Alison May ’97
What’s an accessibility challenge for students here?
Many faculty have a “no-technology” policy in their classes. If a student has permission to type notes because he or she has dysgraphia, faculty members are great about making an exception, but then the student is outed or needs to sit in the back corner of the room or a designated spot.
What role does technology play in your work?
A number of faculty use these amazing old source documents, which can be daunting if a student needs to use technology to access them. An archival document or image-based PDF can’t be read by a student who needs text-to-speech technology.
How are you solving that?
We have partners who help train faculty. If we don’t get much advance notice on what the texts are going to be, it’s hard to provide equitable texts to students who need them. In other situations, faculty and students might disagree about how an accommodation is implemented. That’s when the student or professor might reach out to my office and ask for recommendations.
Do older buildings on campus pose problems for disabled students?
I’ve walked around campus to get a better sense of that. We’ve got a beautiful old campus, and in many of the buildings only the first floor may be accessible. Even then, you might have to get to another floor to use a bathroom.
Any specific offenders?
Dartmouth Hall is a real tough one. You have to walk up stairs to reach the first floor. Thornton Hall is another one.
What would you like to accomplish in your position?
I believe my job is to work myself out of a job. An office like mine shouldn’t need to exist.
As an undergrad you worked directly with disabled students. What was that like?
My interest was in learning disabilities.Many of the students who had difficulties learning for one reason or another also had psychological concerns. A really bright student who doesn’t seem to learn things in the same way as others or as quickly as others—that can be depressing or anxiety-provoking.