-A A +A

Positive Outlook, Proper Support and Assistive Technology Help Inspirational Student Succeed at RCBC

Travis Diller

He sees himself as just another college student, but Rowan College at Burlington County student Travis Diller is remarkable. His innate will to succeed and positive outlook has seen him through his unconventional journey to higher education. A human services major, he wants to help others just like him to see that they are not defined by a diagnosis or disease, but by their ability to be more.

Diller, 22, attended the Burlington County Special Services District since age 3, due his need for therapy for his cerebral palsy. Diller struggled academically, not because of the work, but because he didn’t find it challenging.

“I wasn’t someone who was content with sitting around doing nothing. I always knew I wanted to go to college,” Diller explained. 

Despite a few who doubted his ability to succeed in higher education and with the support of his family, Diller persisted and applied to Rowan College at Burlington County.

“Even though I had to start with developmental classes, it was a start,” he said.

When the Pemberton resident started at RCBC in 2014 he faced unique challenges.  

“I had no assistive technology, so I would have to ‘hunt and peck’ to type a paper or have my mom help me,” he recalled, mentioning that it would take hours just to complete a few paragraphs.

Diller is limited to using one finger on the keyboard and found it hard to type a cohesive paper, because his finger couldn’t keep up with his thought process.

In his second semester, and after a meeting with the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, he was introduced to Advancing Opportunities (formerly known as Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey), a non-profit that provides services, support, education, and advocacy to individuals with disabilities and their families to help them lead full lives.

Diller received an evaluation, the assistive technology that best serves his needs and training. He was also recently invited to speak at their Community Recognition Breakfast to share his experiences with the organization and assistive technology.

Diller now uses Dragon Dictation to write his papers. He said it has given him confidence.

“It has helped so much. I can write a five paragraph essay in about an hour,” he said.

Although he only has classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Diller is at RCBC four days a week. He visits the tutoring center, uses the college’s Career Adaptive Learning Literacy (CALL) Lab and has taken advantage of other services made available through the Office of Student Support.

“The problem is people are not aware of the resources. You can’t be afraid to ask for help. If more students like me had access to assistive technology, I believe more students would be in college,” he said.

In fact, Diller wrote a six-page English 101 research paper on how assistive technology can transform education and opportunities. To read his paper, “The Benefits of Assistive Technology for students With Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education,” please visit rcbc.edu/travis-diller-paper.

“Travis doesn't want anyone's pity, least of all his own,” RCBC English Instructor Chris Gazzara said. “He gives and expects 110 percent; yet he balances his rigid work ethic with a sharp humor. Best of all, he's learning to trust his own intellectual instincts, taking what I can only call informed risks in how he's formulating and presenting his ideas. He remains humble and an inspiration to us all.” 

Diller is now in his fourth semester at RCBC and feels lucky to have had such great support during his pursuit of a college degree. He is interested in obtaining his bachelor’s after RCBC and aspires to become a social worker so he can be an advocate for others.

“It upsets me to hear people abandon assistive technology, because they weren’t properly trained or they don’t want to feel different,” Diller continued. “People just need the right support.”

Looking back at how he got to where he is today, Diller said, “This is where I should have been all along. I’m a college student, I just do things a little differently.”

By: Margo Riser

Rowan College at Burlington County Marketing and Communications Specialist

As published in the Burlington County Times, January 3, 2016