Brooklyn College

Posted on December 1, 2011

Meeting the Needs of Urban Students with Disabilities

As an urban, public institution that is part of the City University of New York, Brooklyn College holds true to its mission of ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access to all campus facilities, curriculum, and activities. The College accomplishes this by providing accommodations and services to students with disabilities so they are able to participate in all educational opportunities and meet the standards set by the College. Since 1983, the Newcombe Foundation has partnered with Brooklyn College in support of scholarships for students with disabilities.

The Center for Student Disability Services: Working to meet student needs

Brooklyn College is recognized for its academic excellence, innovative programs, urban engagement and commitment to students with disabilities. The Center for Student Disability Services’ primary focus is to provide students with reasonable disability-related accommodations and with the resources necessary to manage the challenges of their everyday lives. By working collaboratively with college offices and academic departments to ensure an accessible campus, the Center for Student Disability Services maximizes each student’s opportunity for academic success.

The Center for Student Disability Services works very closely with the Office of Equity and Diversity to guarantee that the College remains in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act of 1990(ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and all other pertinent legislation. The Director of the Center for Student Disability Services co-chairs the 504/ADA Advisory Committee which meets twice each year to assess and recommend policies and procedures, and to monitor compliance with federal, state, and local disability laws.

A student using a CCTV (Closed Circuit Television Video Magnifier) in the Center.
A student using a CCTV (Closed Circuit Television Video Magnifier) in the Center.

The Center has also collaborated with the Magner Center for Career Development and Internships on the continuation of the CUNY LEADS Project, which is a unique program created to provide students with disabilities with the skills needed to make realistic choices that result in successful career outcomes. The Project provides a LEADS counselor, whose office is located in the Center, to provide career counseling, internship assistance, job preparedness and much more. All services are free and individualized for each eligible student.

Support for student tutoring is a growing need for students with disabilities at Brooklyn College. Although traditional college tutoring may not be the most effective tutoring style for students with disabilities, the Disability Center works with the Learning Center in addressing these challenges. Through its Personal Counseling Center, the Center for Student Disability Services helps students improve their time-management skills and connects them with personal tutors. Some of these students work well with assistive technologies like Inspiration, which helps to improve organizational skills by structuring ideas for written communication.

Assistive technology is used to increase, maintain and improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology has become instrumental in promoting independence and has revolutionized how students access and process information. One of the goals of the Center for Student Disability Services is to promote awareness and provide training in the use of assistive technology as an effective tool to academic access. CUNY’S one-stop resource for assistive technology information, training materials and news (CUNY Assistive Technology Services) can be found at CATSWeb’s goal is “to stay on the forefront of assistive technology and provide support for those technologies used by students with disabilities who attend the various CUNY campuses.”

A Charlotte Newcombe Scholar using Kurzweil Software that changes a flat document into an editable digital file.
A Charlotte Newcombe Scholar using Kurzweil Software that changes a flat document into an editable digital file.

Special challenges faced by students with disabilities at Brooklyn College

The ability to pay tuition remains the greatest impediment to the continued studies of students with disabilities at Brooklyn College. Last spring, CUNY (City University of New York) unexpectedly increased in-state tuition by 5% to just under $5,000 each year for undergraduates. Considering that nearly 65% of Brooklyn College students come from households with an annual income below $40,000, tuition now represents over 10% of the average Brooklyn College student’s gross household income. Clearly, paying tuition becomes a significant burden for those students with disabilities who often need other costly services and equipment to fully participate in the academic process.

As the student population increases and the need for costly accommodations grows, the state-funded operating budget remains stagnant. The College strives to provide superior services with limited resources. Some of the College’s Newcombe Support Scholarships address disability-related needs that lie beyond tuition and are not coverable by public agencies and/or other available financial resources.

Fundraising for Students with Disabilities at Brooklyn College

For its 50th Reunion in 2010, the Brooklyn College Class of 1960 chose to earmark its class gift of approximately $6,500 to support the Center for Student Disability Services. This gift has been used to upgrade the Center’s assistive technology lab with Smart pens, portable scanners, magnifiers, and other adaptive software.

Thanks to the generosity and collaboration between the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation and the family of the late Frederick L. Westover, the Brooklyn College Foundation was able to transform an initial pledge of $5,000 from the Westover family into a permanent endowment of $25,000 which will provide future generations of visually challenged students with opportunities to succeed at Brooklyn College. The new fund is called the Frederick L. Westover-Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation Scholarship for Visually Challenged Students in Memory of Dean Mario E. Cosenza.

For further information about Brooklyn College and its Academic Support Services for students with disabilities, please visit their website.