Helping students make it through physical barriers to education.

Marshall Cowell
Lansing Community College Lead Tutor

The student interaction I feel had an impact on me as a tutor was when I started working with a blind student on statistics. This student was completely blind and was taking statistics for the second time. They had dropped out early the first time they took the course because they were unable to read and interpret graphs. I attempted to explain verbally what the graph illustrated, but that quickly became cumbersome. A picture is truly worth a thousand words. We then tried using glue that would dry on the lines so the individual could feel where the lines were and that worked for some time. I thought this would be effective since many blind people use touch to feel out shapes and text. The communication of the image through touch was somewhat more natural for the student. In order to facilitate this level of support from me and other tutors, the Learning Commons set up on-going appointments to help this student.

An additional roadblock we ran into while helping this student was that the online homework client was not as accessible as the student needed it to be. I then found myself going back to verbally explaining graphics on the computer screen. The Learning Commons then got in touch with the Center for Student Access to find a workaround for this issue. The Center for Student Access was able to loan the Learning Commons a braille machine and embossing machine with thermal paper and markers. This machine would cause sections of the thermal paper that were marked to puff up, thus allowing students to feel the pictures that were drawn. This meant there was no need to wait for glue to dry. With all of these useful resources, and the help of tutors such as myself, this student was able to pass their class.

I feel glad we were and are able to help students with such diverse needs from physical disabilities to language barriers, regardless of age or previous education background. These individuals need a place like Lansing Community College to help them meet their education aspirations and life goals, and services such as the Learning Commons and Center for Student Access to help the along the way.