I visited the Ivy Tech Student Life Center in Fort Wayne, IN to meet with Krystyl Dumas. Krystyl has been working with Jim Rinehart, Assistive Technology Specialist, at Easterseals Crossroads to obtain assistive technology that will assist her in maintaining her position as a teacher at Ivy Tech.
I met with Krystyl in her office and immediately felt relaxed. Krystyl has a very warm and outgoing personality and her office was very inviting. The office was lit with a wonderful low warm light and she had a diffuser going with essential oils.
I sat to talk with Krystyl to learn more about her and how she came to use Easterseals Crossroads’ services. She told me she was born in Indianapolis and then moved to Fort Wayne when she was 12. She graduated from Black Hawk Christian High School. When she graduated from high school she wanted to be a missionary and went to school in New York. She went to school for 2 years and did 6 months of missionary work in Trinidad. The work was challenging in a very rural poor area. There was no plumbing and Krystyl determined that she did not like the working conditions. Krystyl said, “A lot of stuff is great in a classroom, then when it’s real life it’s a different story. I was not cut out for it.”
She came back to the United States and got an associate degree in computer science. She furthered her education and got a master’s degree in business marketing. Due to the economy, she was not able to find a computer science position and she decided to try healthcare and worked both as a certified nursing assistant and a paramedic. She eventually got her second master’s degree in psychology.
Krystyl’s goal was to become a clinical psychologist and in 2008 Indiana changed all the requirements to become a clinical psychologist. Krystal said, “I was six classes away from it when the requirements changed.” It was at this time when Krystyl’s dad said, “You should teach.” She said, “I had never even considered teaching and was not sure if I would like it. I found out that Ivy Tech had adjunct faculty. This allows someone to teach for 1 semester without commitment.” In 2009, she taught her first classes at Ivy Tech and “fell in love with teaching.”
Krystyl has now been working at Ivy Tech full time for 3 years. Since most of the courses at Ivy Tech are 100 level courses, she is able to teach multiple classes. She teaches business, philosophy, psychology, and education classes. She is officially a psychology faculty member and what she enjoys teaching the most. “I really enjoy teaching educational psychology. I enjoy teaching people how people learn and how we can educate people in different ways based on how they learn.”
Krystyl told me that she has always had ADHD and takes a lot of mediations to control this disorder. She told me she began having vision problems and they finally determined that the ADHD medicine had given her a pseudo tumor. This is an area that gets builds up water pressure and presents as a tumor, but is just an area where water builds. This build up of water can be in different areas and causes her many issues. However, it mostly puts pressure behind her eyes that causes headaches and vision problems.
Krystyl said, “Three years ago I thought I was going blind. I went to the eye doctor who could not diagnose the problem. My eyes started bleeding one day and I went to the emergency room and they finally saw the water pressure behind my eyes. They were able to drain the fluid, but it is now a reoccurring problem.” Krystyl was diagnosed as legally blind as a result and has to have a spinal tap every 3 months or so to drain the fluid so it doesn’t cause any more damage. As a result of this fluid build up, Krystyl gets a lot of headaches and has difficulty seeing a computer screen. Her eyes get tired and she has difficulty with printed material or a computer screen despite wearing glasses for both distance and close viewing.
One day at work, Krystyl was having a particularly tough day and went into talk to her human resources representative. Krystyl said, “I really just went in to vent about some of my struggles when they told me about Vocational Rehabilitation. They told me that VR could help me find equipment to help me in my job and that Ivy Tech could purchase any equipment that could assist me in doing my job. I reached out to Vocational Rehabilitation and within a month VR had referred me to Easterseals Crossroads for an assistive technology evaluation with Jim Rinehart.” An assistive technology evaluation is a one-on-one evaluation to determine what type of assistive technology will increase or maintain someone’s independence.
Jim met with Krystyl in her office and immediately suggest she switch her lighting from the overhead fluorescent light to a floor lamp with softer lighting. Krystyl said, “This made a huge difference. I was not getting as many headaches and my eyes weren’t getting as tired. It had never occurred to me that the fluorescent lights could be triggering my headaches.”
“Jim also recommended ZoomText for my computer so I could enlarge the screen and use the different contrast options. The white lettering on black background is so much easier for me to read.” ZoomText is a magnification and screen reading software that will enlarge and enhance everything that is on a computer screen. “Jim also recommended the Amigo that I can take in the classroom with me to enlarge printed material. All of these little things made the world of difference. It was such a relief to learn about all of this equipment.” The Amigo is a portable hand held low vision magnifier that allows a user to enlarge printed material and also to change the contrast of the printed material.
Krystyl now dims the lights in her classroom and takes her Amigo with her to class. She is able to sit it on the podium to see her lecture notes. She said, “The Amigo has saved my life. It is my favorite tool. You don’t realize how often you deal with paper until you can’t see it.”
Ivy Tech has set up ZoomText in all of her classrooms where she teaches so she can easily access information. With the simple changes such as switching fluorescent lights to a more natural lighting and some assistive technology devices Krystyl is able to continue to teach and avoid the debilitating headaches she was having before. She said, “I’ve had trouble for decades. I had no idea these things existed. Jim is brilliant and was able to address all of my issues. School would have been so much easier if I knew these things existed and they make my teaching career possible.”
I asked Krystyl if she had any advice for our readers and she said, “I would tell people to be open to help. Often people think, “That’s them. They need help, not me.” when they do need help. “ “If you are struggling to do a task you do need help. Just find out what is available and try it. If it doesn’t work then you know, but if it does work it can be life changing”
Krystal told me that before VR purchased The Amigo for her she was able to borrow it from The INDATA Project’s equipment loan library. The equipment loan library allows anyone in the state of Indiana to borrow assistive technology for free for 30 days. This helps people determine if a piece of equipment is useful to them so users can make an informed decision in what equipment to purchase and not waste money on useless equipment. Krystyl said, “I appreciated being able to find out if the Amigo was the right one for me so my money wasn’t wasted.”
Krystyl went on to say, “It was so helpful to have someone on the outside take a look at my needs and shed light on my situation. I would have never thought of all these solutions that have made my job so much easier. HR, VR, and Jim all opened the door to the tools that help Krystyl continue to teach. She has a passion for teaching and a now a passion for technology. She not only will be able to continue to teach, but she may be able to assist students with disabilities in learning about assistive technology if they are struggling in her class.
Educating people about assistive technology is the main goal of The INDATA Project and it’s so exciting to see that the education provided is assisting in someone being able to educate others and has equipped Krystyl with the knowledge that she may be able to share with someone else who may be struggling. We wish Krystyl all the best in her teaching career!