Krista Waters, age 29, is a DeafBlind Human Services major at Florida State College at Jacksonville. She has found her passion working with other disabled people, and she currently holds two positions in disability services organizations. She enjoys discussing assistive technology, self-advocacy, and accommodations for disabled students and employees. She agreed to talk with me about her academic experiences.
Why did you choose to attend Florida State College at Jacksonville?
I chose this institution because the disability services are incredible. The staff really embraces the students they are in charge of educating.
What is the most significant access issue you’ve had in college? How was it resolved? Was this solution ideal?
I would say the most difficult access question has been access to materials in a timely manner. Because I am visually impaired as well as hearing impaired, things can take a while. I receive syllabi in advance, handouts in advance if available. However, computer software still leaves a lot to be desired. Its not always accessible for people who use screenreading programs like JAWS. I’m flexible though. I’ve realized when I’m fighting for accessibility for myself, it’s not always about me in the long run. It’s about my fellow students and peers as well.
If you could implement training for faculty or staff, what skills or concepts would you emphasize?
I would emphasize that all students are different. Just because you have had one blind student does not mean the second or third blind student will require the same things. Your student comes first, then the disability.
How do you judge whether a professor will be a good fit for you? What clues in the syllabus or in their personal communications let you know that they’re willing to collaborate with disabled students?
Whether a professor is a good match for working with our college’s disabled population is based on a number of well-defined factors. First of all, a lot is based on the student’s first meeting with the professor in question. Does the student email and ask for a meeting (something that is highly recommended)? Does the professor respond in a timely manner? Does the professor seem interested and open to your request for a meeting? Are you clear about your disabilities? Does the professor ask good questions related to you being in this class and how to make the environment as conducive as possible?
What’s the most satisfying project you’ve completed during college? Why do you feel this way about it?
The most satisfying project I’ve performed in college is my Cold War presentation in my American History class. I’m a quiet person by nature, especially in the classroom environment. I have difficulty speaking up in the classroom, and the professor in question took it upon himself to ensure I became comfortable. He did not ignore me; instead he engaged me. I did my presentation complete with PowerPoint.
What was the most challenging college course you’ve ever taken? Why was it so challenging?
I think the most challenging class I’ve taken thus far is my Integrating Educational Technology class. This class was all lab-based and completely 100% visual. As a visually impaired person, I like to be as independent as I can, and this class challenged my sanity.
What advice would you give to disabled students entering college for the first time?
I would say talk to other college students who have disabilities. Know what your rights are and understand the terminology related to disability accommodations. Try first and if you do not get anywhere, then ask for help. Talk to your professors: open and honest communication.