TJC hosts college tour for area students with blindness/visual impairment | TJC

TJC hosts college tour for area students with blindness/visual impairment

The Region 7 Education Service Center, East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, and TJC recently held a tour and discussion on the TJC central campus for area students who are blind or visually impaired.

Participating students were from six Region 7 school districts, including Hallsville ISD, Henderson ISD, Marshall ISD, Longview ISD, Quitman ISD and Tyler ISD.
“We want our students to have the confidence to choose college, if that is their desired path after graduation,” said Region 7 Specialist Lannette Burlingame, who works closely with Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists.
“A visual impairment should not restrict students from following their dreams to pursue college and, eventually, a career. This also includes our students who want to pursue skilled certifications. They just need to know what is available and how to access it after graduation.”
She said Region 7 offers monthly events as part of an expanded core curriculum, covering nine areas of student development: assistive technology, career education, compensatory skills, independent living skills, orientation and mobility skills, recreation and leisure, self-determination, sensory efficiency and social interaction skills.
“Trips like this help our students better understand how to access the office of disabilities at the college level,” she said. “It also allows them to practice their orientation and mobility skills in an unfamiliar environment as they learn to navigate a college campus.”
In addition to a campus tour guided by a TJC student ambassador, students had the learning opportunity to use their magnification devices to read a menu, order and pay for their own lunch at one of the campus restaurants.
After lunch, the students gathered in the TJC Board Room to hear from a panel of current and former college students with visual impairments.
MK Kahrhoff, college and career readiness counselor with East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, began the discussion by explaining what is offered through disability services offices on college campuses.
“They will approve your academic accommodations and help to coordinate it. They also have another very big role, which is to be an advocate or a mediator,” Kahrhoff said.
Accommodations are individualized for each student but may include:
• large-print copies of assignments and tests
• leaving a class a few minutes early to allow the student extra time to navigate campus to get to their next class
• professors posting slides from their lectures online
• using the testing center to take a test at an alternate time since the test might take longer for the student and not allow time to get to their next class
“Professors don’t generally have the background and training that some of your current teachers have had,” she said. “That’s why we need a disability services office. They can explain your accommodations, and they’re the people who should be on your call list on your phones.”
Chance Agorastos, a TJC general studies major from League City, said, “The biggest difference between going from high school to college is you are responsible for your own schedule. No one holds you accountable to go to class; you are accountable to yourself.”
He also stressed the importance of contacting the institution’s disability services office early on for assistance with academic accommodations.
“Through the disability services office, it’s much more customizable to get what you need that will help you the most,” he added.
After the event, Marshall student Eric Perkins said, “I want to be a computer coder in the future, and today I have learned that I will need to be more independent and do more things myself.”
Agorastos said, “I think this is a very helpful event for people thinking about coming to college, and I hope they keep doing it. This event didn’t exist when I was getting ready to choose a college, but TJC has been really good at helping me every step of the way.”

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