct programs is unique in CUNY,” he said.

Aside from serving the students directly, the director pointed out that one of the office’s biggest responsibilities is to be a liaison to faculty and staff in academic areas. “We help them devise methods of communicating with and teaching students with disabilities who are in their classes. And in the case of unusual behavior, we will work with an instructor and student to resolve it.”

The office also offers in-service workshops to entire departments so that they can understand a specific disability or a particular student’s behavior.

Another effective program has OSD helping faculty in the Natural and Applied Sciences Department to spell out to students the requirements needed to enter a particular allied health field. “Certain disabilities might preclude being successful in certain programs,” said Mr. Joffe. “Students learn if limitations will impact on their ability to pursue a particular career.”

Paul’s career goal to become a public school teacher has been attained. With a New York City certified teaching license, he is teaching third- to sixth-grade science at the Learning for Life Center in Huntington, New York.

Along with teaching full time, he plans on pursuing a master’s at Queens although he is not sure of the concentration.

“But if it is math, somebody shoot me,” he said following a hearty laugh.

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LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Its vibrant and culturally diverse student body, representing 159 countries and speaking 110 languages, has established LaGuardia as “The World’s Community College.”The college provides a broad array of academic, workforce development, and continuing education programs to over 41,000 students. LaGuardia is located in the heart of western Queens. To learn about our exciting college, please go to www.laguardia.edu.

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