In the News
UTB INTERPRETERS HELP HEARING-IMPAIRED STUDENTS
From: Article from Brownsville Herald.
James Ponce needed some time to acclimate himself to his college lessons when he first arrived at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
The 24-year-old, who is hard of hearing, never felt the need to use a sign language interpreter in his high school classes.
“I had this mentality where I thought I didn’t need them,” Ponce said. “I can be like anyone else. Why do I need this special attention?”
That mentality changed after his first semester at UTB.
Ponce quickly admitted to himself that if he was going to be able to pass his courses he would need a sign language interpreter there.
“I was missing a lot of stuff,” he said. “My classes were not the same after high school.”
The smaller, classroom-style classes made way for auditorium-style courses at UTB, where he often missed questions other students were asking, he said.
Ponce is one of three UTB students who use the interpretation services the university offers.
Disability Services has two full-time interpreters and two other part-time interpreters on staff, said Julie Armendariz, a sign language interpreter there.
She and Maria Cabanillas, in addition to the part-timers, balance the courses of all three students, one of whom only takes online courses.
Armendariz said she took an American Sign Language course in college and was hooked from day one.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do from then on,” she said.
Cabanillas’ case was different.
She lost the hearing in her left ear at age 3, she said. When she was 8 or 9 a doctor advised her to learn to sign because eventually she would lose all of her hearing.
“I started learning the alphabet and the numbers but I got frustrated not long after,” Cabanillas said. “It was too hard learning a new language.”
Later in college at UTB, Cabanillas began going to a bible group that spoke in sign language. That’s where she picked up the language, she said.
Now when Cabanillas and Armendariz are deep in conversation, the two sometimes sign while they talk.
Admittedly, they said, it’s hard to stop even when they aren’t working.
“I love the language,” Armendariz. Said. “I love being able to express myself with the language.”
One of Armendariz’s most memorable moments was when she was given a sign for her name. People don’t name themselves; instead they are christened by someone within the deaf community. Cabanillas’s sign is the letter “M” for Maria set on her cheek with a circular motion that’s representative of her characteristically rosy cheeks.
During a recent class, Ponce, a psychology student, sat and listened to his professor, Jaime Cano, lecture about Sigmund Freud, Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner.
Cabanillas sat directly in his line of vision and signed while Cano spoke. Because Ponce is not deaf, he is able to listen to the professor and if he misses something he can double-check with Cabanillas, who is about five to eight seconds behind the spoken word.
Ponce prefers that Cabanillas use signed exact English, instead of ASL. ASL relays concepts, whereas signed exact English is a system where interpreters sign each word in the order they’re spoken.
Initially, Ponce said, it was a bit difficult to try to focus on two things at the same time, but he quickly got used to it.
He hopes eventually to become a licensed professional counselor who can help people who are deaf feel comfortable expressing their problems without the need of an interpreter.
And though he was once hesitant to seek the help of interpretative services, Ponce himself has begun working as an interpreter.
“People are mostly astounded,” he said. “They say, ‘How can you do that? Can you hear?’ They are amazed that I can do what I do.”
And that’s something he strives to do.
“I kind of advocate the famous saying that deaf people can do anything.”
Graduate Overcomes, Lands Job
Ana Cavazos | February 24, 2014| The Collegian
Teamwork among Division of Student Affairs employees helped a hearing-impaired UT-Brownsville graduate land a job.
Ramiro Espinoza, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2011, was hired Jan. 8 as an information technology specialist by Codysur Inc., a trucking company located in San Benito.
Espinoza said his previous job hunts proved to be difficult, after going to several interviews and not being hired.
“I went through 15 different interviews, but nothing came about from those,” he told The Collegien in a video phone interview Feb 16.
In early January, Mario Torres, coordinator for employment relations for UTB’s Career Services Department, received a call from the trucking company’s human resources department requesting an information technology specialist who could start working immediately.
Diana Cardiel, an instructional specialist for the Office of Disability Services, overheard Torres’ conversation because both departments shared office space in Cortez Hall.
“I am like, ‘Oh my gosh, who do I know computer science, computer information, and I immediately thought of Ramiro,” Cardiel said.
She told Torres she knew someone who could fill the position.
“You know, Mario has a very larger-than-life personality,” Cardiel said. “I mean, it’s a small office, we work together. Because we are neighbors, I heard of the opportunity and it worked out.”
Cardiel then spoke to Sign Language Interpreter Maria Cabanillas, who contacted Espinoza and informed him of the job.
“Mary then contacted Ramiro via text message and then Ramiro contacted Mario via e-mail and then from there, you know, he got his résumé turned in right away and I think two days later, he got the job,” Cardiel said.
Torres said Espinoza’s qualifications fit the job description.
“I looked at the résumé [and] I think the résumé was an outstanding résumé, and I feel this person was just the right fit for the company,” Torres said.
He called the company and told them “I think I know what you’re looking for.”
After Espinoza proved to have all the skills necessary in the field, Codysur Inc. hired him.
Cardiel said it is hard for students with disabilities to find employment after graduation. She said they often get turned down by employers because of their disability, even if they are prepared for the job.
“I know that we have a lot of students that, you know, are out there. You know, they’re graduates, they’re perfectly capable to do the job but they don’t have that opportunity,” she said. “Nobody is really giving them the opportunity to work. They go to interviews and they get turned away because of the disability.”
Espinoza works with Codysur’s technology systems.
“I had to set up things and coordinate, as far as the e-mails with the systems, user names and passwords, new clients who are with the company,” he said. “I have to install hardware and software. I have to connect, really, everything—the server to laptops—and then also I manage the security for Internet blocks and things like that.”
Asked how he communicates with people at work, Espinoza replied: “Writing back and forth, or we use our phones, we text each other. We’ll actually stand face to face and text each other … and then also instant messaging as well.”
He also reads lips.
Espinoza is grateful for the opportunity given him by the company.
“I’m very comfortable,” he said of his job. “In the beginning I have to say I was quite nervous. I didn’t know what to do, but as time went on and progressed, then I felt very comfortable with the company. This is my first job, so I was initially nervous. And it’s a full-time position as well.”
The Symphony of Triumph: Engineering Department Helps Music Student Achieve His Dream
Rick Saldivar | March 1, 2013| The Collegian
Senior music major Juan Torres tests the prototype of a device developed in collaboration with students from the Engineering Department that will allow him to play pieces that require the use of the acoustic piano’s pedals
A group of engineering students has created a device that will allow senior music major Juan Torres, who was born without the use of his legs, to play a wider range of compositions that requires the use of the acoustic piano’s pedals.Kenneth Saxon, an associate professor in the Music Department, approached Engineering Department Chair William Berg after searching for possible solutions for Torres to be able to use the piano’s pedals.
“Juan Torres went to high school in Brownsville—he went to Lopez. He came to UTB and he was a student of Ms. Mina Kramer. When Ms. Kramer went to Dallas, he became my student,” Saxon said during an interview with The Collegian. “The pedal is a fundamental part of the piano. One composer said the pedal was the soul of the piano and Juan had always played it beautifully but he did not have access to the pedal and I dreamed that one day we could somehow provide that idea.”
After acquiring some ideas from the Internet, Saxon presented the challenge to Berg, who presented the project to then-freshman engineering students.
Saxon explained that the piano, which was first made around 1709, is similar to the harpsichord. But unlike the harpsichord, which plucks the strings, the piano hammers the strings. At the time the piano was developed, the pedal was not an important part of it.
“… But as the technology developed, the pedal became an important part of the piano. … Composers started writing compositions that required the pedal,” Saxon said.
He said Torres had been limited to performing selections from the first 100 years of piano music, which did not rely entirely on the pedal.
“I wanted him to play all of the piano music and for that he would need the pedal,” Saxon said.
Ever since Berg presented the project to the engineering students, Michael R. Espinoza, a junior engineering physics-bioengineering major, and other students have been working closely with Torres to perfect a device that will allow him to easily play a wider range of music.
“There’s a couple of people involved,” said Espinoza, who is the group leader. “It started in the fall of 2010, [and] it started off with Dr. Saxon practicing with Juan. They had the idea and Dr. Saxon came over to the Engineering Department, talked to Dr. Berg about the whole project idea and Dr. Berg from there presented us freshmen this project.”
Although the group has gone through four major stages in their project, Torres had already tried another device found by Saxon on the Internet.
“It was like a seatbelt and it was controlled by your air,” he said. “When you breathe out and breathe in, you lose a lot of energy, air, and it had to be a lot of extra work. It reacted pretty fast, but I was not comfortable. It was only for electric pianos. It was not for acoustic pianos.”
Since then, the engineering students and Torres have developed different devices that led to their latest prototype.
“We’ve gone through a couple of different devices where like one of them was just some two-by-fours nailed together suspending this motor type of thing,” Espinoza said. “Right now, we’ve actually just finished working some tweaks on the shop. That’s what we’re going to use to present in the concert we’re going to have on April 4th. We’re going to make sure to have backup systems and everything like that.”
Espinoza explained that the prototype consists of a few main parts.
“There’s one big main piece of it and that gets positioned at the main pedal of a piano. ... Basically, this device is positioned there and works with a motor that presses the pedal,” he said. “The part that interacts with Juan is a receiver, which receives the signal from a wireless remote controller that he wears. This remote control is connected to a bite switch, which basically looks like the end of a pen, and whenever Juan bites the switch, it closes the circuit and it tells the pedal ‘OK, push …’ depending on whatever Juan needs for a certain section of the music.”
He added that the bite switch was found on a parachuting website. Parachutists use the bite switch when they skydive and take pictures as they fall. Conceptus, the company that makes the switch, donated one to the group after they described their project.
Torres is thankful to Espinoza and the Engineering Department for their help.
“You can play the piano without a pedal, but not a lot of pieces,” he said. “There’s some composers, like Mozart and the Classical and Baroque eras, where you don’t need the pedal, but once you come into the Romantic era or the 20th century era, there you need a pedal because there’s a wide range of keys where you need to sustain a key, while you’re playing other keys. … When I wanted to play Romantic music, I couldn’t play it because I needed the pedal. It was essential to play it.”
He explained that the latest device created by the group has allowed him to play music that he could not play before and how much of a difference this will have in his development as a pianist.
Torres’ upcoming concert featuring classical music at 7 p.m. April 4 in the Arts Center will debut the group’s latest prototype. Admission is free.
Nothing can stop them
Students discuss disabilities during ‘In Our Shoes’ panel
by Viridiana Zúñiga - The Collegian - October 29, 2012
Four UTB/TSC students shared the daily challenges of having a disability with an audience of students and faculty during a panel discussion last Tuesday.
The 12th annual “In Our Shoes” panel, held in the SET-B third-floor conference room, addressed the situations students with impediments have to overcome every day.
Yvette Villarreal, an accounting freshman, was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age. This learning difficulty primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling, according to the website dyslexiaaction.org.
“It is overwhelming when it comes to tests, when it comes to learning,” Villarreal said. “… Teachers would help me with more time with tests, modifying the tests. … I was transposing numbers, the word, the letter, but I was getting my subjects. I knew what I was doing; I just was learning it differently, at a slower pace.”
When Villarreal was told that going to college was a waste of time and money, she thought that she would have to try twice as hard.
“I said, ‘All that I need is a little bit of help,’” she said.
Panelist Bryan Abanilla, a management senior, has macular degeneration, a chronic eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of the field of vision.
“Everything is blurry beyond 2 or 3 feet, after that I can tell sort of what the object is, but definitionwise, I can’t tell what it is,” Abanilla said.
He was diagnosed at age 6.
“I grew up kind of in what I like to call the ‘technological black ages,’ which basically were just pen and paper,” Abanilla said. “So I would always get a big black marker and paper and just write it giant; that’s how I would learn.”
Today, he uses a video magnifier, or closed-circuit television system (CCTV), to read texts in books and computers.
“As far as life in the university, everything has gone pretty smoothly,” Abanilla said. “… My case has been pretty smooth, according to the plan. Everything worked out how it was supposed to work out, and so I was very fortunate in that aspect.”
Asked by Chamberlain how life in college is different from high school, Abanilla replied: “In high school everything’s done for you, your exams, everything is set for you in the classroom. In college it’s kind of like, ‘All right, [Disability Services Coordinator] Steve Wilder is somewhere, go find him and talk it up, and see what he can do for you.’”
Daniel Skaines, an exercise science sophomore, took a moment to honor a friend who died that same day in the battlefield in Afghanistan.
“I’m a little different from some of the people here, because I wasn’t diagnosed with anything when I was little,” Skaines said. “What I suffer from is more a mental illness or disorder called PTSD, which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI, which is Traumatic Brain Injury.”
While he was in the U.S. Army, Skaines was injured in combat several times, but he did not experience any changes until he went back to college.
“I recently realized that some of the things I used to be good at, like math, I used to be very good at math, I’m not so good at it anymore,” he said. “Because I suffer from a short-term memory deficiency, if you tell me something, I remember during our conversation, but, if I walk away from that conversation, chances are I’m going to forget it.”
Skaines said this condition affects his schoolwork and personal life.
“Sometimes, I get angry faster than I should,” he said. “I don’t have outbursts or anything like that, but I internalize it and I carry that with me.”
Eric Torres, a computer information systems and web design junior, has a hearing and speech disability. He uses American Sign Language to communicate.
“I have an interpreter, so sometimes the interpreter also helps to clarify material that I don’t understand,” Torres said through an interpreter. “If I’m struggling with something, they are able to explain it to me to a different level.”
Steve Chamberlain, an associate professor in the Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies program, said the purpose of the panel discussion is “to give several of our students an opportunity to share their stories.”
The stories are fascinating,” Chamberlain said. “Basically, when we talk about students with disabilities at a college level, what we try to focus on is access. I think access is the key word.”
The event was part of the university’s observance of Accessibility Awareness Week. Wilder said there are 350 students with disabilities on campus. He said the department provides these students the accommodations needed for their education.
“Senior management major Bryan Abanilla (left) offers a humorous anecdote about his experience living with macular degeneration.”
“Freshman accounting major Yvette Villarreal details her struggles with dyslexia and how it has affected her studies. ”
“Sophomore exercise science major Daniel Skaines describes his experience in the U.S. Army and living successfully with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ”
Architecture Student Knows Importance of Accessibility
by Cheryl Taylor
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – OCTOBER 22, 2012 – Juan Treviño became interested in architecture when he attended Brownsville’s Porter High School, where he took some design classes before graduating in 2009. When the time came to declare his major at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, however, he selected English because he also enjoys writing.
Because he is a wheelchair user, Treviño is assisted by a family member who attends classes with him to help with tasks such as meals and setting up books; otherwise he is quite independent.
“When my classes were on the Fort Brown campus, I occasionally needed help from the Disability Services Office,” Treviño said. “That would be to ensure I had the right kind of desk in my classrooms or something of that nature. Out here, the architecture rooms have adjustable desks anyway, so there’s no need for any special accommodations.”
Steve Wilder, Coordinator of UTB and TSC Disability Services, said his office is responsible for assisting any student who might need an accommodation in their classroom.
“This is Accessibility Awareness Week at UTB and TSC,” said Wilder. “We strive to be a welcoming campus for students with disabilities. Everyone on campus, from faculty and administrators to staff and students, has a role to play in creating an accessible and disability-friendly environment. The focus is on the abilities, not disabilities, of our students.”
Accessibility Awareness Week activities begin on Tuesday, Oct. 23, with a panel presentation, “In Our Shoes.” Other events include the AAW Fair where the campus community is invited to actively “experience” dyslexia and visual impairment, learn some basic signs and see their name in Braille. Activities continue throughout the week, topped off with the 6th Annual ASL Talent Show on Saturday, Oct. 27.
For Treviño, the call of architecture never waned, and with most of his basic courses out of the way, he chose to enroll in the two-year program that prepares students to transfer to a school of architecture.
“I should have all my architecture classes finished by next summer,” Treviño said. “Then I’ll decide if I want to continue with it or go back to English. I’m still interested in developing my writing, so we’ll see.”
The Architecture Program is located in the International Technology, Education and Commerce Center(ITECC) at 301 Mexico Blvd., where the 27 students in the design studio recently presented their latest projects, proposals for a community garden. Viewing the presentations were representatives from the city of Brownsville and local residents who had been encouraged to attend.
“We are always looking for ways our students can develop their skills in real-life situations,” said Dr. Murad Abusalim, Architecture Program Assistant Professor. “In this case, we partnered with Brownsville’s Parks and Recreation Department to design – and help construct, when the time comes – this new community garden in our city.”
One of Trevino’s responsibilities in his group was to create the graphic model for the final presentation.
“I enjoyed working on this project,” Treviño said. “In the process I learned a new computer program for architectural drawing that allows for detailed texturing and finishing touches that bring the elevations to life and really enhance the presentation.”
For more information on the UTB and TSC Architecture Program, contact Dr. Murad Abusalim at 956-882-8868 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Office of Disability Services, contact Steve Wilder at 956-882-7372, or email@example.com
Getting Beyond Impairment
Posted on September 3, 2012
Legally blind student earns
eight-week internship in Dallas | By Marlane Rodriguez - The Collegian
Miguel Angel Roberts/Collegian
Senior management major Bryan Abanilla uses Zoomtext software, which
enables him to enlarge whatever is on the computer screen. Abanilla, who is
legally blind, served an eight-week internship this summer at a Dallas company.
Across the nation there
were 2,770 student candidates
interviewed for the Workforce
Recruitment Program. Of these,
600 were hired by various
businesses, including senior
management major Bryan
Abanilla, who is legally blind.
The program, run by the Labor
Department and the Defense
Department in Washington,
D.C., sends a recruiter to
universities to interview
students with disabilities. The
qualified students enter a pool
of applicants who hope to be
hired as a summer intern.
“Companies will select you
according to what they need and your major,” Abanilla said.
Abanilla was selected by the
Army and Air Force Exchange
Service in Dallas as an allocator
for eight weeks this summer. “Basically, I placed orders
for merchandise,” he said. “I
also tracked the orders, making
sure it left the vendor on time
and it shipped on the day it
was supposed to be shipped.”
Abanilla was familiar
with the company.
“I knew about the company,
I liked what they did,” he
said. “The interviewer overall
just liked me, and all the
qualifications that I had.” Abanilla worked in
the Children’s Softlands
Department and will
work there full time after
graduating in December.
The business major said he enjoys managing. “It’s one of the
things that makes sense,” he said. Aside from going to school
full time, Abanilla has been
working as a clerk in the
assistive technology lab
of UTB/TSC’s Disability
Services Office since January.“I monitor students who
are taking tests and I pick up
exams and deliver exams for
professors,” Abanilla said.
Diana Cardiel, a learning
instructional specialist for
Disability Services, works
with Abanilla on a daily basis as his supervisor.
“Bryan is one of our
students, and we approached
him about working with us
because of his good character,”
Cardiel said. “He is a very
responsible young man and
we thought he would make a
great addition to our team.”
She said Abanilla was
chosen for the internship
because of his major.
“His work is slowed down
because of his disability, but
it does not stop him from
achieving anything,” Cardiel
said. “With accommodations,
he is able to achieve any
job that anybody else can.”
Coordinator Steve Wilder has
known Abanilla for five years
and enjoys working with him.
“I think he works hard, he
doesn’t let his visual impairment
get in the way,” Wilder said.
“He is intelligent, he’s a smart
student, and of course, his
major is business and that’s
what he is especially good at.”
Wilder encouraged Abanilla
to apply for the internship
because he is a student
who has a goal in mind.
“He has kept on track--
good grades, good completion
rate, very responsible,” he
said. “Bryan comes across
as confident, as alert, as
purposeful, as someone who can
get the job done, and all those
impressions that an employer
might get are true because
that is the kind of person he is.
“He’s very reliable, you can
count on him to do whatever
he says he’s going to do;
we trust him implicitly.”
Abanilla said blindness is
in his genes, and when he
was 6 years old it kicked in.
He was diagnosed as legally
blind by a doctor in Houston. Because of his vision
impairment, Abanilla said
reading is his greatest
challenge. He uses a program
called Zoomtext, which enables
him to enlarge whatever
is on the computer screen.
“It magnifies the screen to
make it four times larger, five
times larger,” Abanilla said.
When he is not working
or studying, Abanilla enjoys
playing the ukulele and drums
for St. Mary’s Catholic Church
every weekend, which he has
done for the last 10 years.
He looks forward to living
in Dallas after graduating.
Students with disabilities share their experiences
Posted on October 24, 2011
By Viridiana Zúñiga
MIGUEL ANGEL ROBERTS/COLLEGIAN
Alison Brady, a junior music major, describes her academic success despite having Asperger’s Disorder during the panel discussion titled “In Our Shoes,” held last Tuesday in the SET-B third-floor conference room. The event was part of the university’s observance of Accessibility Awareness Week. Also shown are (from left) Jennifer Larrasquitu, a senior psychology major; Manuel Paredes, a sophomore criminal justice major; and Ramiro Espinoza, a senior computer systems and technology major.
Last Tuesday, four UTB/TSC students shared the challenges of having a disability and their achievements in spite of it.
Held in the SET-B third-floor conference room, the “In Our Shoes” panel discussion was organized by the Disability Services Department, with the aim of offering a glimpse of the demanding situations a person with a physical or mental impediment has to overcome every day.
“Most of us don’t know how it’s like to be in the shoes of someone with disability,” said Disability Services Coordinator Steve Wilder.
Steve Chamberlain, an associate professor in the Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies Department, served as moderator for the presentation.
Ramiro Espinoza, a computer information systems technology major, has a hearing and speech disability. He uses American Sign Language to communicate.
“I struggled in my early education because there is a lot of vocabulary that I was not familiar with, and also, I was not very motivated,” Espinoza said through an interpreter. “In high school, I decided that I needed to understand the English language and I started reading for a hobby, which improved my reading skills.”
Chamberlain explained that Espinoza uses interpreters in class.
“The interpreters are extremely bright and intelligent because, although they are not computer science majors, when they go to advanced computer courses they have to interpret technical information to Ramiro ... and that is tough,” he said.
Alison Brady, a junior music major, is one of the first students with Asperger’s Disorder, a milder variant of autism, to attend UTB/TSC.
“Most of my friends are music majors who don’t have any disability,” Brady said. “Also, my professors help me to succeed with good grades; so far, I have 64 credit hours.”
Brady encouraged students with disabilities to ask for help.
“We can be as successful in what we like as any other person,” she said.
Manuel Paredes, a sophomore criminal justice major, was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school.
“Before I was diagnosed, I thought I was below average intelligence, then, the world opened up to me,” Paredes said. “I learned study techniques for each of my classes; I have a sixth-grade reading level, so I ask someone to read a book for me or I use a tape recorder in class to understand better.”
He said, occasionally, people close to him forget he has a disability.
“I misinterpret words, or I say one thing but I mean another, and my friends laugh because they think I am serious about it,” Paredes said.
“There are days when my dyslexia is more noticeable and is like Murphy’s Law: Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
Senior psychology major Jennifer Larrasquitu is visually impaired.
“My eyes are very sensitive to light, I see better in darker places,” Larrasquitu said. “But the only thing that I really can’t do is drive.”
Larrasquitu said she is lucky her vision is not degenerative.
“I do things like sitting in front of the class or having a book really close to my eyes to read it, but it does not affect me more,” she said.
After the panel discussion, Chamberlain invited the audience to participate.
Betty Guerrero shared that two of her five children have dyslexia.
“It is frustrating because it affects their self-esteem a lot,” Guerrero said. She thanked Paredes for sharing his experiences and said he was an inspiration for her.
The eighth presentation of “In Our Shoes” concluded with a round of applause for the four students.
“The public’s response has been very positive,” Wilder said. “We always receive congratulatory comments from the audience and they applaud the conviction and success of our students.”
He said there are 450 students with disabilities in UTB/TSC. All of them receive accommodations and some no longer need assistance.
Deaf Culture Celebrated in Talent Show
Deaf Culture Celebrated in Talent Show
By Luciana Morales / Collegian
Publication date, November 2, 2009
Staff interpreter Patricia Palomino, with assistance from Dede Weeks, performs Gloria Gaynor’s disco hit “I Will Survive” during the ASL Talent Show Oct. 24 in the Education and Business Complex’s Salon Cassia.
An impersonation of President Barack Obama, two superheroes, dances, song mimes and a number of comedy sketches and personal testimonies delighted the standing-room-only crowd at the American Sign Language Talent Show
The event, held Oct. 24 in the Education and Business Complex’s Salon Cassia, concluded UTB/TSC’s observance of Accessibility Awareness Week, which included a panel presentation, a fair, an open house and exhibits at the REK Center and two screenings of the disability-themed movie, "The Soloist."
Disability Services Counselor Steve Wilder said more than 230 students turned out to both showings of "The Soloist."
"I thought the week went very well," Wilder said. "The whole idea was to celebrate abilities, to talk to ourselves about how respectful we are about all of our students with different abilities and disabilities and to showcase what can be done, what is being done, what they can do and what they are doing to achieve."
Interpreter Coordinator Rosemary Landa estimated that about 140 people attended the third annual American Sign Language Talent Show.
"We are coming together to celebrate the ASL language, to celebrate the deaf culture," Landa said the evening of the show. "It’s like a big powwow to reinforce the idea that deaf people and hearing people are equal."
The show, which served as a fundraiser for the Sting ’em Sign Club, consisted of 19 acts, with jokes by master of ceremonies Eric Martinez in between. Staff interpreter Julie Armendariz translated for the audience.
Sting ’em Sign Club Vice President Isidro Ramos’ comedy acts included jokes about hearing aids and a smart-aleck interpreter. The freshman drafting major was admittedly "very comfortable and enthusiastic about performing in sign language."
"Sometimes the deaf have a hard time at school and we are here to support each other and encourage each other," Ramos said. "We don’t want to put sign language down; we want to be proud of [it]."
Landa’s father, Emigdio Linan of San Benito, also performed onstage. He narrated how he met the woman to whom he has been happily married for 34 years.
"I came from San Antonio many years ago and when I moved here in 1979, I noticed that there were no interpreters and nothing going on for the deaf," Linan, who is deaf, said after the show. "I am so glad to see this happening for the third year."
His wife Carol also performed in a comedy sketch.
"Our daughter works here, so that’s how we got involved," Carol Linan said. "There’s nothing like this in the Valley, so it’s really special."
Landa encouraged UTB/TSC students to learn sign language.
"If [you are] interested in sign language, go ahead and be involved," she said. "Also, if [you] have a deaf person in the classroom, don’t be afraid to speak to them, they are just like any other student and that’s what we hope to promote."
Freshman speech pathology major Florencia Gracia, who attended the show, agreed.
"I think more of the hearing students should be involved, see everything [deaf students] are able to do," Gracia said. "They are no less, we are the same."
Freshman special education major Daniel Martinez is blind and aspires to be a teacher for the blind and visually impaired.
"People without disabilities need to be aware that disabilities can occur to people like them," Martinez said in an interview during the Accessibility Awareness Fair on Oct. 21. "Even though they are getting through a disability like I did … there’s enough [support to] succeed."
Wilder said about 400 students are registered with the Disability Services Office this semester, which represents an increase of 5 percent over Spring 2009.
"I think more people are being more honest with themselves and less timid about coming into the office," he said. "We are happy to help, but we don’t want to stigmatize either; we want them to succeed."
Wilder said about a third of the registered students get accommodations or help of some kind in their classes, such as extra time for tests or interpreters, if they are deaf.
"About two-thirds of the students wanted to let us know of their disabilities when they first came to college," he said. "Yet they manage, which is good because [people] like to be independent."
Wilder sent a message as well to UTB/TSC students: "There are certain ways that come up occasionally that everybody can help. … Don’t park in the handicapped parking spaces when you don’t have a disability--that’s one of the complaints we receive sometimes."
He also suggested students share their notes taken in class with impaired students who have trouble listening to the professor and taking notes at the same time.
"That’s a way they can volunteer right on the spot, right in their own class without going out of their way," Wilder said.
Source: The Collegian
Office provides services for special needs students
By: JOSÉ BORJÓN / The Brownsville Herald
October 7, 2007 - 11:17PM
From: Article from Brownsville Herald.
Steve Wilder remembers how different Texas Southmost College was when he first began working there as a counselor in 1987.
Two decades later, the school is an equal partner in The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, which has seen dramatic growth. With that growth, came the creation of Disabilities Services for students will special needs.
“I started out with the counseling center doing general counseling (and) advising and have become specialized in disabilities services,” Wilder said, adding that his office sees more than 350 UTB-TSC students.
Each student’s needs vary, depending on their disability, he said.
“The largest group has learning disabilities,” Wilder explained. “For people with learning disabilities, it’s not uncommon for them to just need a little more time for taking tests.”
He is housed at the Disabilities Services Office in the old Lightner Student Center. His office is specially designed to accommodate special needs students.
“We also have testing rooms where students can take tests by themselves, in a distraction-reduced environment,” Wilder said. “We have assistive technology that can help in the sense that a student who has trouble reading can put a book or a handout on a scanner and the scanner will read it out loud.”
Wilder and his staff look for a student’s “best learning channel,” and focus on that.
“(We) use that and (try) not to dwell on where the difficulties are — everyone has abilities,” Wilder said. “When we started there was no such thing as this lab, there was no counselor.”
Before Disabilities Services came to be, TSC officials were just “trying to handle it as it came along,” but the service was not good, “for those students who needed (more),” he said.
Colleges and universities throughout the nation have struggled to better serve students with learning disabilities, Wilder said.
“There was not too much knowledge about learning disabilities, not much talk about attention deficit disorder,” he said. “Not much interest in psychological disabilities like bipolar illness.”
At the end of the 1980s, there were no deaf students at TSC.
“Last fall, we had 21 deaf students,” Wilder said, all needing American Sign Language interpreters. “It varies from semester to semester. This semester we have 14.”
A few years ago, UTB-TSC hired three professional American Sign Language interpreters, who accompany deaf students to class and facilitate communication.
“Everything the teacher says, everything the students say in class has to be interpreted,” Wilder said. “And then when the students want to express themselves it has to go through the interpreter.”
He strongly believes that any person, including those who have learning disabilities, can succeed in college and graduate.
Tests, requirements and expectations are the same for students with disabilities.
“We are not going to water down courses or dilute requirements,” Wilder assured. “So you know a student with a disability usually has to work harder.”
His job is his passion, and he admits he enjoys helping people who want to be helped.
“I like fostering their independence because I don’t want them to rely on us,” Wilder said. “When students come in as freshmen, sometimes there’s that sort of left-over habit of being accustomed to being helped as they were in high school.”
Wilder paused for a minute Friday and remembered how Disabilities Services first started.
“In terms of growth that I’ve seen, I used to be one counselor in a little office with no help,” he remembered. “And then we got an assistive lab and they put us in a few study rooms in the (Arnulfo Oliveira Memorial) Library.
But still that wasn’t “very accessible.”
About four years ago his office was relocated to the old Lightner Student Center.
“As you can see it’s at ground level,” he said of the offices. “We were able to build our own testing facility. You can see that we really have a very nice arrangement.”
He now has six full-time employees and counts an army of about one dozen part-time employees to help meet the growing demands of students with disabilities
“I love working at UTB,” he admitted, calling it a “great place with wonderful leadership.”