As Americans with Disabilities Act Marks 20 Years, CSM Student Charts Success
Kevin Shupe of Accokeek remembers that his love for roller coasters came when he rode the wooden Hurler at Kings Dominion when he was a kid. At 20, he was among the first 500 riders in line on opening day this spring to ride the parks $25 million Intimidator 305.
When hes not dreaming of the exhilaration of the next big rollercoaster, Shupe is doing what most other College of Southern Maryland students his age are doing: hanging with friends, studying and looking for a job. The hanging with friends part comes naturally for Shupe, a regular guy who likes to socialize. The studying is another matter: its more intimidating than the new 305-foot-tall coaster that climbs at a 45-degree angle before dropping riders 30 stories at 93 miles-per-hour.
Shupe is one of millions of Americans who are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, marking its 20th anniversary July 26. The ADA provides protection against discrimination based on disability and requires educational institutions receiving federal funds to provide accommodations, services or assistive technology to students with disabilities.
In the first grade Shupe was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), in fourth grade his family learned he had dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder that makes it hard for the brain to process symbols such as the characters used in the alphabet. As an incoming CSM freshman Shupe was tested and learned he had learning disabilities of dysgraphia, difficulty expressing thoughts in writing and dyscalculia, difficulty processing numbers.
And to even out all the bad news, I tested at the genius level, Shupe added.
What my friends find so surprising, is to learn that I am so smart, but that I struggle, really struggle, with reading and writing, said Shupe. But it is who I am and I wouldnt change it for the world. I think that what I struggle with makes me a better person and it helps me to see things differently.
He also sees things on the Scrabble board a little differently. It may sound strange that someone with dyslexia plays Scrabble, said Shupe. I can out-play my opponentsnot necessarily out-spell them, though. He maintains his edgeas his uncles haveby memorizing the Scrabble dictionary. Two of my uncles have memorized the dictionary from A to Zand one can probably recite it backwards. He gave a tip that the word qat is one of the few words that you can spell without a u after the q. Its an evergreen shrub.
Shupe tried to start a Scrabble Club at CSM but it didnt take off. Instead he hangs with friends at both the La Plata and Leonardtown campuses.
I wouldnt be where I am without the support of my friends Alexandra and Nathan, he said, and CSM Academic Support ADA Coordinator Glennis Daniels-Bacchus who worked to line up accommodations that have led to Shupes success. She catches me in the hallway and always wants to know how Im doing and if there is anything I need. Its a good feeling, he said.
Through CSMs Student Success Center, Shupe receives some tools to make the rigors of college coursework more manageable. The things the disability department has offered are a godsend. From tutors paid for through a Maryland Department of Disabilities grant, to computer software to CSM staff, Shupe says the accommodations have made a huge difference in his life. He uses Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition dictation software to turn his oral sentences into manuscript and Kurzweil software which converts written words to audio.
Shupe worked as a temporary student assistant at CSM putting together packages of forms and information for new driver education students.
“He's a great person and a good example of someone who takes his disabilities as they come and who loves to find ways of working around them. He seems to have taught himself to look for new ways to accomplish things that might be difficult for him to do in a more traditional manner,” said Shupes supervisor, CSM Occupational Training Administrative Assistant Mary Humbert.
It takes two times as long and is three times harder for me than for most students to do one thing, Shupe said. Because of his passion for drafting, though, he is driven to succeed. If you have a passion for somethingnothing can stop you. When there is passion, you can overcome any disability.
Shupe is applying for a six-month internship with Floridas Disney World that could lead to another six-month internship at Disneyland in California.
With his passion to learn drafting and his love of history, Shupe dreams to one day work as a draftsman on a historical architecture project. His journey may take him on some wild rides and through some hairpin turns but he is confident that one day, regardless of his disability, he will reach his goal.