Disability Services Helps Restricted Students with Changes

Jessica Basile, American Sign Language professor at YSU, expressing solutions to teaching students both in-person and online. Photo by Jessica Stamp

By Jessica Stamp

Youngstown State University’s Disability Services office assists students with disabilities in regard to the changes in their classes.

Gina McGranahan, associate director of Disability Services, said the office assists students with any physical, psychological and educational challenges based on individual needs.

Since many classes went online, the college experience is easier for some physically restricted students, according to McGranahan.

“Many students stay home and do everything virtual, except for tests. Then the student comes to the office and sees two of the five testing rooms because of COVID-19,” McGranahan said.

She said if a physically restricted student needs to be on campus for a class, Disability Services can help with accommodations, such as transportation assistance between classes.

“[Students with disabilities] … have found the online environment fabulous for them,” McGranahan said.

She said some students with autism like the face-to-face interaction with professors and others prefer online classes.

“Just like anybody else, it depends on the person and what their strengths and weaknesses are as to what they like and what they don’t like,” McGranahan said.

For hearing impaired students, online classes allow them to adjust the volume to hear better.

“If remote and taped, they can listen to it again and turn it up as loud if they need to,” McGranahan said.

Jessica Basile, American Sign Language professor at YSU, expressing solutions to teaching students both in-person and online. Photo by Jessica Stamp

For on-campus classes, hearing-impaired students have found it difficult to read lips due to wearing masks, McGranahan said. Disability Services provided professors with clear masks. 

Jessica Basile, an American Sign Language (ASL) professor, said wearing the clear masks can make it more difficult for most of her students with traditional hearing capabilities to read her lips. As part of the ASL instruction, lip reading is important because it helps indicate certain words; but with the masks on, the students cannot see it. 

“I tried teaching in [the clear masks], but they don’t stay clear for very long. They fog up and it’s a constant wiping it out,” Basile said. 

To help ASL students grasp the material better, Basile uploads additional information, with her mask off, turning to the side and signing. 

“Teaching students to communicate a hearing-disabled language online has been more challenging because teaching a 3D language through a 2D screen makes it harder for the students to understand and retain the information,” Basile said. 

Logan Mitchell, senior psychology major, said going online for the ASL class was difficult because of technical issues. 

“It is a little more frustrating now since you are missing the non-manual markers that you get from the mouth,” Mitchell said. 

She said she’s always been interested in ASL.

“I found a language that uses hands for words and signs and found that interesting,” Mitchell said.