Serving Students with Disabilities
By Erin Jayes, Community Engagement Assistant, AmeriCorps Public Ally
This article is part of an ongoing series about our service to people with disabilities in the D.C. Metro area. We will be profiling incredible students, instructors, and staff who have had a profound impact on the way we think about disability in our city. Read the first part here.
“Team Indestructible, what is this part of the computer called?” AmeriCorps Instructor Emily Morazan asked as she pointed to an image projected on the wall.
“The tower!” shouted Joe.
Emily turned to Team 3D: “What about this?” she asked, pointing to another image.
AmeriCorps Instructor Emily Morazan turns her PC for Beginners lessons into games as often as possible. This class, which includes students with disabilities, has challenged Emily to analyze her teaching style and to reexamine how she communicates lessons to her students.
She strives to create a multisensory environment, making sure that lessons are effective for auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners. Her approach reinforces the concepts her students are learning through trivia games and interactive review, and she creates plenty of opportunities for students to repeat what they are learning verbally, which students love.
On this day, Emily’s students were learning how to find music on YouTube. Curtis Riley, a quiet student who sits toward the front of the class, revealed how much he enjoys listening to Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. “These are the classics. They don’t write lyrics like this anymore,” he reminisced.
In addition to searching the Internet for entertainment, Curtis said, “I am learning to use the Internet to fill out applications and better myself.”
Meanwhile, student Antonio Lewis is learning how to use Google to further his education for personal and professional improvement. “With Google,” he said, “I can look up more classes to take, like acting and GED (classes).”
Emily is currently assisting Byte Back with incorporating more assistive technology in the classroom, like specially designed keyboards and programs that read text to visually impaired students. She has also enlisted help from the AmeriCorps team to design a curriculum specially geared toward students with disabilities.
“We need to learn about how to optimize the learning environment for people with disabilities,” said Neil Rickard, Registrar at Byte Back.
“I am firmly of the belief that our classes can allow people to explore things for themselves,” he said. “Even if our classes don’t always lead a student to employment, the ability to use the Internet can allow a student to communicate with loved ones, research a health problem that they may be experiencing, fill out an application, and more.”