An article by guest writer, Peter Froehlich.
For many people, going to college is a smooth experience without many obstacles. For me, it was a different experience. I am legally blind with some vision. During my college career, I advocated for myself and received accommodations. My post-secondary pursuits included attending two colleges: Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) and Augsburg University (respectively).
In September 2012, I started my journey at MCTC. I took a variety of classes, including communications, history, science, health, and even logic. Since I am legally blind, I needed a few accommodations so I worked with the college’s disability office. With their help, we came up with a few accommodations that would help me succeed in my classes. Some of the accommodations that I had during my classes were being seated in the front row, using a laptop, receiving large print documents, taking exams in a separate room, and having access to E-text. Without these accommodations, it would have been harder for me to succeed.
One of my favorite (but most challenging classes) was astronomy. With having basically no vision at night, this class would have been difficult. I was able to succeed in this class by speaking up for myself and letting people know when I needed help. I worked on building my self-advocacy skills a lot.
Fortunately, I had help from my parents, a friend, and my professor. The professor took the time to help me to the best of his ability, sending me educational documents, PowerPoints, and other useful materials. He even took us to a planetarium and a park to look at the stars. I enjoyed learning about the solar system. Without help from the professor and others, I would not have passed the class.
Since I could not drive to MCTC, I got there in two different ways. The first way was by city bus. I could do this because it was one bus to and from MCTC with no transfers and it dropped me off in front of the main buildings. The second way that I got to MCTC was my parents driving me. This option mostly happened during the months when it was too icy or too cold for me to ride the city bus.
In 2015, as I was finishing up my associates of arts degree, I started thinking of the next steps. I quickly decided I wanted to transfer to a four-year college. I applied at both Hamline University and Augsburg University. I was lucky enough to get accepted into both, but I chose Augsburg University because of the community, disability office, and the location. That fall, I had one more class to take at MCTC, so I decided to start my education at Augsburg University in January of 2016.
January 2016 came fast, and I was eager to start at Augsburg University. I was lucky enough to take two courses with my best friend that semester. I took a lot of interesting courses at Augsburg University on topics such as social media, public relations, history of Minnesota, argumentation, and more.
Like MCTC, I worked with the disability office prior to starting my courses. Because of my past experience and building my self-advocacy skills, I was more vocal in what I needed to succeed in my courses.
I felt like Augsburg was very hands on, adding more accommodations than I had previously experienced. While at Augsburg University, one major, helpful learning accommodation was that State Services for the Blind (SSB) recorded my textbooks. Every time I had a textbook, I brought it to SSB and they had someone read it and recorded it for me. I could then listen to it, which was very helpful.
Additionally, I was given a notetaker as well as extra time and a writer/reader for exams. I also kept the accommodations that I had at MCTC like sitting in the front row and using of my laptop in class. Since Augsburg University was a farther commute, I got rides from mainly my parents, friends, Personal Care Attendant (PCA), and Uber.
In December 2018, I completed my final semester at Augsburg University. I fully completed my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and even made the honor society. That following May, I participated in commencement. Without help from parents, friends, PCA, professors, and school counselors as well as my own self-advocacy, I would not have succeeded as easily. Without this educational experience, I would not be as confident as I am today.