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Historical Background and Related State-of-the-Art Concepts
My capstone relates to reaching students with disabilities, specifically those with high grade point average (GPA), here at Texas State by creating an informative pamphlet for the Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society (DAPi). There is a vast amount of information and narrowing my historical background down to three topics and nine sub-topics was simple. Thinning down the information in those topics was a bit more time consuming.
There are quite a few different aspects to disabilities and honor societies on college campuses.
My hope is to provide an overall background guide for how I am approaching my capstone project and why I believe it is important for the Texas State campus. I was not able to find a similar capstone through my research, but I am sure there has been one done with some of the same data, there is an abundance of information and it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the facts available online.
There are a wide range of disabilities, i.e. physical, mental, etc. and many definitions of those disabilities. I will be providing a list of what constitutes a disability and how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines disabilities. I will also be discussing disability rights and how these are important for student success in college. It is important to discuss how the ADA helps enforce the rights of persons with disabilities. I will finish my summation of the first topic by discussing the barriers faced by some individuals with disabilities, specifically my own experience as a hearing-impaired individual in learning environment.
The American with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) provides definitions of when an individual is considered disabled when there is a physical or mental impairment which affect one or more major life activities of the individual (ADA.gov, 1990). The ADA defines major life activities as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. There may be other major life activities including major body functions such functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions (ADA.gov, 1990).
Individuals with one or more disability may require the use of auxiliary aids. Auxiliary aids include qualified interpreters, captionists or other effective method of allowing information that is being spoken to be translated/transcribed to individuals with hearing impairments. This also includes qualified readers, taped texts or other effective methods of allowing information to be delivered to individuals with visual impairments. Other modification, acquisition equipment/devices and similar services and/or actions are also included as ‘auxiliary aids’ (ADA.gov, 1990). As a hearing-impaired individual, the usage of a captionist in a meeting. The captionists captures as much of the conversation as possible in the meeting environment, which allows the hearing-impaired person to feel included in the meeting.
Rights of Individuals with Disability
The rights of persons with an individual with disabilities are laid out in the American with Disability Act of 1990. The ADA was signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA provides protections for individuals with one or more disability and states a disabled person may not be discriminated against in the workplace or school. The ADA is geared towards businesses with 15 or more employees. This includes state and local governments, as well as employment agencies and labor organizations (ADA.gov, 1990). These entities must also make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals, by making the facilities accessible and usable for individuals with impairments (ADA.gov, 1990).
Examples of reasonable accommodations include modification of work schedule, providing qualified readers or interpreters, or adjusting training material and/or policies. These changes must not cause undue hardship on the business or organization. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant expense to a business, if the business is small, has limited resources or due to the nature and structure of the entity (ADA.gov, 1990).
Disabilities on College Campuses
There are a wide range of disabilities on college campuses. Some physical impairments are easily recognizable, such as blindness. An individual with blindness may be using a seeing eye dog or cane to maneuver around campus. They may also use the read aloud function on computers to ‘hear’ the information in a spoken manner. A deaf individual would use a Sign Language Interpreter to communicate with hearing individuals.
An example of a mental impairment would be a learning disability. Among the college aged students, learning disabilities are the most common form of disability (McCleary-Jones, Spring 2007).
The Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) states learning disabilities are chronic conditions of presumed neurological origin (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2005). These neurological conditions may hinder development and/or verbal and nonverbal abilities (McCleary-Jones, Spring 2007). Learning disabilities are not as easily recognizable as other physical impairments. The individual with the learning disability may require test structured in a different way, perhaps taken outside of class in a quiet testing center or some other reasonable modification.
Campus involvement during a student’s time at a university has shown to develop leadership skills for success after college (Rosch & Stephens, 2017). I believe some factors that come into play are the moving from high school to college or even returning to college after an extended period. Involvement also means utilizing campus resources, most of which are included in our tuition fees. Campus involvement has also shown to produce desirable results for developing ‘socially responsible leadership’ among undergraduates and graduates active in students’ organizations, on campus employment and class which have consistent interaction with teachers or staff (Rosch & Stephens, 2017).
Transitioning to College
Transitioning to college seems to depend on a family’s socioeconomic background, a parent educational background and career expectations placed on the student by the family (Showers & Kinsman, 2017). The study conducted by Showers (2017) shows the correlation between parents that expect the student to enroll in college, despite disabilities, having a higher success rate. The positive support and parental aim for success seem to spur the children to feel they can accomplish and conquer college (Showers & Kinsman, 2017). The Showers (2017) article goes on to show parents from lower income backgrounds do not have the same expectations from their children. As they do not expect their children to do as well in college nor do they have the high job expectations as parents of children in a higher income bracket.
As a disabled individual entering college, students are expected to self-advocate for accommodations and exhibit more independent behavior (Hadley, 2018). Hadley (2018) states that students with learning disabilities who were provided with chances to partake in work-bases experiences such as internships, career development activities, job shadowing and mock interviews were better prepared for employment after college. Hadley (2018) also states that
Preparing the student for transition also seems to have a positive effect. This includes visiting the campus Career Center for career counseling and support. Vocational tests could help students identify their strengths and weaknesses to help them establish career goals (Hadley, 2018). Students are also encouraged to visit the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). This is where the self-advocacy comes into play (Hadley, 2018). The OSD office would be able to verify and recommend services that are provided by the campus based on the individual disability of the student.
Hadley (2108) also states that career centers can be valuable tools in setting up networking with upper classmen, alumni and outside employer mentors. These types of meetings would be positive reinforcement for students. The Career Centers could also teach students how to practice workplace behaviors and proper workplace discussions topics (Hadley, 2018).
In a situation where the student is hearing-impaired and does not know American Sign Language, this is where the Accommodation letter would be necessary to send to faculty members to make sure videos are captioned or there are transcriptions available of the videos. For in class meetings, this means scheduling a captionist being present. Sometimes this can be difficult if the meetings are held online, via Skype or Zoom. If the faculty member is aware of the disability, most of the time they are very accommodating and understand if the student is not fully participating in the online meeting.
Fraternal Honor Societies for the Disabled
Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society (DAPi) was formed at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2004. The Honor Society became national in 2006 and gained 501(c)(3) non-profit exemption in 2008. The organization celebrates (and supports) college students with disabilities who have attained high academic achievement (Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society, 2019). Over 100 colleges and university have established chapters to distinguish student’s academic achievements.
The Honor Society purpose is combat negative stereotypes associated with students who have disabilities. DAPi wants to change the perception by honoring academic achievements. The Honor Society also wants to enable development of leadership skills, advocacy and education for members.
The national DAPi website states the Greek letters chosen have specified meaning to the organization. D is for Disability. The triangle stands for strength. Members show strength as campus leaders breaking down negative stereotypes, who also serve as mentors and role models for other students with disabilities. A is for Achievement. Alpha is the beginning letter and signifies academic achievement coming first. A also stands for students advocating for themselves, which in turn allows them to advocate for others. Pi stands for pride in academic accomplishments. Pi is also used in math classes and means education. This is turn means Society members contribute to educational community activities and society by advocating disability issues (Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society, 2019).
Membership to DAPi, for undergraduate and graduate students, is based on the following criteria: have a documented disability and work with one of the faculty or staff members of the campus Office of Disability Services. Or be a self-identified disabled individual. Must have an interest in disability issues. Undergraduate students must have minimum of 24 credits and overall Quality Point Average of 3.10 on a 4.00 scale. Graduate students must have completed minimum of 18 credits and overall Quality Point Average of 3.30 on a 4.00 scale (Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society, 2019).
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