POCATELLO — Quincie Mattick walked through Idaho State University’s Rendezvous building in complete silence. The only noise that was present was the ambient sounds of the building.
It was the 2020 spring semester at ISU, and like every college nationwide, students had returned home to shelter from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Mattick couldn’t return home. She’s blind, and needed access to ISU’s disability services.
Another reason she had to remain on campus during this time is because every couple of days she would receive new graphs and charts for her statistics class. It would’ve taken too long to mail them to her.
“I hated being there alone. It was not very fun,” Mattick said.
Disability services was the only place where Mattick consistently met another person, but she still didn’t get to interact with the other five students living in the building.
It would be another three years before Mattick would receive her diploma to thunderous applause.
A big transition
After Mattick graduated from the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, she toured different campuses around the country. She wanted to find a campus that had a strong disability services program, and settled on ISU.
Attending ISU would be a big transition for her. In Colorado, everyone was blind so seeking out accommodations wasn’t necessary. Additionally, Mattick had to deal with the same problems everyone else does when they start college. Mattick learned the layout of the campus, figured out which classes to take and adjusted from a schedule of 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to one that she chose.
After several months, Mattick felt she was doing well until the pandemic shut everything down.
“It was … a lot more difficult to focus,” Mattick said.
Mattick found it was harder to engage with the material in recorded lectures. She had to have someone from her team sit with her to explain what was happening. They would pause the lecture to explain what was written on the board.
Often, Mattick felt like she stuck out. Sometimes people came up to her and started talking loudly, “and it’s like, I can hear you. You don’t have to yell at me.”
She says many people were surprised that she’s capable of doing normal, everyday tasks.
“I go places on campus and people are like, ‘Oh, my goodness. Are you okay?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m just walking to class,'” Mattick said.
It was also frustrating when people came to pet Tessa, her service dog, and distracted her from getting things done.
Some people thought she was getting special treatment with her accommodations and that administrators made school easy for her.
“I just get accommodations so that I have an even chance with the rest of my classmates,” Mattick said. “I’m not trying to get a free pass,” Mattick said. “I wanna work for it, just like you.”
But what bothered her most is when people assumed she shouldn’t be doing something because she’s blind.
Despite the varied reactions from people, Mattick seems to have made a strong impression on her classmates, teachers and disability services team.
“My staff and I have provided accommodations and support for Quincie since she started school in the fall of 2019,” said Karina Mason Rorris, director of ISU Disability Services and the ISU Electronic and Information Technology Committee. “She and her service animal are like family here … and we feel so blessed to have had her here.”
And Rorris said Mattick has permanently changed the university for the better.
“She’s been instrumental in helping us remove barriers and advocate for necessary changes. We’ve learned so much from her,” Rorris said. “The knowledge gained allows us an amazing opportunity to better serve her and others in the future.”
Mattick and Tessa walked across the stage in Reed Gym on May 6, 2023. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in health professions.
Mattick says getting her diploma feels “unreal.”
“You walk across and you’re like, ‘Ok, I’m done. Now what?’,” Mattick said.
Tessa also received an honorary certificate for the assistance she provided Mattick.
As Mattick and Tessa exited the stage, they looked towards the future.
Mattick’s college experience has taught her that many people with disabilities aren’t getting the resources they need. That’s why she’s planning to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
“Whether that is access to their medication, access to a job, access to housing — there’s just so many things where people with disabilities are not getting what they need,” Mattick said.
What Mattick wants other blind people to know is that while there are hurdles to clear to get a college education, it is possible for them to get a degree.
“Ultimately the message I want to send is, Yes, I had X, Y, Z barrier but this is how I overcame them and I graduated. If I can do it, other blind people can also do it,” Mattick said.