scrabble tiles spelling out "support"

Take a look at what DSS offers and who these services are for.

College is one of the most challenging life milestones you’ll ever take on. And if you struggle with any sort of learning or other disability, it can be that much harder. That’s why it’s so important for any student who has a diagnosed disability to visit Disability Support Services (DSS) at FRCC (or any college) as early as possible in their educational journey.

With offices on each of FRCC’s three campuses, the DSS teams are available to help students be successful and reduce disability-related barriers so they can have equitable access to the learning environment.

Students Are Their Own Advocates

For students coming to FRCC straight from high school, it’s important to know that your Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan doesn’t transfer over to college. That means your teachers won’t know you have a disability unless you initiate the process. So, in order to make sure your professors can accommodate your needs, it’s important to reach out and contact your campus Disability Support Services office.

“Students don’t always realize that the accommodations they had in high school do not transfer to college, so they must declare their disability with our office and follow procedures to get the accommodations that they request,” says Megan Wolff, director of DSS at FRCC’s Larimer Campus.

There’s no reason to be nervous—DSS staff are available to help you. Taking this first step helps you make sure you’re getting the appropriate accommodations and services you need in this brand-new college environment. By taking the initiative to visit DSS on your own, the staff there can help you get the support you need.

“Unlike in high school, the school does not initiate services for the student,” Wolff adds. “Students in college are considered adults who must self-advocate and monitor their own progress.”

Many Things Qualify as Disabilities

A lot of people don’t realize that any type of diagnosis that impacts a student’s learning is considered a disability.

“That includes learning disabilities as well as the physical or mental impairments that limit students in school,” Wolff says. “Students with any type of mental health disorder qualify as well. In the past year with COVID-19, we have seen a significant increase in the number of students who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder, often concurring with some other type of diagnosis. We encourage these students to come visit us too.”

Individualized Services for Each Student

Peggy Copeland, director of DSS at FRCC’s Boulder County Campus, says that services offered are definitely not one-size-fits-all. “The way we support students is very individualized for what each student needs,” she says. “We also try to eliminate any stigma associated with asking for support. Some students need extended time on tests or a less distracting environment for testing, but many students just need to learn about themselves and what works best for them in school.”

Copeland says that during the last year, DSS has found that learning in a remote classroom wasn’t easy for a lot of students. “Many students found they benefited greatly from assistive technology support,” she says. “Everyone is different—and at DSS we enjoy unraveling the puzzle of barriers to identify appropriate accommodations unique to that student and their learning needs. It’s a privilege to be a part of that process.”

Raymond Carleton, director of DSS at FRCC’s Westminster Campus agrees. “Our biggest goal as a DSS team is to help students learn to accept themselves and how they learn,” he says. “We want to move students past the frustration with their disability and instead focus on how to develop their study, testing and other academic skills and develop themselves as mature adults.”

More Than Just Extra Test Time

Here’s a list of some of the types of accommodations that Disability Support Services can offer:

  • Extended testing time
  • Reduced distraction environment
  • Assisted testing (wherein a student can use assistive technology to have a computer read test questions aloud—and verbalize answers back to the computer for dictation—or receive help from a DSS staff person for reading questions aloud)
  • Note taking services provided by student peers
  • Alternative text formats (such as e-text or Braille)
  • Interpreting services (for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, both for classes and on-campus activities)
  • Assistive technology (such as hands-free personal computers, screen readers, screen magnifiers and scanners to convert printed documents to electronic text)

Read about students’ and faculty’s rights and responsibilities at FRCC.

Can DSS Help You?

“We want students to know who we are and that we are here for them,” says Carleton. “These are specialized, individualized services that we are so proud to offer students.”

“We serve a wide spectrum of people,” he adds. “We set students up with accommodations that they need, whether they are a traditional student or an older student who was diagnosed with a disability later in life. And with all of them, our goal is to talk about their desired student experience and empower students to succeed.”

If you’re an FRCC student who thinks you might qualify for services, the college’s DSS directors suggest calling the Office of Disability Services at your campus to ask questions and find out more:

Boulder County Campus | Peggy Copeland | (303) 678-3643

Larimer Campus | Megan Wolff | (970) 204-8657

Westminster Campus | Raymond Carleton | (303) 404-5302

So don’t be shy. If you’re at all unsure about whether DSS can help in your situation, don’t hesitate to call. FRCC’s Disability Services staff cares about your success and wants to support your learning. The team can help you access many resources for people with disabilities.

They’re always happy to talk—even if it’s just to explore your options. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but this one is definitely worth it.

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