Maryam Ebadi, a single mother living with a hereditary degenerative vision disorder, immigrated to the U.S. excited to continue working toward her dream of becoming a family counselor. After completing her GED® prep at Elgin Community College, the next step was taking placement exams at her local community college. She arrived anxious but ready to do her best. Within minutes, her excitement turned to frustration and disappointment. “When I went in for placement testing, they did not offer any accommodations for my disability,” said Ebadi. “They handed me a test paper and told me to read the instructions, but I cannot read a document without assistance and could not complete the test that day. That’s when I left and came back to ECC.”
A native of Iran, Ebadi struggled with vision problems from a young age but could still see well enough to read and write through her teenage years. In time, her vision continued to deteriorate. With no help offered for her condition, Ebadi’s hopes of completing her education were dashed. She knew that to pursue a career in counseling and have the means to support her children, she would have to leave her homeland.
This realization led Ebadi to the United States in 2015, where she quickly learned English. She then enrolled in ECC’s GED prep classes and turned to the Student Access and Disability Services Office for assistance. The department ensures that students with disabilities and other barriers have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“We never want students to be forced to stop pursuing their education because a viable solution isn’t available to them," said Pietrina Probst, director of ADA, student access, and disability services. “Our focus is to do all that we can to provide equal access for students with disabilities by removing barriers to success.”
Probst works individually with students to determine what reasonable accommodations will best support their needs. She then coordinates with faculty and staff members to ensure those defined needs are met through tools such as screen readers, transcribing software, or other accessibility technologies. Accommodations might also include something as simple as adjusting seating arrangements in classroom and lab settings.
“Being blind never got me down, and I know it’s not easy, but I believe I can do anything a sighted person can do,” said Ebadi. With ECC’s help, she now has the materials and technology she needs and is excelling in her studies. Ebadi is on track to graduate with an associate degree in 2023 and is well on her way to accomplishing her dream of a career in family counseling.
Visit the Student Access and Disability Services webpage to learn more.