Monday, November 2, 2009

Visually Impaired Student Finds New Life Through Rio Salado

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

"I quit high school because I was embarrassed about my vision problems," said Deitrick Fields "I wore big glasses and I was still bumping in to things and people. I was too embarrassed to ask for help, and chose to quit school instead."

That was the attitude Fields had when he was a freshman in high school. Today, Fields, 32, has a more positive attitude toward school and life.

"Now, I'm loving school. I earned my GED (General Education Development certificate) and I’m starting college classes," said Fields. "My goal is to get a degree in broadcasting."

Like thousands of students, Fields’ path to earning his GED started at Tempe-based Rio Salado College. The majority of students who turn to Rio Salado for help preparing for the GED exam have obstacles to overcome that have kept them from completing high school. For Fields, the obstacle is blindness.

Finding a school that could cater to his disability added an extra obstacle. He tried one school, but found the technology outdated and the lack of instructor support daunting. On the verge of giving up again, he found Rio Salado College, where he got the help he needed with online classes.

"I started with a different school, but it wasn't keeping my attention," said Fields. "I contacted other schools, but they didn't know what to do with me. I looked into Rio Salado and they got me started in classes immediately."

The prompt help came from Rio’s Disability Resources and Services department, which is set up to help students like Fields.

“We provide a variety of resources and services to promote a successful learning experience for students with disabilities,” said Terry Ferra, Disability Resources and Services manager at Rio Salado College. “Depending upon the disability and the resources we have available, students with documented disabilities may receive accommodations such as sign language interpreters, text in alternative format, and extended test taking time, to name a few.”

Material resources were only part of the support he received from the college.

"Rio's classes were great," said Fields. "And, anytime I needed Terry’s help, she was a simple phone call away. I also found tutoring help, and the teachers were easy to talk too. I found the classes very accommodating to my needs."

While Fields is proud to say he earned his degree, he isn’t afraid to talk about his experience. He is using it to help motivate people in his situation.

“I try to motivate others like me," said Fields. I meet a lot of people who are visually impaired and want to give up. But I tell them they can't quit. There is a help out there and anything is possible."

In the last two years, Fields turned his life around by earning his high school diploma, which led to a new job, and he’s starting college with a very positive outlook on life.

"I have a new attitude toward school and life and there is nothing I can't accomplish," said Fields. "Things are coming together the way I always wanted them to be.”

For more information about Rio Salado College’s Disability Services, visit