All Access: College strives to keep pathways open during renovations

Mar 23, 2011 by

Recent visitors to the TJC main campus have undoubtedly noticed some changes taking place.

Crucial upgrades to the College’s infrastructure have led to holes and trenches cutting through campus, prompting some classes – if not entire buildings and offices – to be temporarily relocated. Regular routes to and from parking lots, the library and other educational buildings are not where they once were.

With major upgrades ongoing in the Genecov Science Building, classrooms and labs have been relocated to the Apache Woodlands, a grouping of portable units established on the far northeast corner of campus.

Part of the construction projects include bringing older TJC buildings up to Texas Accessibility Standards, said Bill King, TJC executive director of facilities and construction.

“We are making sure the upgrades meet, and in many cases, exceed those standards,” King said.

Even for students with no physical disabilities, the changes have been a challenge; so imagine what it must be like for someone in a wheelchair.

Brett Burks knows.

Due to a complication during childbirth, he has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair; so he has a lifetime of experience in dealing with the day-to-day tasks that come with getting where he needs to go.

When making plans for his accessibility needs on campus, Canton sophomore Brett Burks’ first call is to the TJC Student Services office.

A communications major from Canton, Burks just finished his fourth semester at TJC. He would like to be a radio personality someday.

“I have honestly not had any problems working with TJC on any needs that I’ve had,” Burks said. “Whenever I need something, I let Mrs. Rapp know and she and her staff get right on it.”

“Mrs. Rapp” is Margaret Rapp in the TJC Support Services office. She is the go-to person for students who require assistance, whether it is for physical or learning challenges.

“All students with disabilities are treated on an individual basis,” she said, adding that the top two issues that come through her office are learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

“Some of our main accommodations include providing extra time or a quiet testing place, a copy of notes or preferential seating. The plan for accommodations comes from a meeting between the student and myself, and sometimes the instructor, depending on the situation.”

She said the number of students served varies each year; but in the Fall 2010 semester, TJC Disability Services provided assistance to well over 200 students.

“During the course of construction on our campus, we are addressing accommodations on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “If a student has access issues, we can even go so far as to relocate the location of the class to accommodate their needs.”

Sometimes issues can be completely negated with some serious advance planning.

Burks provides a case in point:

“Last year, I needed a science class and Mrs. Rapp knew they were going to be moved out to the Apache Woodlands in the fall,” he said, “so I was able to plan ahead take the class the semester before that.”

Many wheelchair treks to and from the Apache Woodlands were avoided by a forward-thinking move.

“Look,” he said, “I’m the first person in my family to go to college, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I got here. I felt like I was going into it blindfolded.

“What I got was great service. Everyone has been very accommodating for whatever I have needed.”

Asked what advice he would give a TJC student who needs assistance, Burks said, “People don’t know what needs to be fixed if you don’t tell them. My advice would be to let them know what needs to be done and they will make it happen.”


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Features, On Campus, Spring 2011, Students

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.