Virtual schooling challenges faced by students with disabilities


Eloisa Basilio

Printmaking II class held wearing masks, making communication via lip reading impossible for Eloisa Basilio.

Hadley Corbett, Editor-in-Chief

Eloisa Basilio is a recent graduate of Elgin Community College and has long been involved in the campus’s ADAPT club and student government. Basilio also has an account open in student disability services that helps her to succeed as a deaf student as she continues to take classes at ECC this semester. The campus shutdown in the spring and current campus policies have presented challenges for Basilio.

“I was taking an art class [in the spring, but] I wasn’t able to participate in it once virtual school began,” Basilio said.

College is designed to be challenging, but few at ECC anticipated the challenges that this fall semester would bring. While students with disabilities are used to having to work harder than their peers to get what they need, with most classes held virtually and being amidst a pandemic, the challenges are even greater now.

ECC’s student disabilities services and the campus ADAPT club are attempting to help address the difficulties of students with disabilities. 

“It’s really important that we have the ADAPT club because it makes people aware of students with disabilities,” Basilio said. “It shows them how to interact with a person with a disability and how not to be afraid.”

Kori Stoll, current president of ECC’s ADAPT club and pursuing an associate of arts degree, explained the mission of the club as one focused on building relationships. 

“[ADAPT aims to] help students understand accessibility, different disabilities in general, and give connections to people with and without disabilities,” Stoll said.

The club usually meets four times a semester or about once a month. Events they have held in the past include guest speaker talks, sign language lessons, games such as bingo and the price is right, and demonstrations of assistive technology devices.

Pietrina Probst, director of ADA and student disability services at ECC, and the staff advisor of the ADAPT club, is responsible for helping set up accommodations for students with disabilities.

“[In disability services] we serve students with a variety of different disabilities,” Probst said. “We can work with students with learning disabilities, ADHD, psychological disabilities, chronic health conditions, physical disabilities, and many other disabilities.”

Many students may never have received support for a disability so are unfamiliar with the support available to them and how to obtain them. Whether it is a student’s first time discussing their disability in an academic setting or their hundredth, they will get a one-on-one meeting with a disability services professional at ECC to review any documentation they have on their disability and discuss their options.

“Some students may benefit from extra time to take tests or from getting help taking notes, especially this semester with some of the synchronous online classes,” Probst said. “[I can also provide] captioning of videos, sign language interpreters, audiobooks, and a variety of other services that help support students and ensure students with disabilities have an equal opportunity and equal access to their education.”

For Basilio, despite having to drop her art class in the spring, she is back on campus taking printmaking, but it’s still far from perfect.

“Now [in class] we have to wear masks and I need to read lips,” Basilio said. “Communication is severely limited.”

While ECC’s goal is to provide equal educational opportunities to all of its students, the reality is that many students with disabilities are being more challenged and limited because of the schools policies.