August 10, 2021
For many disabled students across California’s colleges and universities, one thing is clear as a new school year approaches: It helps to have options.
The 2020-21 academic year, featuring mostly distance learning, was a mixed bag for disabled students. Taking courses online was a struggle for some, such as students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, many of whom missed the structure of in-person classes.
But there were also positive elements of distance learning for some students, including many with physical disabilities. With most classes held on Zoom, students said they appreciated that lectures were often recorded, allowing them to re-watch and catch up if they missed some or all of a class.
Not having to report physically to class was another upside for students like Araceli Ramos, who received her bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Long Beach in the spring. Ramos, who is now pursuing her master’s in history at the same campus, is legally blind and relies on public transportation to get to in-person classes. It’s typically a two-hour bus commute from her home in Maywood, a city in Southeast Los Angeles, to the Long Beach campus.
“It’s really not convenient,” Ramos said in an interview.
Brianne Kennedy, director of the Disability Support Programs and Services center at San Diego Community College District, said there are also many students for whom distance learning isn’t ideal.
Kennedy said that in the San Diego district, there was a 30% drop in enrollment among disabled students between fall 2019 and fall 2020 — compared to a decline of 8% among the district’s non-disabled student population.