New videos highlight Stanford's opportunities and resources for students with disabilities

Five videos highlight the resources, policies and processes available to help faculty, teaching assistants and staff provide academic accommodations to students while upholding Stanford's rigorous academic standards.

Office of Accessible Education Fiona Chan Hinze

Fiona Chan Hinze, right, takes a test with her scribe in this scene from a video produced by the Office of Accessible Education.

As a Stanford freshman, Fiona Chan Hinze visited the Angel Island Immigration Station, a class field trip that involved a drive from campus, a ferry ride across San Francisco Bay and a motorized wheelchair ride along the island's sidewalks.

The station processed 1 million Chinese immigrants between 1910 and 1940. Many of them lived on the island for years awaiting entry into the United States, due to restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Their poems – written and carved into the wooden walls of the barracks – have been preserved for visitors.

It is a place that held special meaning for Hinze, who is descended from someone who had been interned on the island.

In Disability is Diversity, a new video produced by the Office of Accessible Education (OAE), Hinze said she was looking forward to being on Angel Island with her class.

"I wouldn't go there by myself," said Hinze, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Stanford in 2012. "It's not a place where you can probably go in a wheelchair yourself. You need someone to go with you."

Her class essay about the experience, Encounter with Angel Island, won a Boothe Prize for Excellence in Writing during spring quarter of her first year at Stanford.

Kathleen Coll, a lecturer in anthropology who took her World Archaeology and Global Heritage class to Angel Island, said part of the beauty of having Hinze in her class was that it challenged her to be a better teacher for all different kinds of students.

"For me, it's been really critical to challenge myself to think differently about ability, disability, what constitutes equality, inclusion, what it means to really, truly be an inclusive and respectful intellectual community," Coll said.

The video is part of the new Faculty Guide to the Office of Accessible Education series, which comprises five six-minute videos available on the OAE's website. The videos feature faculty members talking about the remarkable students whom they have accommodated in classrooms, in laboratories and on field trips. They are:

"You will see students with disabilities as they approach learning and research from new and innovative perspectives, and faculty working collaboratively to create accessible curriculum," said Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, who introduces each video. "This is Stanford innovation at its best."

The videos highlight the resources, policies and processes that are available to help faculty, teaching assistants and staff provide academic accommodations to students while upholding Stanford's rigorous academic standards. Alumna Vanessa Warheit produced the videos.

They also demonstrate how students with disabilities add to the richness and diversity of the Stanford community, and how important it is to create a supportive environment for them.

"Stanford is committed to providing an environment that gives every student the opportunity to live up to his or her potential," Stanford President John Hennessy said. "The Office of Accessible Education is a great resource for both faculty and students, and these new videos provide the community a helpful guide to its services."

Lowering barriers to travel abroad

Another new OAE video series, Students with Disabilities Studying Abroad, illustrates that disabilities need not be a barrier to students who would like to pack their bags, fly to another continent, and experience life and learning in another country through Stanford's Bing Overseas Studies Program.

The videos, produced by Stanford Video, feature the overseas experiences of three Stanford alumnae – recent graduates and intrepid travelers all.

In Chile, Molly Fausone rode her chair throughout the city of Santiago and on the Metro. She crossed the Andes on a bus with Stanford classmates to visit Mendoza, Argentina. She went to the beach and to Patagonia at the tip of South America.

At Oxford University, Rachel Kolb discovered that British Sign Language was different from American Sign Language, and that it was challenging to lip-read a British accent. Still, she traveled alone in England.

In Paris, Vivian Wong's host family purchased a cushion for the family dining table so she would be able to sit comfortably – and see everyone – even though she is only 4-foot-2 and has a truncated torso, the result of a congenital spinal disorder.

To ensure that Stanford students with disabilities have an equal opportunity for rewarding experiences – personal and academic – the OAE provides a wide array of accommodations, support services, auxiliary aids and programs that remove barriers to full participation in campus life.

The OAE provided Hinze, who has cerebral palsy and cannot write on her own, with a note taker and a scribe, a private room and extended time to take exams.

Joan Bisagno, assistant vice provost and director of the OAE, said the vast majority of Stanford students with disabilities have "invisible" or "hidden" conditions, such as chronic illnesses or psychological or psychiatric issues. Of the 1,100 undergraduate students registered with the office, about 70 percent fall into that category.

"Looking at a student, you really don't know what the disability is, and you don't know its impact," Bisagno said.

She added that the accommodation letter that the OAE prepares for a student to deliver to a TA or a professor does not list the student's disability. The OAE strictly guards the confidentiality of personal, sensitive, medical and psychiatric records.

"I think the fact that we can achieve excellence and the highest standards while still accommodating and being available and accessible to everyone is unbelievably important," said Jeffrey Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the Woods Institute for the Environment, one of several faculty members interviewed in the videos.

"We can be the very best, but we can do it the right way."

Reaching out to teaching assistants

The OAE website also features a new video for teaching assistants: Major Policies & Practices Every TA Should Know, also produced by Warheit.

The 20-minute video provides TAs and graduate students with an overview of three major university policy and practice areas: sexual harassment, the honor code and accommodations for students with disabilities. It features current and former TAs, plus representatives from key university offices, talking about how they resolved common issues in those areas.

Hrishi Goel, a TA in management science and engineering, said he first heard about the OAE when he was looking for tutoring work on campus. He was a bit hesitant initially to contact the office, because he had never tutored students with disabilities before.

"But the students I met there – they were brilliant," Goel said. "One really shocking thing, though, was that a lot of them had not yet told their TAs or professors that they were facing some sort of accessibility issues. And it made me look inside and realize that for all the years I've been a TA and been in classes where people have not come up to me and told me they were facing a problem."

Bisagno said the driving message behind the TA video is simple.

"Please don't hesitate to reach out to the OAE if you have any questions," she said. "We are here to help."