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Accessible Education Center adapting to online environment

AEC Student Support associate Birgit Hoffman, seated, feeds some paper through a printer that creates tactile surfaces for visually impaired students to utilize while, from left, Chester Goad, AEC director; Tambra Sweet, coordinator; and Ed Beason, assistant director, look on.An extended spring break and the transition of classes going online will create some challenges around the Tennessee Tech campus.

For the staff of the Accessible Education Center, it’s a challenge that requires flexibility and creativity.

“On a typical, regular day, we would be making documents accessible for students who utilize our services,” said AEC Director Chester Goad. “We offer a large variety of services, from academic coaching, to housing and dining accommodations, live captioning services and much more.”

Currently, the AEC caters to 615 students – or 6 percent of the student population - who have a variety of disabilities, from visual limitations, hearing issues, and many others.

Over the last several days, the staff has been looking at how to communicate with faculty and students about the transition to online services.

“There is always a lot of coordination with regards to testing,” said Ed Beason, AEC assistant director. “We already work with faculty with the TN e-campus online classes, but we’re identifying those faculty and staff who have not signed up to do online classes and helping them figure this out.”

Occasionally, there are glitches with software used by AEC’s students, but that can be easily worked around.

Nearly 30 percent of AEC’s students are computer science majors. STEM majors, such as computer science, engineering and math, often present unique accessibility challenges.

They’re in talks to provide video remote interpreting (VRI) or live captioning for video classes.

 “We’ve created a number of recommendations we’re putting out to faculty and staff and other resources will be on our website,” Goad said. “This is definitely a challenge and we want to relieve any anxieties and fears students may have during this time.”

Information about the AEC and the various services offered can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/disability/index.php.

For more information regarding Tech’s response to COVID-19, go to https://www.tntech.edu/covid19/index.php.

 

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