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November 19, 2021

JCCC Access Services provides resources for success

Imagine losing your eyesight in a matter of days. Your entire world would change. Everything you knew how to do would need to be done differently.

In 2018, Willie Solano was a sophomore at Shawnee Mission West High School, living a normal teenage life. Then one day, he couldn’t see. “I had no vision in my left eye at all,” Willie says.

Doctors did an emergency MRI and found a tumor was putting pressure on his optic nerve. Several days later, he had surgery at Children’s Mercy Hospital. “They removed about three-fourths of the tumor, but they couldn’t remove it all because it was connected to an artery. My vision is around 20/400 in my right eye, and I’m completely blind in my left eye. I don’t have any peripheral vision.”

Willie’s life was completely uprooted. “It was very hard… it was a lot to go through and to think about,” he says.

Moving Ahead as Planned

"People who don’t know a person who is blind usually don’t understand that we can function and do lots of things independently. We just need to learn how. Once we do, we can do just about anything." – Willie S., JCCC Student

Willie didn’t let his circumstances dictate his life. Instead, he made a commitment to follow through on his plans: Graduate from high school, go to college, have a successful career.

“My family was very supportive,” he says. “They were really devastated by what happened, but they helped me believe that I could still function. I know I have some limitations, but I was able to show my family I could get past everything that happened.”

Willie returned to high school. He learned how to use a white cane, read and write with Braille, and thrive, despite his vision loss. After graduating in May 2021, he knew JCCC was his next step. He also knew some extra help would ease the transition.

Confidence a Boost to Independence

That’s when Alphapointe, an organization that serves people who are blind, entered the picture. Over six weeks, Willie worked with their experts to outline his goals and develop a plan for starting classes as a freshman at JCCC.

“Just the thought of going to college was very scary,” Willie says. “Luckily, Alphapointe helped me become familiar with the campus. They showed me where my classes are, where important places on campus are, how to maneuver inside and outside of buildings … . All of these things make you feel more confident and help you be more independent.”

As a freshman with a full slate of classes, including College Algebra, Composition 1 and Introduction to Business, having that independence is key to Willie’s success.

Taking Advantage of Campus Resources 

Willie’s journey to independence continued once he was on campus full time. He partnered with JCCC’s Access Services to get the resources he needed for success in his classes, homework and navigating campus.

The Access Services team works with students with disabilities to provide equitable access so every Cavalier can take part in the full college experience and campus life. Services they provide include Alternate Format Documents, assistive technology, interpreting, notetaking support, testing accommodations and weekly check-ins with advisors.

Holly Dressler, Director of Access Services, says, “Every student is unique, so the accommodations truly depend on the individual needs of the student.” Requesting accommodations is easy:

  1. Complete an accessible online request for support.
  2. Submit documentation that describes the current impact of your disability in an academic setting. (The Access Services webpage has more specifics about this step.)
  3. Meet with an Access Advisor to talk through accommodations and services you’ll need at JCCC.

“We look at each request on a case-by-case basis. We’re here to support students on their JCCC journey,” Dressler says.

As Willie reflects on his recent journey, he says he is proud of the challenges he’s overcome.

“People who don’t know a person who is blind usually don’t understand that we can function and do lots of things independently,” Willie says. “We just need to learn how. Once we do, we can do just about anything.”