By Patricia Albarado on 5/12/2015
Graduation is supposed to be the most vital and memorable day of a graduate students life. For me it was bitter-sweet. I have been a student at Odessa College on and off since 1994. Throughout my journey it has been filled with stress and anxiety. Before Odessa College remodeled their buildings, I found myself getting stuck either in the elevator at the former remodeled Wilkerson Hall, or having to wait either on the top or bottom floor for assistance. On occasions I had to return home because there wasnít access to class, so I missed out on vital lectures. Other times the accessible buttons to enter and exit buildings didnít work leaving me to push heavy metal doors. In 2010, I had a Biology Chair professor, fail me at the end of the semester, due to an incident concerning my disability that was beyond my control, leaving me to re-take the class. Recently before graduation, I was denied a grade appeal for a Math class I failed in which I am weak in, due to tutors not knowing the material, texting, or playing games on their phones, on the grounds that the accommodations didnít have the correct terminology stating the necessity of tutoring, leaving me to re-take that class also. The most disgraceful experience I have had to date is being denied an access ramp to exit the graduation stage. A week prior to graduation, I was asked to meet with Mrs. Doughty of the Records Department to see of any concerns or modifications that needed to be made before graduation. I had mentioned to her that as a Certified Advocate of the Texas Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities of Austin Texas, I felt it was unjust not to be provided with a ramp to exit the stage, while the able-bodied were welcomed with a secure staircase with handles mounted to the stage. I took the long route to graduate, so why should I have to take a short-cut, and be denied the modification to cross with pride and dignity for the accomplishments of graduating. The day before graduation I took my portable metal ramp to see if it would accommodate the staircase and Mrs. Doughty said it had to be approved by the Director and Vice President. I was approached by Kim McKay Vice President of Student Services and told that the modifications wouldnít be granted because the ramp posed a safety concern, the decline had to be at a certain distance, and it had to be mounted to the stage. She gave me a choice; I could either graduate on stage or off stage with no accommodations. I told her it was a disgrace to have come this far just to be denied not only the accommodations, but also the dignity and respect of a vital accomplishment. I wrote emails to Mrs. Strange-Graduation Advisor, Mrs. Doughty-Records Department, Mr. Williams-President of Odessa College, and Mr. Wood-Institutional Effectiveness Department requesting my accommodations prior to graduation with no response. We have the same rights as everyone else and should be treated accordingly. Freedom of speech and expression is our Constitutional right and should be exercised.
Patricia is Vice President of Disability Rights and Editor for Una Voz Unida Texas.