Annual Report 2010

As the premier professional association of disability service providers at colleges and universities, AHEAD seeks to provide resources, training, and expertise on relevant topics to its members and other agencies and individuals with shared interests.  Since 1977, AHEAD has continued to grow its membership, providing resources for disability professionals and influence on topics related to postsecondary education for disabled students.

AHEAD operates with a staff based in Huntersville, North Carolina (a suburb of Charlotte) under the leadership of the Executive Director, Stephan Hamlin-Smith. The AHEAD Board of Directors is comprised of eleven individuals, elected and appointed. Other than the positions President-Elect and President which are occupied for two years, each member of the Board of Directors serves a three year term.

The membership of AHEAD reflects disability professionals working, primarily, in higher education. The offices or departments that provide resources, services and support for disabled students are those from which AHEAD members mainly come. Additionally, numerous professionals from countries other than the United States are members of AHEAD.  Across the various categories of membership, the members of AHEAD includes professionals from primarily community colleges, four year public, four year private, and vocational schools. As of December 31, 2010 AHEAD’s membership, in all categories, numbered 2,583.

During 2010, AHEAD was actively engaged in a number of vital undertakings, both within the association and beyond.  The following represents a sample of these endeavors:

Association based initiatives:

International Engagement – During 2010 a funded initiative was the International Initiative which assisted in securing Dr. Dr. Sang-Mook Lee from South Korea as a conference speaker. Dr. Lee and over 40 people from international locations attended the Denver AHEAD Conference in July 2010.  International members of AHEAD constitute approximately four percent of the total membership. Recognizing that membership in AHEAD may be cost prohibitive for people in emerging countries, the AHEAD BOD voted to establish a reduced cost professional membership for any individual from one of the United Nations recognized impoverished countries around the world effective for the 2011 membership year; this reduced cost membership will continue for the foreseeable future.

Governmental Relations and Public Policy – A working group regularly monitors information and events related to disability matters that are occurring at not only a federal level but at an international level also. Announcements are sent by this group to the AHEAD members and articles are written for regular newsletters of the association to keep members informed and engaged about policies and laws that may affect their practices. During 2010, following the promulgation of new Department of Justice ADA regulations, AHEAD offered a series of at-cost teleconference sessions to members to further their knowledge of the new regulations and their impacts on disability service practices for colleges and universities; these sessions were very well subscribed and reviewed.

Accessible Instructional Materials – AHEAD continues to be very active in the national discussions on the issues related to accessible instructional materials for students with disabilities in higher education. IMAG, Instructional Materials Accessibility Group (formerly the E-Text Solutions Group), is a working group that monitors these matters closely for AHEAD members, conveys information to members and provides expert consultation. Additionally, IMAG members provide training on production of accessible instructional materials at conferences around the country with AHEAD sponsorship. As a result of international monitoring by the IMAG group, AHEAD members are informed of the work of other countries to address shared concerns for provision of accessible instructional materials for students in higher education.

JUST (Just, Useable, Sustainable and Transformational) Change – Previously recognized as the Universal Design Initiative, the leaders of this initiative have realigned their mission and title to reflect acknowledgement of the need for sustained change not only at an instructional level but at social and philosophical levels also, informed by the work being done in Disability Studies and the social model of disability. During 2010, JUST Change provided workshops at the AHEAD conference in Denver and assisted the Board of Directors in reflecting on how to incorporate more elements of broad attitudinal change throughout the association.

AHEAD Affiliate Program - Like many professional associations, AHEAD has recognized regional groups whose missions and values reflect those of AHEAD. While the majority are state based and made up of college and university disability service professionals, some are multi-state. At the end of 2010 there were 33 recognized Affiliates. The benefits of affiliation include support with website and listserv hosting, financial support, use of AHEAD’s name, co-sponsored professional trainings, and access to professional expertise in operation of a not-for-profit organization.

New Directions

Late in 2009 the AHEAD Board of Directors approved establishment of new Standing Committees to extend the activities of the initiative groups and to assure that work would continue on important undertakings into the long-term future. During 2010 these new committees were established and are:

Standing Committee on Professional Development

Standing Committee on Membership Development

Standing Committee on Diversity

Standing Committee on Technology

Standing Committee on Public Policy

After meeting with the chairs of the funded initiative groups at the 2010 annual conference and given the decision to implement Standing Committees, the board determined that the groups referred to as Funded Initiatives would conclude their board directed work at the end of FY 2011. The Board’s intent is that the work undertaken by the funded groups be continued through the new committees, integrating and including the philosophies and perspectives of every focused group within each new committee. 

Reputational Growth of AHEAD

AHEAD’s reputation continues to grow as a result of the significant number of external partnerships in which the organization is actively involved and working. The following represents a partial list of external partnerships:

  • NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators)
  • UMass Boston, Institute for Community Integration – Think College!
  • Department of Labor – Committee on Wounded Warriors
  • Government Accounting Office Taskforce on Testing and Certification
  • National Joint Council on Learning Disabilities
  • American Council on Education – Wounded Warriors Coalition
  • AUCD (Association of University Centers on Disability) Partnership on Disability
  • National Service Inclusion Project
  • Mobility International USA – National Roundtable on Disability & Exchange
  • Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education
  • Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD)
  • Society for Disability Studies – during 2010 AHEAD was selected by SDS to manage its executive office for a period of five years. 

During 2010, Stephan Hamlin-Smith, the Executive Director of AHEAD, was appointed to the Department of Education’s Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials for Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education. This Commission was established by Congress following the 2008 Higher Educational Opportunity Act. Additionally, long-time member and recognized expert Gaeir Dietrich was chosen as Chair of this Commission. 

In the Spring of 2010, Mike Shuttic, the current President of the Board of Directors, was an invited speaker at the Leshem Conference in Israel reflecting the increasing international recognition of AHEAD’s expertise and the association’s overall engagement with disability in higher education worldwide. 

Professional Development

A prime mission of AHEAD is to provide the highest quality professional development at affordable rates. During 2010, AHEAD successfully conducted the following professional training offerings:

  • 2010 Annual Conference – held July 2010 in Denver with 1,218 individuals attending; this conference was co-convened with PEPNet
  • Fourth Annual Management Institute – held February in New Orleans, LA with 190 attending
  • Webinars and audio events on a variety of topics related to higher education and disability with over 500 participants/sites through the course of the year
  • Co-sponsored conferences and trainings with TRiO, PEPNet, Florida AHEAD, and AHEAD in Texas


AHEAD’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. During calendar year 2010, the FY 2009 and FY 2010 budgets for the association were balanced. At the conclusion of 2010, AHEAD’s revenues and expenses were in line with budgeted expectations. Details of the financial status of the association are available from the main office. AHEAD’s financial records and books are audited annually. The 2010 audit was performed by McCafferty and Company.

During 2010 AHEAD awarded seven $1,000 scholarships to disabled students and disability professionals. 

Respectfully prepared by Jean Ashmore, President 2010-2012