Students with disabilities drew closer to graduation with the September 19 opening of the Accessible Instructional Materials Center for Student Success in the Academic Services Building, room 116.
“This modern center is a major accomplishment in our efforts to comply with accessibility requirements,” says David Sanfilippo, director of Disabled Student Services. The center offers three sections including a lab with 13 assistive-technology equipped computers; a production facility where the center reproduces class texts; and the Instructional Materials Accessibility Project Center, an area for faculty services and support.
“The creation of the AIM Center is a fundamental and necessary step toward equalization of educational opportunities for all of our students, particularly persons with disabilities. We now have a welcoming environment where faculty, staff, and students can access a plethora of services for converting instructional materials, activities, information and documentation into accessible forms,” said Dean Forouzan Golshani, College of Engineering. “Our professors generally do their best to assist all students. Staffed by some dedicated and highly talented experts, AIM provides immediate and concise assistance to professors, no matter how difficult the task might be,” Golshani says.
The Center is a collaborative effort between DSS and the University Library that provides accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities by consulting with the faculty. Among the services the center provides are translation of textbooks and course materials into alternative formats such as e-text, Braille and large print; translation of all pictures, tables and graphics; training for faculty on how to use eReserves to make reserved materials available in accessible formats; training on how to post accessible documents on BeachBoard; and training on the principles of universal design.
“I am very proud to have been a partner in creating the AIM center, said Roman Kochan, interim associate vice president, Academic Technology Services and Dean, University Library. “This center is a necessity for the campus community and directly benefits our students and our faculty.”
The center, in partnership with the University Library, is in the process of converting the entire Library e-Reserve database into an accessible format, so that the documents may be utilized by all students. So far this academic year, more than 4,000 articles have been downloaded from the e-Reserve server, and AIM Center staff have already made approximately 3,000 of these documents accessible.
The center is one of the first of its kind in America, Sanfilippo explains. “It not only serves students but it also serves faculty members by making course materials such as videos, PowerPoint presentations and hand-out materials accessible to disabled students. We can put all of that in an accessible format, such as Braille, e-texts or large print, for students with visual problems or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. We can put the faculty’s materials in a format disabled students can read,” he says.
The center has twin goals of reaching high-impact classes where there is a strong chance of enrollment by students with disabilities and offering technological training for CSULB faculty members. “We’re trying to front-load these high-impact classes,” says Sanfilippo. “We want the course materials for these classes to be available ahead of time.”
“What is good for the AIM Center is good for Disabled Student Services and the campus as a whole,” according to Sanfilippo. “There is a concept called ‘universal design’,” he says. “What makes good sense for those with disabilities makes good sense for all. Recognizing a multi-modality approach for individuals with disabilities makes good sense for everybody. We can help faculty members design their classes to make them multi-modal by using the latest technology in the classroom and online.”
The center also works closely with staff to ensure that department resource materials are accessible. Services include developing accessible fill-in forms, leaflets, flyers and other documents that are distributed to students, staff or faculty, in hard copy (Braille format), electronically or on the web.
The AIM Center plays a role in the campus-wide DSS Project Forethought that stresses making the university accessible to students with disabilities. “It is much better to be a forethought than an afterthought,” Sanfilippo says. “We’ve had great support for disabled students on this campus. But there are still times when people do not think of disabled students at this event or in that classroom. Project Forethought is about making the campus more aware.”
Sanfilippo encourages CSULB’s faculty and staff to check out the new AIM Center. “Come by and see us,” he said. “That way, you’ll know. All we’re asking for is a level playing field.”