MCLA students with registered disabilities can now access an Assistive Technology (AT) Lab in Mark Hopkins through a joint venture between the College’s Office of Disability Resources, its TRIO program, and funding from a Student Behavioral and Mental Health grant.
The AT Lab consists of accessible workspaces, assistive technology hardware, and software tools, and inviting study environments to foster independence and overcome technological barriers for students with various disabilities.
“This all came together because we recognize we need to consider students’ needs if we’re really going to help ensure access,” said Cindy MacDonald, MCLA director of disability resources. “The number of students here with disabilities is large. Twenty-five percent of our students are registered with our office, which includes a wide range of disabilities.”
Those disabilities include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), general learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, autism, and chronic progressive health issues.
The assistive technology lab addresses a variety of needs, from a simple pencil grip to high-tech Kurzweil software, “the Cadillac of assistive learning technology.” The software can interpret text and even converts textbooks into a digital format.
The computer lab is equipped with eight adjustable workstations — students can sit, stand, or access them from a wheelchair. LED lamps, preferred by those with vision issues, also serve as sanitizers for the work areas. Other hardware the College has been able to purchase with grant funds includes ergonomic keyboards and mouse balls — which can be used by those who are left-handed or need to control them with their feet — enlargers, dual QWERTY/Braille keyboards, and updated smartpens that record lectures and take photos.
Along with staff members, current students who work in the lab have been trained to use all the new technologies, including Paige Dufur ‘26, Office Assistant for Trio and Disability Services.
"Working in the AT lab at MCLA opened my eyes to all of the assistive technology that I never knew existed. Having disabilities, myself, it opened new and easier learning opportunities for me and all the other students at MCLA who come to the lab,” Dufur said. “It is a heartwarming experience working with the students and teaching them how to use the assistive technology. The best part about the lab, in my opinion, is that it is open to all students, faculty, and staff."
The Student Behavioral and Mental Health grant has also allowed the College to hire a part-time wellness educator, bring mental health experts to campus, train employees on Mental Health First Aid, a MindWise suicide prevention app, and bystander train-the-trainer workshops.
The AT Lab is in Mark Hopkins 111 and is a space for students registered with Disability Resources. Every Friday through July and August 2023, the Office of Disability Resources is hosting “First Year Fridays” – one-hour meetings from 3 to 4 p.m. – to answer frequently asked questions for first-year students with disabilities. Learn more at mcla.edu/disability-resources.
About the Office of Disability Resources
MCLA is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. We work to provide students with equitable access to all MCLA programs and services. Our philosophy and programs assist eligible students in fostering independence in college to the fullest extent possible, embracing self-advocacy, and in developing skills to transition and succeed in their careers. We believe that disability is a natural part of human variation and an essential aspect of diversity.
The Office of Disability Resources provides students with individualized support services based on the nature of the documented disability. An accessible testing center proctors exams for students with approved testing accommodations. Disability Resources also provides one-on-one personalized training on general technology and on assistive technology hardware/software.