2018 AHEAD Preconference Institutes

Two-Day Sessions

  • PC#1 New to the Profession: Building a Strong Foundation
  • PC#2 – SESSION FILLED - Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA Officers: Compliance Requirements, Analytical Tools, and Solutions
  • PC#3 Socially-Just Services: Unpacking How Ableism Shapes the Disability Experience and Informs Processional Practice
  • PC#4 Diagnostic Assessments: Understanding & Operationalizing Diagnostic Assessment Outcomes
  • PC#5 – Accessibility 101
  • PC#6 Increasing Access and Opportunities for Deaf Students in Higher Education

One-Day Sessions - Tuesday, July 17

  • PC#7 –  Leadership Strength and Conditioning for Better Campus Results
  • PC#8 Inclusive Excellence: Transforming Student Success Through Strength-Based Coaching Strategies
  • PC#9 Enhancing Academic Performance in Students with Mental Health Conditions
  • PC#10 – Two-Year Campus Toolkit
  • PC#11 – Determining Fundamental Alteration: A Delicate Balance of Competing Equities
  • PC#12 Programs for Students with Autism: How We Got Here and Where We're Going

Half-Day Sessions - Tuesday, July 17

  • PC#13 – How to Talk to Faculty, Staff, and Campus Leaders About Universal Design for Learning (9:00 am - 12:30 pm)
  • PC#14 – Ethical Compliance: Taking Responsibility for Equity in Disability Services (9:00 am - 12:30 pm)
  • PC#15Have we Lost Our “Why?” (2:00 pm - 5:30 pm)

Two-Day Sessions

PC#1- New to the Profession: Building a Strong Foundation
Margaret Camp, M.Ed., Clemson University
Ann Knettler, M.A., Delaware State University
Cheryl Muller, M.A., University of Arizona
Randall Ward, M.A., Purdue University 

Recognizing individuals enter the field of Higher Education and Disability Services from various backgrounds, AHEAD offers this two-day pre-conference workshop to set the foundation for new disability resource professionals and offer a comprehensive overview of issues that impact our work. The disability service office serves not only as a resource for students but as a campus leader in creating inclusive and sustainable learning environments through outreach and collaboration. Disability resource professionals set the tone for how campus communities frame and respond to disability on their campuses. 

Through interactive discussion and practical application, we will explore “what we think we know” about disability together. We will discuss our work in the context of access and equity and explore how to move beyond compliance toward more sustainable and equitable practices. We will talk about infusing principles of universal design into our work, shifting our focus to the inclusive design of environments and campus systems to be more equitable and require less individual modification. A best practice is to think beyond what we MUST do with respect to compliance to what we CAN do broadly and proactively to ensure a welcoming experience for all.

Areas of emphasis:

  • Prevalent models that frame disability and examine how we can design practices to challenge medical or tragedy-thinking and reinforce the social model of disability in our work
  • Disability services/resources work in higher education and how it differs from the K-12 system
  • Responding to requests for reasonable accommodation
  • Documentation of disability: when is it needed and how to use it
  • Disability and civil rights history
  • Legal foundations of the work: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and who is covered
  • Universal design and the power of design to promote inclusion and equity
  • Campus outreach strategies: how to cultivate relationships with faculty and other key allies
  • Office practices that reflect social model thinking: communication, office processes and record-keeping


PC#2- SESSION FILLED - Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA Officers: Compliance Requirements, Analytical Tools, and Solutions
Paul Grossman, J.D., Hastings College of Law
Jamie Axelrod, M.S., Northern Arizona University
Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D., Consultant 

This two-day Preconference Institute will give DS and ADA professionals a comprehensive introduction to postsecondary disability law, including compliance requirements of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. begin by placing the responsibilities of a DSS officer into its civil rights context, reinforcing the importance of a career in DSS services with a review of the history of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and the emergence of the disability rights movement which culminated in the adoption of disability laws. Participants will learn what legal traditions and concepts all antidiscrimination laws share and what is unique to disability law. As the law shifts emphasis from who is “an individual with a disability” to “qualification,” how are the responsibilities of DSS impacted?

While highlighting long-standing and widely-accepted judicial precedents and principles, the very latest, cutting-edge decisions will be discussed. We will provide an exploration of the practical implications of the ADAAA’s definition of disability, the implementing EEOC and recent DOJ Test Accommodation Guidance, and brand new DOJ regulations, as well as their relationship to the AHEAD Guidance on Documenting Accommodations. Once disability is established, we will consider what must be done to make programs and facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. What accommodations are, or are not, required in the college and university setting? This will include an exploration of academic adjustments and auxiliary aides, the digital world (websites, academic management tools, on-line learning and adaptive technology), service and emotional support animals, mobility devices, architectural and programmatic access, and more. Topics unique to higher education, such as admissions, discipline and conduct, self-injurious students, academic accommodations, and internships will be covered. 

Included in the cost of tuition for this class are approximately 14-16 hours of instruction by nationally-recognized presenters, the contents of a Power Point presentation containing well-over 400 slides, a set of class hypothetical question exercises, and one copy of the AHEAD/Lexis-Nexis publication, Colker and Grossman, the Law of Disability Discrimination for Higher Education Professionals. This Institute will provide each attendee with a comprehensive framework for addressing legal responsibilities and answering the questions they encounter on a daily basis.

PC#3- Socially-Just Services: Unpacking How Ableism Shapes the Disability Experience and Informs Processional Practice
Amanda Kraus, University of Arizona

Many of us are drawn to disability services work because of our commitment to social justice and inclusion.  However, we must enter this work with a reflective posture and appreciate that we too can be part of the problem: inadvertently contributing to dynamics that maintain the status quo. This two-day preconference will explore disability in the larger context of social justice dynamics. Participants will reflect on their personal power and privilege and connect it to professional practice in disability services.

We will begin by exploring systemic and individual dynamics of power and privilege. By situating disability along other community and identity experiences, participants will have time and space to reflect on their personal power and privilege. We will relate to professional practice by exploring how their positions may impact building authentic relationships with disabled students and how they may represent disability to campus audiences. We will then move on to explore how these dynamics impact contemporary and professional concepts of disability. Borrowing from disability studies and disability history, we will look at how disability is currently framed in society, explore conscious and unconscious biases about disability, and consider how these ideas may shape our personal and professional ideas.

After reflecting on the impact of bias on disability services, we will focus specifically on disability-related microaggressions, an emerging area of scholarship with important implications for our work. We will review the literature and work collectively to unpack examples of microaggressions and the role we play in either perpetuating or dismantling these experiences. Finally, we will discuss our roles as allies and advocates. Ally development is a powerful, but potentially contentious, way to declare support and commit to change together: disabled and non-disabled people alike. As disability services professionals, are we de-facto disability allies? Together we will explore questions of authenticity in ally development and representation in disability services. We will end with participants developing and discussing specific action items.


PC#4- Diagnostic Assessments: Understanding & Operationalizing Diagnostic Assessment Outcomes
Rhonda Rapp, Ph.D., St. Mary’s University

Students with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and/or psychological disorders tend to comprise the largest combined population of students with disabilities requesting and receiving accommodations on college and university campuses. To ensure access for these students, most colleges and universities require the results (documentation) of fairly recent, in-depth diagnostic assessments to best shape appropriate accommodations for the student.

However, without training in diagnostic assessment it is difficult and sometimes impossible to accurately understand what the results of the assessment truly mean, whether or not the results are important and/or significant and how to operationalize the diagnostic information. For instance, some individual test batteries yield better results than others (Wechsler, Woodcock-Johnson, Wide Range Achievement, Connors’ Continuous Performance test etc.). But, in this instance, what does “better” mean? 

Furthermore, which individual subtests and/or section(s) of the diagnostic testing report provide the most useful information for making decisions about course substitutions or course waivers? And what individual subtests and/or sections, if any, provide insight into what would be an appropriate substitution? Which subtests and/or section(s) are better for knowing how to answer when faculty, tutors, supplemental instructors, etc., want to know “what else can I do to help?” Which subtests and/or section(s) of the diagnostic testing report are better for giving the student information to use in selecting a viable field-of-study and/or a major/minor? Finally, which subtests and/or section(s) help with the “reduce course load or not” decision? 

Understanding the true purpose of a “diagnostic assessment” and what the answers to the above questions mean improves the functional limitation(s) / appropriate accommodation(s) equation.  Understanding also make it possible for DS providers to understand how diagnostic assessment information and “professional judgment” become part of the total, over-arching diagnostic process.

The goal of this preconference session is to provide in-depth information about “diagnostic assessment” as it applies to students with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and psychological disorders. In addition, participants will work through “diagnostic” case studies and have a chance to investigate their own personal professional “diagnostic” judgment.

Audience: Novice to Intermediate


PC#5- Accessibility 101
Gaier Dietrich, B.A., High Tech Center Training Unit
Heidi Scher, M.S., University of Arkansas

This two-day pre-conference is designed for anyone involved with ensuring their institution's technology is accessible but feeling a bit overwhelmed by or uncertain about that responsibility. The session will cover technology-related accessibility issues in easy-to-understand ways. No question is too simple or too small! We will also bring attendees together to explore strategies and promising practices for addressing these issues campus-wide. Topics to be covered will include:

  1. Applicable laws and standards: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 both prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998, requires that federal agencies ensure accessibility of information technology, and its standards have been adopted by some states. How do these laws apply to higher education institutions, and what are the requirements related to information technology? We will explore these questions, and learn about the standards that are often used to measure accessibility of websites and other information technology, the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

  2. Assistive Technology: Many of the problems encountered by students with disabilities in higher education concern instructional materials and information technologies that are not accessible to their assistive technologies (AT). In order to understand this, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the types of AT commonly used by individuals with disabilities. This session will provide discussion, demonstration, and hands-on activities for learning more about AT.

  3. Alternate Format Conversion: Many individuals with disabilities, including those with blindness, visual impairments, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia, are unable to read traditional print and require that it be converted into alternate formats such as Braille, HTML, Microsoft Word, tagged PDF, and ePUB3. This session will explore a variety of tools, methods, and strategies for effectively and efficiently finding or converting instructional materials into alternate formats.

  4. Web Accessibility: WCAG 2.0 has 62 specific success criteria for measuring whether websites are accessible. This session will bring these success criteria down to earth and explore a variety of web accessibility problems and solutions in a way that is fun, interactive, and easy for non-developers to grasp.

  5. Information Technology Accessibility: Information technology (IT) accessibility is about more than websites. Students face challenges with all sorts of IT, including digital documents, videos, classroom technologies, and software. This session will explore a variety of strategies and promising practices for addressing accessibility of IT. How can we test products and services for accessibility? How can accessibility be addressed within the procurement process?


PC#6- Increasing Access and Opportunities for Deaf Students in Higher Education
Tia Ivanko, M.S., National Deaf Center for Postsecondary Outcomes
Dave Litman, M.S.W., National Deaf Center for Postsecondary Outcomes
Lauren Kinast, M.A., National Deaf Center for Postsecondary Outcomes
Stephanie Zito, M.A., National Deaf Center for Postsecondary Outcomes 

This preconference is an intensive training opportunity to increase individual and institutional capacity to support positive postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals. Two days will be devoted to understanding root causes and key strategies for postsecondary attainment of deaf individuals; understanding a legal framework for equitable access; and engaging in discussion with colleagues. By the end of this training participants will have the means to identify and incorporate key components of equitable accommodations and access services, evaluate access requests and complex situations, and make decisions grounded in evidence-based practices.

The National Deaf Center’s (NDC) mission is to improve postsecondary outcomes of deaf individuals. This work necessarily begins with defining “the what” - what are the gaps in postsecondary education attainment and employment success for deaf individuals? Analysis of recent census data shows that deaf students are graduating from high school at record levels and pursuing postsecondary opportunities at rates comparable to their hearing peers; yet, completion rates for deaf students at the bachelor level are below that of the general population. This is of significant concern because evidence suggests a direct correlation between educational attainment and employment.

An important next step towards improving postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals is collecting and analyzing evidence on “the why” - why are deaf individuals experiencing gaps in education and employment? What systemic factors contribute to these disparate outcomes? Through a systemic and evidence based analysis, NDC has identified four root causes: 1) limited access to language and communication, 2) reduced social opportunities, 3) negative attitudes and biases, and 4) lack of qualified professionals. Drawing from this understanding, preconference participants will focus on “the how” - how can we work together to improve education and employment outcomes for deaf individuals? While there are no easy solutions, there are key areas that the literature reveals are effective in closing postsecondary gaps: 1) designing accessible environments, 2) promoting high expectations for success, 3) leveraging community resources, 4) collecting and using data for decision-making, and 5) developing collaborative and integrated systems.

Employing an interactive format and dialogue model, participants will have an opportunity to unpack root causes and related challenges to identify strategic ways to mitigate barriers in their context. Within this structure, participants will also discuss the legal framework of institutional responsibilities for serving deaf students. Focus will be on guidance from key resources including legal cases, rulings, Letter of Findings, and Department of Justice briefs. Participants will engage in guided discussions, obtain essential information, share strategies for implementation, and gather resources on trending topics. They will leave with information that can foster a sound framework for implementation and use of accommodations in higher education settings.

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One-Day Sessions, Tuesday, July 17

PC#7- Leadership Strength and Conditioning for Better Campus Results

image indicating Leadership and Influence highlighted track or presentation

Enjie Hall, M.R.C., The University of Toledo
Chester Goad, Ed.D., Tennessee Technological University

We can be leaders no matter what position we hold. Leadership involves impacting meaningful change through influence. The first step to leadership is determining and defining who you are as a leader. The next step is actually being that leader and effecting change.     

During the morning, you will have the opportunity to learn about your strengths and talents as a leader through the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment and other tools. Each participant will take a 360-degree evaluation of who they are as a leader. We will learn about different leadership styles and methods for incorporating your strengths and talents when interacting with the campus community.

In the afternoon, we will explore the results of the leadership inventory and introduce practical ways to raise our campus profile for effective campus collaboration. Recognizing and embracing your own leadership profile is paramount to building a reputation of effective leadership and building important partnerships on campus. We will learn to use your own leadership profile to build influence, leverage our expertise, and shift perspectives. This session will be facilitated by disability providers with extensive experience in leading campus change and collaborating with campus stakeholders. Participants will engage in assessments and discussion. There will be ample time for questions and sharing.


PC#8- Inclusive Excellence:  Transforming Student Success through Strength-Based Coaching Strategies
Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, M.C.C., JST Coaching & Training
Christina Fabrey, M.Ed., Green Mountain College

The field of strength-based coaching has blossomed over the last few years as leaders in coaching identify and apply strategies from positive psychology. When working with students with disabilities in higher education, deficit-based thinking can negatively affect their success and lead them to question their ability to achieve their educational goals. Research confirms that by shifting to a strength-based approach in working with students, coaches and service providers can help to empower and equip the next generation of diverse learners toward more meaningful and productive lives. In this full day pre-conference workshop, the presenters will discuss strengths-based research and share coaching strategies to help foster student success.  

The presenters will do a deep dive beyond the core of coaching skills to the theory and practice of coaching as a strength-based approach to promote equity and excellence in all students. Coaching tools such as strength spotting, values clarification, learner/judger mindset, and goal setting models will be introduced, discussed, and practiced in small groups. The presenters will include specific academic coaching skills, demonstrate best practices for incorporating these coaching skills into student interactions, and facilitate group exercises and coaching demonstrations to provide the participants with the hands-on experience of coaching and being coached.

Participants will leave this workshop with a clearer understanding of how blending coaching language and strength-based skills into daily student interactions can make a positive difference in the post-secondary experience for students with disabilities. 


PC#9- Enhancing Academic Performance in Students with Mental Health Conditions
Michelle Mullen, M.S., UMass Medical School, Transitions Research and Training Center
Brittany Stone, M.S., Rutgers University
Amy Banko, M.S., Rutgers University

The aim of this preconference is to help disability service providers implement support strategies that promote academic self-management skills among students with mental health conditions. The interactive session will provide background information on common mental health conditions, their variable nature, the onset of new conditions, and the unknown course of progression. Participants will workshop the functional implications of these disabilities and the common academic barriers students face. They will leave with intentional support strategies, accommodation ideas, and assistive technology solutions designed to reduce those barriers.

Students with mental health conditions are attending college in growing numbers, but many service providers are uncertain of how to best support them. Using resources developed at Rutgers under a federally-funded program and field tested, the presenters will offer strategies and resources. HYPE is a manualized intervention focused on supporting young adults with mental health conditions in postsecondary education, and FAST is a compensatory cognitive remediation manual focusing on developing executive functioning skills in the same population. The two manuals will be used to inform the session, and manual materials (e.g. lessons and worksheets) will be used. This preconference will support disability service providers in developing skills and knowledge through interactive discussion and student conceptualizations.


PC#10 – Two-Year Campus Toolkit
Jennifer Radt, M.S.W, University of Cincinnati Clermont
Teressa Eastman, M.B.A., Butler Community College
Michelle Mitchell, M.Ed., Lehigh Carbon Community College

The AHEAD Community College Special Interest Group (SIG) is pleased to offer the inaugural one-day pre-conference session specifically designed to address the unique challenges and issues found on the two-year campus. Whether you work at a traditional community college, a two-year regional or state university, or some other configuration, we invite you to join us for a day filled with practical application and collaboration.

 Topics addressed during the session will include:

  • Developing student learning outcomes related to disability services and other assessment tools (surveys/focus groups)
  • Planning and hosting a “welcome” session for students new to disability services (i.e. DS Orientation)
  • Intersection of disability services with Title IX and Code of Conduct
  • Collaboration with and training of faculty and staff in regard to DS issues
  • Role of DS in care/case management for students with mental health issues
  • Community outreach efforts (education/community based)
  • On-campus partnerships with developmental education and testing center
  • Challenges with Open Enrollment

The format of the session will provide opportunities for small group discussion, dedicated time for networking, and experiential activities. The session will be facilitated by the Co-Chairs of the Community College SIG. 

Participants will leave with an action plan and access to resources that can be replicated and adjusted to meet the needs of their particular campus environment. 


PC#11- Determining Fundamental Alteration: A Delicate Balance of Competing Equities
Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

Beginning with a brief review of the three determinants of fundamental alteration (reasonableness, undue burden, and direct threat) embedded in the law, this session will build on the presenter’s and participants’ experience to develop a more nuanced approach to evaluating fundamental alteration across a range of contexts, including technical standards, attendance, group work, housing, and tele-study.

This scenario-driven session will allow participants to:
  • Apply the principles of reasonableness that at the core of the accommodation process;
  • Document and weigh course and program goals to balance the tension between access and program requirements;
  • Conduct a direct threat analysis;
  • Evaluate undue financial burden; and
  • Operationalize undue administrative burden.


PC#12- Programs for Students with Autism: How We Got Here and Where We're Going
Jane Thierfeld Brown, College Autism Spectrum & Yale Child Study
Michelle Rigler, M.Ed., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 

The number of students with autism attending college has grown considerably and consistently, presenting higher education with challenges not previously at issue. Increasingly, colleges and universities are responding by developing support programs that specialize in serving this population of students. Indeed, in the past 10 years programs for students with autism have grown in number from two to sixty. How are these programs the same and different? How are they run? What are best practices? Is there research-based guidance? What comprises a "good" program? Can access be achieved in the absence of a specialized program? How do we foster appreciation for neurodiversity on our campuses? 

Sponsored by the AHEAD Autism Special Interest Group (SIG), this one-day preconference session will be a chance to learn, share, and discuss what’s next; where do we go from here? We will discuss different models, research, the changing field of autism and college students, what has worked, and what has not worked. Legal issues will also be discussed. The session is facilitated by the SIG Co-Chairs, Jane Thierfeld Brown and Michelle Rigler. Registration is limited to 35 participants who work in autism programs at a college or university or who plan to start a program; no more than two professionals per program/institution, please.

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Half-Day Sessions - Tuesday, 9:00 am -12:30 pm

PC#13- How to Talk to Faculty, Staff, and Campus Leaders About Universal Design for Learning
Kristen Behling, M.A., Tuffs University
Thomas J. Tobin, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin – Madison

It often seems as though we disability service professionals are speaking a different language than our faculty, support-staff, and leadership colleagues. Do you find yourself advocating for the benefits of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) over and over? How often do you have to explain the difference between accommodation and inclusive design to faculty? When faced with other pressing commitments, does your team’s support for UDL fizzle? Do your campus leaders talk about inclusivity but neglect to fund it? If the answer is “all the time,” come to this interactive workshop from the authors of the book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: UDL in Higher Education.

Based on over 30 years of research across the U.S. and Canada, we will give you evidence-based, concrete language, practices, and structures to increase adoption of and advocacy for inclusive design practices across all campus environments. We will show you how to talk with and engage faculty members and support staff colleagues and campus leaders to get results that lower barriers not only for learners with disabilities but for everyone. You will learn the core-business reasons for why adopting a UDL framework increases student persistence, retention, and satisfaction and how to sell it on campus. This preconference posits diversity in its most inclusive form: instead of relying solely on providing point-of-need accommodations to learners with disabilities—most often a last-minute, ad-hoc, reactive process—adopting UDL as part of an institution’s culture of course design, teaching practices, and student work allows all learners to benefit.


PC#14- Ethical Compliance: Taking Responsibility for Equity in Disability Services
Jewls Harris, M.A., Portland State University
Jen Dugger, M.A., Portland State University 

When it comes to physical accessibility, we usually recognize the difference between what we are required to do under the law (provide “equal access”) and what we should do in order to provide a fully equitable experience for students with disabilities. For example, we know that an entrance around the back of a building is technically “compliant, but also that it limits accessibility to the overall university experience for these students. Likewise, our well-intentioned practices, policies, and procedures oftentimes fail to provide a truly inclusive experience. For instance, when students test in alternative spaces and do not have access to their professors, they are not able to ask clarifying questions like their peers. This example, among others, begs the questions: is this even equal access? Is this actually compliance? Is this ethical? The presenters argue compliance should be ethical. It should be predicated not on “equal access” but rather on equitable access.”

 Ethical Compliance is the radical act of providing accommodations and support to students with disabilities by challenging traditional disability services practices and budgetary constraints. Ethical Compliance amplifies student excellence by responding to ever-changing individual needs and barriers to access and inclusion. It provides a framework for supporting students who have additional marginalized identities and/or experience complex access barrier by using an equity lens and a social justice perspective to interpret the ADA, provide access, and determine reasonable accommodations. The presenters will illustrate the Five Tenets of Ethical Compliance. Attendees will have the opportunity to work through scenarios and begin planning how they will apply the Ethical Compliance framework to their practices.

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Half-Day Sessions - Tuesday, 2:00 pm - 5:30 pm

PC#15- Have we Lost Our “Why?”
Lance Alexis, Ed.D., Middle Tennessee State University
Ann Knettler M.A., Delaware State University

For many DS Professionals, the social model of disability, proactive access, and universal design are part of the everyday vernacular. But are they part of our everyday practice? The long hours, student meetings, paperwork, strained resources, and increasing responsibilities can make it easy to lose sight of core tenets of the DS field. The reason behind your work. Why we do what we do?

Disability services professionals who successfully apply a social model and the spirit of the law to their everyday practice create a clear path for access and equity. Through this interactive preconference, we will refocus on our “why” using the merits of the social justice model of disability and the spirit of the law, as well as our own inner drive. We will address common missteps in everyday practice, provide clear examples of the social model at work, challenge participants to consider their role in the promotion of diversity and equity for all students, and engage in productive conversation about the "why" of the disability services profession. Attendees will leave refreshed and refocused on the why of disability services.