For the past two years, I have taught a college-level class on disability person centered planning during the Spring semester. I started teaching this class last year, in the Spring of 2020, and as you can imagine, with a worldwide pandemic, things got tricky pretty fast!
I began in January of 2020 with an in-person class. Using my Edge 3 Power Wheelchair, I rolled to the college from my law office since they were about a 10 minute walk from each other. It was a nice break from the legal world and I really enjoyed my students. Also, I was very thankful to have my iLevel power wheelchair because I found it really helped me when I was teaching in the front of the room. Elevating my wheelchair helped me to see all of my students. It also helped me to write on the whiteboard and reach the elevated computer, which was on a podium.
Teaching During a Pandemic
My class was full of students who were enthusiastic to learn about how they could be great services providers to people with disabilities. I loved going to class to teach them twice a week. Then, the pandemic hit. All of the sudden, things got a lot more difficult for me and for my students. Many of my students were essential workers who were required to report to work for longer shifts, meaning that they could not attend virtual class. Other students did not have internet or a home computer. They depended on the school’s library and computer lab to do their work and the school was closed.
I worked diligently to ensure each of my students were still able to pass the class. I had to get pretty creative! I posted materials for my students to read and videos for them to watch at their convenience. For students who did not have internet access, I called them and taught them the materials. It was a wild ride! In the end, all but one student stuck with us and passed the class!
A New Semester, a New Experience
The Spring semester of 2021 was much different. This year we started the school year completely virtual. Each student had access to technology and the internet, thanks in part to the school, which can now provide equipment to students in need. Instead of teaching at the front of a classroom, I taught from my home office. I was worried that the students would not get a great learning experience with online classes. Thankfully, I was wrong!
Each student was engaged, contributed to our discussions and in the end, they learned so much. At the end of this semester, my students each wrote a reflection about what they’ve learned and how they can serve as better allies to people with disabilities. My students wrote incredible reflections about how they have learned not to pity people with disabilities. They now understand appropriate language to use. They recognize that they have bias and will work to address their biases through reflection and engaging with more people with disabilities.
While I still miss the physical classroom, I am thankful for the technology that has allowed me to continue teaching and my students to continue learning in a manner that is safe during this pandemic.
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador advisor for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.