Structure and Policies

The structure and policies of the Center have all been created and have evolved in support of the values and philosophy that have been present from it’s inception. Center founders and the staff, that have maintained the model for over 30 years, believe in the following Bill of Rights established decades ago by the Organization for the Rights of Disabled Peoples. We believe that individuals with disabilities have:

  • The right to live independent, active and full lives.
  • The right to the equipment, assistance and support services necessary to lead full lives provided in a way that promotes dignity and independence.
  • The right to quality health care.
  • The right to determine one’s own future and make one’s own life choices.

In support of those beliefs, all of the major policies of the Center revolve around insuring student self-determination, the integrity of the group process, a safe and pleasant environment, quality rehabilitation services, and barrier free access (both financial and physical). Forms and notices relating to these policies are available to download in the Keys To Replication pages on this site.

Barrier Free Access

“Barrier-free” at the Center means much more than ramps and wide doors with lever knobs. At the Center we have done everything within our power to:

  • eliminate physical and transportation barriers,
  • eliminate financial barriers,
  • simplify complex college procedures.

Of course, the Center is fully physically accessible. In fact, many student-designed accessibility features were put in place when the building underwent “rehabilitation,” long before the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed by Congress. Although transportation is the responsibility of another agency, Santa Cruz Metro Paracruz, we work closely with them to facilitate public transportation to the Center.

Many physically accessible facilities are impenetrable because of financial barriers. This is not the case at the Center. Fees are very low and correspond to California community college tuition. Students take from 1/2 to 10 units per semester. The total amount that a student has ever had to pay, if attending all day, every day for a full semester has never exceeded $300.00. And, if a student is low income, Board of Governors’ (BOG) grants are readily available to cover tuition. If for some reason a student does not qualify for a BOG grant, there are privately endowed scholarships, designated solely for Center students, available through a simple process on a non-competitive basis.

Finally, another onerous barrier is sometimes confronted by disabled students. Registration processes at large public institutions often require that students stand in long lines and the complete many complicated forms, usually written in small type! Cabrillo College is no exception. Therefore, we have done several things to make enrollment barrier free:

  • Open enrollment—students may enroll or leave any time during the semester. One-on-one assistance is provided during the entire process for students enrolling mid semester.
  • Onsite registration—each semester students have a special arena style registration day at the Center where socialization, seating and mobility assistance as well as one-on-one assistance in completing forms is provided.
  • Student self-determination: The value of student self-determination is reflected in three structure and policy areas. During the registration process, whether during open enrollment or each semester's arena registration process, students meet individually with an instructor from each department. They review their progress and set new educational goals from themselves. Their goals and progress are documented on the Center’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) form. An instructor from every department documents and records progress with comments and suggestions for helping the student meet their goals. A new set of classes is mutually determined based on this evaluation procedure.

Finally, flexible scheduling is allowed. Students may change classes at any time during the semester if it is mutually determined by the student and the instructor that their goal in that class has been met. A new schedule is created and made available to the student on their next day of attendance.

Group Process

The entire program is based on the powerful benefits of an orderly group process. The Center’s rules governing admission to the program stem directly from the requirements of the group as a whole. Students requiring individual toileting or feeding assistance cannot be admitted without a full time aide. And, in order to succeed in the program students must be able to participate and interact with each other in ways that do not violate the integrity of the group as a whole. One of the great challenges for students is stepping aside to allow new students access to especially popular classes.

Safe and Pleasant Environment

The environment at the Center is welcoming, joyful, warm and comfortable. It also reflects student accomplishments at every turn. The caring feeling is palpable and is often remarked upon by visitors.

Staff have worked hard to establish the fine line between insuring students safety and respecting each student’s right to make individual choices about their own safety. Smoking and excessive power chair speed are, of course, not allowed. The presence of animals, food in classrooms, and the wearing of scented products is always a challenge; because there is always discomfort on someone’s part when these are unequivocally denied. Therefore, policies regarding these issues are in place, but remain flexible to accommodate changing attitudes.

A private area has been set aside for any student who needs emergency treatment. Paramedics can come and go from the Center with no disruption to classes.

Student nametags and schedules are the most visible signs that Center students are uniquely identified. Although, these might seem somewhat discriminatory, they have stood the test of time to assure group comfort and safety. Nametags are a common occurrence in other settings, however yellow ribbons, visible class schedules and color coding alerts are not. Yellow ribbons indicate for all in the group that the individual wearing it needs mobility assistance at all times to prevent falls. The color coding on nametags alert others that a given student may be diabetic, have a vision or hearing disorder, or a heart issue, that may interfere with group interaction.

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We are grateful to Congressman Sam Farr and the US Department of Education,
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation for the funding support that made this website possible.