By Alicia Neaves
ODESSA - For any student, graduation marks a joyous time of achievement. The end of a chapter in your life. But for one recent Odessa College grad, she calls her graduation ceremony a "disgrace".
Patricia Albarado graduated Saturday with three degrees from Odessa College. A huge accomplishment. For her, though, there was just one thing missing. An exit ramp on the graduation stage. With this, she says, she would have graduated with dignity.
"You might as well have cut off my legs at the hips because I wasn't able to finish. I didn't finish with the dignity and respect everyone else did," said Albarado.
In the days leading up to graduation, Patricia requested a ramp to exit the graduation stage. That way, she could come and go like all other grads.
"I had told them that I could take my own ramp to see if it would be accessible or available for me. They wouldn't allow that either. They said for safety reasons they couldn't do that," said Albarado.
Patricia says instead of an exit ramp, she was told to turn around and exit through the entrance.
"You're getting set back by other things that have nothing to do with you and that you're not accountable or responsible for, and no one is taking responsibility for it either," said Albarado.
Odessa College says anytime they deal with students with disabilities, they always determine what's the most reasonable, effective, safest way to address those challenges.
"She presented us with what she thought was a solution. At that point in time, we felt like the accommodations that we made were the best solution for her and for us," said the Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment Management at Odessa College, Kimberly McKay.
The college says they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are always open to improvement.
"Part of the service to students with disabilities is to give them options. They have a choice in the way they want to be served on our campus, and she had a choice. She chose the choice to go on stage like all of our other students," said McKay.
As Patricia turned her wheelchair to go back across the stage, she paused in a seconds-long silent protest.
"I pointed to myself, I pointed to the ramp, and I shook my head to let them know that yes I did cross the stage, but I wasn't able to finish," said Albarado.