Making Dreams Accessible
Miami Dade College delivers an enriching learning environment for all students through programs such as ACCESS (A Comprehensive Center for Exceptional Student Services), which provides auxiliary aid and services to students with disabilities at all eight campuses.
“ACCESS’s mission is to assist students to maximize their talent, skills and abilities and recognize disability as an aspect of diversity that is unique to each individual,” said Dr. Ken Marquard, ACCESS director at Wolfson Campus. “Many of the students we serve are among the most academically successful. Our priority always begins with ability, not disability.”
Reaching His Full Potential
José Manuel Domínguez is a true success story of how ACCESS taps the potential of students with disabilities and enables them to excel in all aspects of their lives.
Domínguez arrived at ACCESS as a student who had become blind as an adult. Already a talented playwright, actor and director, he wanted to pursue a degree in special education.
Through MDC’s ACCESS, he received enrollment and registration assistance and was assigned a resource advisor who continued to assess his needs throughout his academic program. ACCESS also made sure that screen-reading software was installed on all computers Domínguez used at MDC and provided a note taker for his classes.
Model for Employment
Doing its part to make sure students have a well-rounded experience, ACCESS also encouraged him to take service-learning classes, join student organizations and participate in community service. He later received job training through the College’s MEED (Model for Enhanced Employment Development) Program, which helps students with disabilities transition to careers.
MEED adds a crucial component toward employability through its training, career preparation, internships and job placement assistance, often resulting in a career for MDC students in advanced and technical fields in both private and public community entities.
Domínguez became the first MEED student placed in an AmeriCorps program within the American Red Cross, and his success later opened the door for three more MDC students with disabilities to join the Red Cross. He now works as a placement specialist for the MEED program and helps other students find rewarding internships or memberships in AmeriCorps or other agencies. He has become an inspiration to other students of all walks of life seeking assistance through ACCESS.
“ACCESS truly does make it possible for students who have disabilities to graduate by providing a range of support services that are essential,” said Paul Edwards, ACCESS Director at North Campus. “However, we do something far more important. We create in our students a belief that they can succeed. We give them the tools that will let them go on from college to live the rest of their lives knowing they can be successful.”
Most artworks have a strict no-touch policy, but a unique tactile art exhibition crafted by ceramics and sculpture students at MDC’s New World School of the Arts (NWSA) bucks that trend.
With a focus on sharing art with everyone, including those who are blind or visually impaired, the Do Touch exhibition is a collection of hanging and free-standing sculptures placing emphasis on textural changes that are both visually and tactilely pleasing.
Designing for the Senses
“The project was a tremendous undertaking for the NWSA students who had to consider their audience in a unique way and develop forms and themes understandable by touch alone,” said Dr. Ken Marquard, director of MDC’s ACCESS program at Wolfson Campus.
The ACCESS-MEED Center is home to the William Berger Gallery, which will display the pieces through the end of the spring semester. The gallery, established in 2003 with private funding obtained by ACCESS sign-language interpreter Susan Miller, traditionally showcases works by individuals with disabilities, especially those with hearing impairments. This newest exhibition takes a unique approach.
“It’s another way to highlight the abilities of our students,” Marquard said.
— HP, AMS
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