Access With Dignity
Senge Considered a Leading Expert in Technology and Services for Disabled
Oct. 1, 2012
At first glance, Jeff C. Senge's office in the Disabled Student Services Center is like most workplaces, with a desk, file cabinets, a couple of computers and a telephone. But the yellow Labrador retriever relaxing under his desk sets Senge's space apart.
Fodi is constant companion to Senge, coordinator of the center's Information and Computer Access Program and legally blind.
Senge's visual impairment, along with his early awareness of the potential of technology to create educational opportunities for people with disabilities is the main reason Senge changed careers in the late 1980s, returned to school and earned his master's degree in special education from Cal State Fullerton in 1993. Today, he is a nationally recognized expert in access technology and services for people with disabilities in secondary education. He works closely with the CSU Chancellor's Office, as well as the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.
Senge and his team work behind the scenes to make Cal State Fullerton one of the top universities in the nation serving students, faculty and staff with permanent and temporary disabilities. The five-member team sets up and supports accessible computers, as well as provides instructional materials in accessible formats such as electronic text and Braille.
Looking back on his 22-year career, Senge, who will be retiring this year, says there is much to be proud of and much more that needs to be done in the field of accessibility and accommodating students with disabilities. "I will always have a passion for this and will continue to contribute," he said.
Since the early 1970s, the center has provided comprehensive services for the cohort of students with disabilities attending CSUF. Its many programs, as well as the campus's accessibility, place Cal State Fullerton among the nation's best. Center Director Paul Miller, with the program since its inception in 1974 when it was called Handicapped Student Services, said that there are between 13,000 and 15,000 students with various disabilities enrolled in the California State University system and its 23 campuses.
"The rapid increase in enrollment in higher education among people with disabilities has been amazing," Miller said.
Disabled student services are generally provided at no cost to qualified students and are designed to assist students with accommodation and disability-related support services, such as Braille transcription, accessible computer labs, temporary parking passes, note-taking and counseling.
Accessibility for Students
Senge's career emphasis has been making information accessible to students through adaptive computer technology. When he started as a graduate assistant, there were a handful of visually impaired students and only four accessible computers on campus. Today, his program serves dozens of blind and visually impaired students out of a student population of 37,677. His office is responsible for 50 accessible workstations throughout campus, including those in the Adaptive Technology Center.
One example of the students Senge and his team help is Rodney Anderson, a CSUF alumnus who earned a bachelor's degree in human services in 2005 and a master's degree in counseling in 2008, a former Titan basketball player who was the victim of a shooting that left him a quadriplegic.
After the shooting, Anderson was unable to hold a book or turn pages. Senge's team provided voice recognition on his computer so Anderson could dictate and operate his computer with voice commands. They also scanned his textbooks to PDF files so he could use a single computer keystroke to turn the pages.
"I now have more mobility and accessibility," Anderson, who has worked on campus since 2008, said. "They (DSS) have been tremendous."
Faculty, staff and veterans with disabilities
Miller and Senge also work to accommodate faculty and staff members who have disabilities or workplace injuries.
"When you have a community the size of Cal State Fullerton, the unfortunate reality is age-related health issues and injuries that create functional limitations for some members of our population. We are here to reach out to these individuals to enable them to continue contributing to our community," Senge said.
Miller mentions a retired philosophy faculty member who suffered a severe brain accident that left him unable to speak. He said the center's staff provided technology to allow him to be able to communicate. Then there was a professor hired after suffering a broken back. Understandably, she wanted to live in a region with no snow. "Once she got on campus, she was simply delighted," Miller said. "She loved it because it is so accessible."
Both men, who grew up in the Vietnam era, are again seeing veterans returning in higher numbers. Some have suffered different levels of brain injuries, as well as physical injuries, including loss of limbs and sight.
"I think of it as a challenging progression — like what we saw when we first started this program," Miller said.
The Office of Disabled Student Services is located in Room 101 of University Hall. For more information, call 657-278-3117 or visit at the Disabled Student Services website.
By: Michael Mahi, 657-278-5143