Junior pursues goals despite physical condition
Clayton Roper has hiked mountains in Peru, performed as a contortionist in high school theatrical production Cirque and trained Tennessee Walking and Arabian horses.
Today, he takes classes, cooks, cleans and volunteers at HorseDreams Youth Ranch in Milledgeville.
“I’m an active person,” said Roper of Conyers. “I love animals, and writing is one of my best skills.”
The junior mass communications major also is legally blind.
He chose Georgia College because of its diverse academic programs and soon after learned about the university’s support to students with special needs.
“Three years ago, Mike Chambers, former director of Disability Services, called me and told me about the department at Georgia College,” said Roper. “I was apprehensive at first because my experiences with school accommodations as a child were not so good. Since I’ve taken advantage of Disability Services, though, I have to say I owe a lot of my school success to the department.”
Roper works with Katy Washington, new director of Disability Services, and Kelly Schomber, disability service assistant, to receive the appropriate accommodations to complete coursework.
“The goal of our accommodations is to remove the barriers associated with a student’s disability, which may impede access to his or her education,” said Washington. “We provide Clayton with alternative formats for tests and class materials, including access to video magnification hardware and software for exams.”
Roper also takes advantage of volunteer note takers so he can listen during course lectures.
“Clayton is genuinely concerned about the obstacles Georgia College students with disabilities face due to architectural, program and attitudinal barriers,” she said. “His perspective to issues of access is invaluable.”
Georgia College observes October as Disability Awareness Month by providing information that increases campus awareness about disability-related issues and acknowledges the accomplishments, stigmas and barriers of people with disabilities.
In partnership with the university community, Disability Services aims to create an inclusive, accessible campus where individuals with disabilities receive equal opportunities.
Since birth, Roper’s eyes have experienced retinal tears. A painless eye condition usually effecting people between ages 50 and 70, retinal tears reduce vision and create shadows or curtains in the peripheral.
“I’m extremely nearsighted,” said Roper, age 22. “I see shadows, shapes and colors. However, everything is blurry. The more light that’s in an area, the more detail I can see.”
Roper has undergone 21 surgeries to help save his vision.
To navigate campus, Roper also uses spatial memory to record information and create mental maps about his environment.
During classes, he uses a portable TV that functions as a desktop video magnifier to read notes and textbooks.
At home, he operates electronics with the aid of textured stickers called high dots, which help him identify different settings to objects like his microwave, oven or washing machine.
Roper majors in mass communications because he wants to become a feature writer or investigative reporter after graduating from Georgia College.
“Writing is a huge strength for me, and I talk to people easily,” he said. “Journalism is a profession that gets me out and allows creative expression. One day, I would love to work for my favorite publications — Newsweek, National Geographic and TIME Magazine.”
Despite his physical disability, Roper believes in living a full life.
“My elementary school accommodations specialist, Mrs. Jane Brewer, saw my potential when others saw me as a statistic,” Roper said. “She recognized my abilities, and I haven’t stopped yet. I want people to know it’s OK to ask me questions so I can help educate them. Yes, there are things I cannot do, but everyone has limitations. We can all create ways to make our personal goals possible if given the opportunity.”