Ashford University Educates Students with Disablities in Cyberspace

National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October recognizes contributions made by Americans with disabilities to the workforce and in society. Online higher education at Ashford University makes earning a college degree accessible for more students, including those with disabilities. 

"We believe that everyone who is academically qualified deserves access to a high quality, higher education," said Jane McAuliffe, president of Ashford University, an accredited university offering associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs. "Online higher education brings down barriers." 

Ashford University's Student Access and Wellness Manager Poppy Fitch said that "The online classroom doesn't discriminate. For many students with disabilities, it's the first time they feel like they truly fit in." 

For example, Priscilla Hartung, from Dallas, has a severe vision impairment but has always aspired to earn her college degree. She finally enrolled in classes at Ashford University in 2008, at the age of retirement, to obtain a bachelor's degree in communication studies. Although she enjoyed a successful career, she always regretted not pursuing a college degree.  

"At the age of 63, I felt somewhat intimidated about attending on-campus classes with students the same age as my granddaughter," Hartung said. "The added convenience of flexibility offered by an online education put an end to all the excuses I had for not following through with my life-long dream."  

In June of 2010, her eyesight severely declined again and she feared she would not be able to finish her degree program. When she expressed these concerns to an Ashford University professor, she was immediately referred to the Student Access and Wellness Department and received assistance within 24 hours. 

"I attribute much of my success to the enhanced portal designed for students like myself with vision challenges that require support for reading assignments," she said. "Technological advancements have not only created spring boards for educational opportunities for students of all ages, but they have provided special assistance for students with disabilities, like me, who might not graduate without enhanced visual aids." 

Because of her life-changing experience with online learning, she is now applying to graduate school to become an online instructor herself. 

Fitch says people with disabilities attend online universities and enjoy many of the same advantages as their classmates -- primarily flexibility. 

"Online students attend classes when and where they want, so long as they are academically qualified," she said. "I believe education is the best reward a person can give themselves, not only for their career aspirations, but for the kind of life they wish to lead." 

About Ashford University

Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (www.ncahlc.org). The University offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs online and at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable online and on-campus programs. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.