SAS uses new technology to improve accessibility — The Hofstra Chronicle

Amid new technology being implemented by Student Access Services, students are raising concerns about classroom accommodation. // Ahjané Forbes / The Hofstra Chronicle.

Each year, Hofstra University’s Student Access Services continually work to update accessibility on campus. Hofstra has made some advances on campus with students with disabilities in mind. While some students appreciate the changes, they still have placement issues.

Otter.ai is one of the latest technological advances implemented by Student Access Services. It’s an app that allows students to drag and drop electronic PowerPoint slides into a note-taking app while simultaneously transcribing what the professor is saying. This gives more options to students who have trouble following a professor’s lecture. Students have said that while the app is a great concept, it could be improved.

“From my perspective, it seems like a great accessibility tool for people who may be hard of hearing or even people with auditory processing disorders,” said Hannah Cohen, a sophomore psychology student and a member of Hofstra’s Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring (TRAUM) group. “But it seems that the program needs to be improved to better pick up on things that professors and/or classmates are saying.”

Otter.ai was also praised for its universal design, accessible to people regardless of disability.

Additionally, in August, the Hofstra Card Services Office began implementing Tap ID readers across campus with the intention of making ID cards more accessible and user-friendly.

“It’s very good and it’s helping a lot of people,” said Maria Llave, a disabled writing and criminology major who uses a motorized wheelchair to get around campus. “At least for me, mopping was uncomfortable.”

Bianca St. Onge, a junior psychologist major, has ADHD. SAS allows her to change attendance, which means she is not penalized if she has to miss a class because of her disability. However, according to St. Onge, professors are allowed to refuse placement and cannot change attendance.

“During the first two weeks of school, those with this accommodation are encouraged to meet with the professor to make an attendance arrangement,” St Onge said. “I was told that if one of my professors refused my accommodation to cancel the course, this would make this course inaccessible to me.”

Hannah Alfasso, a dual early childhood education/primary education and global studies major who is also a member of DREAM, is a Resident Safety Officer. She is responsible for maintaining security in the dormitories. During her time in this role, she has witnessed how broken elevators and the lounges did not have automatic doors, limiting access to the dormitories for physically challenged students. Alfasso said it felt like “a cruel joke”.

Colin Sullivan, director of communications for student enrollment, engagement and success, said if a faculty member determines a student needs housing, they can contact Julie Yindra, the director of SAS.

“This is a big campus with a lot of people — all with different needs and experiences,” Yindra said. “The only way we can continue to improve the access we provide is for people to come to us and tell us if there’s a problem.”

Although Hofstra is taking steps to create a more accessible campus, students have made it clear that more housing is needed.

Some of these include updates to the Otter.ai app, various parameters related to changing attendance so classes are not inaccessible, and more awareness of how elevators and sliding doors in dormitories work.

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