Student Life

COVID-19 Turns the Office of AssessABILITY Virtual

Tom Reingold worried that he would not have access to his accommodations this semester because of the college being temporarily closed. Because he has Attention Deficit Disorder, he has the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to have extended test time and sit at a separate location for exams. But with the pandemic capsizing everything, he was afraid he would not be getting the support he needed.


Tom Reingold, AccessABILITY student

The Office of AccessABILITY had his back.

“They have been great,” Reingold said. “They are very understanding and they are here to help. I was assigned a counselor and she’s terrific. She’s super helpful and super encouraging.”

Hunter College is the largest senior campus in the CUNY system in terms of the number of students in the Office of AccessABILITY. Reingold is one of the 800 students that are currently registered.

According to Reingold, the office helped him with taking exams remotely. He said he needs more time because he gets distracted very easily and how it’s hard to keep focused. Being given more time has allowed him to complete his exam without penalty for lateness.

“My accommodation is that I get one and a half times the normal time for exams,” he said. “Now, exams have been automated and they shut off at an appointed time. But, the instructors were able to set the shut off time, for me, differently.”

The office workshops that he attends that cover topics related to distractibility during test-takingtime and time management. Additionally, Reingold attended a workshop that focused on study tips for taking math classes and coping with math anxiety. The office also sends him weekly emails about workshops that are conducted over Zoom.

Sudi Shayesteh, director of the Office of AccessABILITY, said they will be implementing their weekly workshops and training for Hunter students enrolled with the office. Special workshops for the students have been hosted by the AccessABILITY Office since the beginning of September. 

Sudi Shayesteh, director of the Office of AccessABILITY

“Three weeks ago, we had an orientation workshop [over Zoom] for all the freshmen and transfer students. They needed to know ins and outs about Hunter college, admissions, financial aid advising, how they should go about communicating with their instructor, and how to ask for accommodations,” Shayesteh said. The office has numerous resources for faculty members so they can better accommodate their students too. There are functions on Zoom that professors can utilize such as video and audio accessibility, closed captions, and screen readers.

“We always tell the faculty member to use footage that has captioning on it,” she said. “Because they have to verify if they have a deaf or hard of hearing student in their class and that anything they share with their students, has to have closed captioning.”

Like Reingold, other students that are registered with the office found it easy to communicate their accommodations to the office. 

Dawn Brewer, AccessABILITY student

“They [the office] did an amazing job for me to help achieve my goals. Staff are very friendly and check-ins mostly helped get my accommodations in and many concerns that I have,” said english literature major Dawn Brewer, who also is registered with the office. “I know how stressful it can be and costly, but with the kind gestures definitely helped in the long run.”

Brewer says that getting extra time on exams will help her do well in her classes. 

However, Brewer said that the office could implement a program for students with learning disabilities who are still struggling at home. 

“I think it will be more beneficial if the accessibility department can deliver more on having licensed special education teachers, so students who are struggling with writing or reading can come to them for tutoring,” she said. 

There are no special education teachers currently with the AccessABILITY office and due to financial reasons, that is not in their plans, according to Director Shayesteh. 

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