Saturday, October 16, 2021

Virtual Empowerment Day deems success

Over 800 students attending SUNY Plattsburgh utilize the services from the Student Accessibility Services. Students can receive accommodations for extended time on exams, note-taking services, tutoring, access mobility services, registering emotional support animals, housing and advocacy services. On Feb. 25, SUNY Plattsburgh partook in the third annual Student Empowerment Day, which advocates for funding from the New York State budget to go toward supporting students with disabilities in college.

Typically, SAS travelled down the Albany capitol building for a day-long conference with presentations and meetings with NYS representatives. According to Student Accessibility Services Assistant Director Jennifer Curry, the conference, which began two years ago, ranged from 300 to 500 people. However, the conference had to be altered this year to adhere to safety guidelines for the pandemic.

The virtual Student Empowerment Day was held over Zoom for an hour and a half, instead of the full-day conference. The past two years, SUNY Plattsburgh would bring about a group of 10 to the conference, which was much more limited than this year. Any student who registered to partake in the conference was able to attend. Curry expressed the benefits of having a virtual conference was to include more SUNY Plattsburgh students and encourage people to attend. Even without knowing how many SUNY Plattsburgh individuals attended, there were about 400 people in attendance. Curry said that despite the challenges of the pandemic, “the outcome went pretty well considering it was virtual.”

“[The NYS Disability Services Council] had to condense it down to make sure that everybody was participating,” Curry said. “They couldn’t really do breakout rooms because of the sheer amount of people participating in that one platform, so they basically had like video collages and music, just to kind of move in transition from thing to thing. But, they had students who participated and gave live testimonies. They talked about their own experiences across all SUNY and CUNY campuses. And they had a video that they made called ‘Come On, New York,’ which demonstrated a beautiful diverse, cultural mosaic of students across New York State.”

The NYS Disability Services Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing expertise for people in college needing services. The organization values diversity and inclusion, which is seen in their activism for bettering the services to students with disabilities.

“The end game is highlighting the importance that there are students with disabilities in college,” Curry said.

Curry believes for students to have access to equal opportunities and accommodations, funding is crucial for SAS success. While Student Empowerment Day is a new movement to help bring awareness to college students with disabilities, Curry expressed that it’s not the only time SAS is working to bring funding and awareness to these students.

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