High tech tools help students with disabilities through higher education

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CHAMPAIGN—It's midterm season at colleges across the country, which means endless hours of studying for exams. For students with disabilities, conventional learning and test taking methods can cause struggles, but the University of Illinois uses some high tech tools to ease that burden.

A little more than a semester into college, and Luis Jovel still has not chosen a major. But even though he's undecided on his studies, he knew he needed a school with specific services in order to succeed.

“I need help writing, like physically writing,” said Jovel.

Seven years ago, Jovel was hit by a car, leaving him with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. After graduating high school in Maryland last year, he moved out to the Midwest to enroll at the university of Illinois. It was one of only five colleges he says offered all the right resources.

“They accommodate you very well,” said Jovel.

“There's a huge variety of services that students are receiving here,” said Angella Anderson, an access specialist at the university's Disability Resources and Educational Services. “Anywhere from note taking services in a class to coaching services.”

To an array of technological tools that can turn spoken essays into text or allow a textbook to talk.

“The things that I'm seeing now I never would've imagined would've been here 20 years ago,” said Anderson.

“The textbooks they converted into an electronic format,” said Jovel. “So I can just be on the computer and turn the pages by myself, without asking someone.”

1500 students at the U of I make use of the university's Disability Resources and Educational Services, which employs cutting edge software to make learning easier. But learning the new technology is not always easy at first.

“There are students who will expect it to fix all their problems overnight, and they're going to be frustrated,” said Anderson.

According to Anderson, those who stick with it tend to find success. Something Jovel is striving for.

“I'm not in the engineering program yet,” said Jovel. “But I plan to transfer.”

 And thanks to the tools at his disposal, Jovel is well on his way to engineering that bright future.

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