Michael Miller returned to college two years ago at age 58, determined to get the business degree that had eluded him.
But degenerative joint disease and vision problems caused by a training accident while Miller was an army flight instructor made keeping up with classwork a challenge, and Miller considered giving up.
“I wasn’t meeting my academic standards,” Miller said. “I was thinking, this isn’t working out.”
Then Miller connected with Terry Watson, academic adviser and disability contact liaison for Penn State’s online World Campus, who helped him find accommodations he didn’t know existed, such as Kurzweil software that can enlarge fonts and help pace reading by highlighting or reading aloud texts. Miller is also allowed to delay exams and quizzes on days when his pain gets too bad. “It’s made an incredible difference,” said Miller, who expects to graduate this month. “Within one semester I went on the dean’s list and I’ve been on it ever since.”
World Campus, which has a greater percentage of students with hearing or vision impairments than any other Penn State campus, is nationally recognized as a leader in making online education accessible to students with disabilities.
About 200 World Campus students, including a growing number of veterans, are identified as needing some kind of accommodation, many of them for vision or hearing impairments or psychological disabilities. While students may assume that online classes are automatically accessible to students with disabilities, in fact a lot of work goes into making that true, said Anita Colyer Graham, manager of access for Penn State World Campus. “All that magic happens behind the scenes,” she said.