2019 Preconference Institutes

Two-Day Sessions (Tuesday and Wednesday - July 9 & 10)

  • PC#1 Laying the Foundation: An Introduction to Access for Newer Disability Resource Professionals
  • PC#2 Introduction to Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA Officers
  • PC#3 Socially-Just Services - Unpacking How Ableism Shapes the Disability Experience and Informs Professional Practice
  • PC#4 Diagnostic Testing Reports for Learning Disabilities and Attention Disabilities: What Does it All Mean?

One-Day Sessions - Tuesday, July 9

  • PC#5Alternative Format: Policy and Production
  • PC#6 – Attendance Modification: From Eligibility to Implementation and Everything in Between
  • PC#7 –  Reasonableness: Scenario-Based Guided Discussions
  • PC#8 Autism, Anxiety and the Sensory World of the College Campus
  • PC#9 Ask, Don't Tell.  Using Powerful Coaching Questions to Increase Student Self-Reliance

One-Day Sessions - Wednesday, July 10

  • PC#10 What You Need to Know: Assistive Technology and Digital Accessibility
  • PC#11What Makes Community College Disability Services Tantalizing? A Dive into Discourse and Discovery
  • PC#12 – ADA Coordinators SIG / Seven Essential Components of the Role
  • PC#13 Leading with Purpose
  • PC#14 Reframing Deaf Services to Ending Band-Aid Solutions!
  • PC#15 A Perfect Storm – How Campuses Are Responding to Undergraduates’ Mental Health Challenges

Half-Day Sessions - Wednesday, July 10 

  • PC#16 – Vetting Before Getting: Considerations for Procuring Accessible Information and Communication Technology (9:00 am -12:30 pm)
  • PC#17 – Universal Design Studio: Applying Principles to Disability Services and Practices (9:00 am -12:30 pm)
  • PC#18 In Pursuit of Equity on Behalf of Blind Students: Adopting a Multimodal Service Structure with a Social Justice Approach (2:00 pm - 5:30 pm)

Two-Day Sessions

PC#1- Laying the Foundation: An Introduction to Access for Newer Disability Resource Professionals
Elisa Laird-Metke, J.D., Samuel Merritt University
Melanie Thornton, M.A., University of Arkansas - Partners for Inclusive Communities

This two-day program will provide a solid foundation to those newer to higher education disability resources. The goal of the curriculum is to prepare participants with the knowledge and skills to address disability-related barriers and engage campus stakeholders. Disability resource staff come to this work with a variety of backgrounds, from student affairs to the K-12 system to counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and many others. This workshop will allow participants to build on the skills they bring to the field, acquiring the further knowledge and critical judgement necessary to analyze access barriers, apply consistent principles to diverse situations, and create change within established systems.

Disability resource professionals set the tone for how each campus frames and responds to disability. Therefore, this workshop begins with a foundation in disability studies and social justice, followed by a solid legal and civil rights overview and a guided exploration of common and emerging issues. Topics include:

  • The foundations of our work—legal and historical
  • Important legal concepts—fundamental alteration, undue burden, and others
  • The interactive process—working with students to achieve access and establish accommodations
  • Considerations regarding documentation
  • Notifying faculty of student accommodations
  • Strategies and tips for implementing common accommodations
  • Collaborating to create a more inclusive and accessible campus

Unlike online trainings and other forms of distant education, this AHEAD pre-conference provides the opportunity for attendees to engage with others to develop a professional network, the most valuable professional development tool available! Whether you work alone, with a large staff, or address disability as one component of a larger role, join us for a dynamic introduction to an exciting field.


PC#2- Introduction to Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA Officers
Paul Grossman, J.D., retired Hastings College of Law and the Office of Civil Rights
Jamie Axelrod, M.S., Northern Arizona University
Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D., California State University Sacramento

Back by popular demand, this updated two-day preconference will give DS, ADA, disability law practitioners and compliance professionals a comprehensive introduction to postsecondary student disability law, including the requirements of the Americans Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act. There is no way to anticipate every question or scenario that will arise in implementing these laws. Consequently, our mission is to provide each participant with a series of comprehensive frameworks, “analytical paradigms,” and procedural tools for addressing the broad range of legal questions they are likely to encounter. The courts and the Office for Civil Rights often devote more scrutiny to the processes colleges and universities use to reach their decisions than to the decisions themselves. Accordingly, this course will present the procedures most likely to receive agency approval and deference. 

This course will begin by placing the responsibilities of disability services into its civil rights context with a review of the history of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and the emergence of the disability rights movement. Participants will learn the seminal legal concepts common to all antidiscrimination laws and what is unique to disability law. With this broad foundation under our feet, we will take a quick walk through the applicable regulations and tie these concepts and regulations to a comprehensive overview of potential claims and defenses under disability discrimination law including denial of accommodation, fundamental alteration, and undue burden.

Next, we will learn to look at our daily questions as if they had been set before a judge to scrutinize. The issue underlying about 80% of all post-secondary student disability cases is whether the student-complainant is “a qualified individual with a disability” (QID).   This includes focusing on who is “an individual with a disability” under the ADA as amended and what the courts and DOJ tell us about documentation of disability. We will then proceed to the second element of the QID paradigm: whether a student with a disability can meet the essential academic and technical requirements of the institution, with or without reasonable accommodation (“academic adjustments and auxiliary aids”). This will include discussion of accommodations that are “necessary” and “reasonable” and those that are not because they either entail a “fundamental alteration” or an “undue burden.”  

Finally, will devote significant time analyzing recent court decisions and OCR letters, whose discernible theme is that colleges and universities should never deny an accommodation to students with disabilities without first engaging in a case-by-case (individualized) and “interactive” consideration process, even if implementing the accommodation would require making an exception or modification to a long-existing rule, practice, policy, or assumption. Particularly at this stage, we will apply these foundational concepts to cutting-edge legal developments in some of the most challenging and complex issues that face DS offices such as self-injurious students. Opportunities to apply concepts will be provided through discussion of recent cases. 

Persons who complete this class will be well-prepared to take their knowledge and understandings to the next level by attending AHEAD’s master class offered on this subject each spring.

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 professional work in disability services because of our commitment to social justice and inclusion. In this two-day workshop, we will explore disability in the context of social justice dynamics, providing space for participants to reflect on their positionality to disability and connect 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. Participants 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 and higher education, 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 and ways to cultivate effective relationships that promote equity on campus. We will end with participants developing and discussing specific action items.


PC#4- Diagnostic Testing Reports for Learning Disabilities and Attention Disabilities: What Does it All Mean?
Rhonda Rapp, Ph.D., St. Mary’s University

Students with learning disabilities and/or attention disabilities tend to comprise the largest combined population of students with disabilities requesting and receiving accommodations on college and university campuses today. To ensure equal access for these students, colleges and universities usually require the results of a diagnostic assessment to document the learning and/or attention disability. However, without specific training in the processes, purposes, and uses of diagnostic assessment information, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to accurately understand what the results of the assessment truly mean: whether the results are important or significant; how to operationalize the diagnostic information; and whether the diagnostic testing results support requested accommodations.

Understanding the true purpose of a “diagnostic assessment” and knowing the answers to the following questions support DS providers in using diagnostic assessment information and “professional judgment” to determine appropriate accommodations.

  • 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?
  • What individual subtests and/or sections, if any, provide insight into what would be an appropriate class 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?”
  • 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?
  • Which subtests and/or section(s) help with the “reduce course load or not” decision?

The goal of this preconference is to provide an in-depth look at “diagnostic assessment.” Portions of a current diagnostic test battery will be demonstrated so that participants can experience firsthand what is being “officially and unofficially evaluated” in a typical assessment for learning disabilities and/or attention disabilities. In addition, participants will get to work through informative and not so informative “diagnostic” case studies and have a chance to investigate their own personal professional “diagnostic” judgment.

Audience: Intermediate. All registrants should plan time to watch a 90-minute AHEAD webinar offered by the presenter in December 2018 to ensure they have appropriate background for the more advanced information presented at this session. The recording will be sent a few weeks prior to the conference.

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One-Day Sessions, Tuesday, July 9

PC#5- Alternative Format: Policy and Production
Rachel Kruzel, University of St. Thomas

Providing alternative and accessible textbooks and documents is an essential component of the role of a disability resource office. However, those who manage a one-person office, are new to the field, or juggle multiple roles may struggle with executing this accommodation in a thorough and efficient manner. As a result, many students who could benefit from etext and other accessible formats are overlooked or are given books and documents formatted in ways that are not effective.

This preconference will give attendees the skills and resources to provide alternative format textbooks and accessible documents and course materials. Attendees will explore “reading disabilities,” learn which students might benefit from accessible materials, and explore the resources available to support this work. We’ll discuss publisher files, other sources of accessible textbooks (such as Access Text Network, Learning Ally, and Bookshare), and scanning and editing files. Practical workflows and systems that can be implemented quickly will be shared. Attendees will leave with information and guidance to create a streamlined process for securing and producing accessible documents.

PC#6- Attendance Modification: From Eligibility to Implementation and Everything in Between
ElizaBeth Pifer, M.S., Northern Arizona University
Dorianne Pollack, M.Ed., Northern Arizona University
Yvonne Campbell, M.S.W., Northern Arizona University

Attendance modification as an accommodation is one of the hottest topics for disability service personnel right now. OCR guidance is clear that we should not send students to negotiate reasonable accommodations with their faculty members because of the power differential and their limited understanding of disability and the law. Yet, with the growing number of requests and the unique nature of each class, determining whether an attendance modification is reasonable and implementing it can be overwhelming.

Northern Arizona University’s Disability Resources Department completes approximately 350 attendance agreements per semester and has been nationally recognized as having a process that responds to legal guidance, is individualized yet efficient, and has actually led to improved faculty relationships. In the morning, we will discuss the legal reasons that modified accommodations may be reasonable and our philosophy in applying these concepts. Participants will then work in small groups using real case studies to arrive at an appropriate determination of whether the accommodation is reasonable. While there are no hard and fast rules to make this an easy process, there are questions that help demystify decisions. For example, what barrier are you removing with the accommodation and are there other accommodations or strategies available to remove the barrier?

In the afternoon, we’ll turn our attention to strategies for managing attendance modifications once a student is determined eligible. We will start with a brief history and share the evolution that led to our current practice. Strategies for identifying, assigning, tracking, developing, coordinating, and completing attendance agreements before the semester begins will be discussed. We will share our process for organizing the work, creating a Modified Attendance Agreement template for each class, and tracking progress. Participants will understand the components of the agreement with faculty and how to determine whether attendance is an essential part of the academic requirements for each class.

Attendees will leave this session with a thorough understanding of modified attendance, from student eligibility to faculty conversations to class appropriateness. Practice in applying concepts and tools for implementing the process on your campus will be provided.

PC#7- Reasonableness: Scenario-Based Guided Discussions
Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

Synthesizing information from the student and about the class/program and considering them in light of legal and policy guidance to respond to requests for accommodation in the face of competing priorities from students, faculty, administrators, and other stakeholders is challenging. By design, the field requires individual analysis of each student’s characteristics, each program or campus context, and each unique request. With so many moving parts, legal and policy guidelines can only take us so far. Fluent communication skills, expertise in identifying relevant information, and a critical voice are necessary. 

Using both the participants and facilitator’s knowledge and experiences, we will explore critical topics in disability services. In addition to revisiting the principles of reasonableness, we will discuss scenarios that include the most nuanced areas in higher education. Animals on campus, attendance accommodations, student conduct, internships/field placements, and topics suggested by participants will be covered.

Participants will set the stage as they work with the facilitator to identify and explore the principles of reasonableness that are the foundations of the accommodation process. How are these principles embodied in policy and reflected in practice across accommodation contexts? Brief introductory discussions and review of relevant research and legal guidance will proceed each situation discussion. Interactive scenarios will highlight principles in action and illustrate best practices, allowing participants to workshop policy and process elements to bring back to their campuses. The overall experience will balance information sharing, small group discussion, and hands-on policy and process consideration.


PC#8- Autism, Anxiety and the Sensory World of the College Campus
Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D., College Autism Spectrum & Yale Child Study
Lorre Wolf, Ph.D., Boston University

The population of students with autism on college campuses has been increasing for well over a decade. Data show that about 35% of students with autism now attend college after graduating from high school. However, these students, as well as students, faculty, and staff with anxiety, can find the college experience overstimulating and inaccessible. As we learn more about sensory barriers, autism, and anxiety, we can implement accommodations, sensory alternatives, and spaces that support college success.

There are currently over 60 college programs in the country that specifically address the unique needs of students on the autism spectrum. Sensory Rooms, Calming Spaces, or Zen Dens are increasingly popular and give students a place to destress. The ability to relax has been proven to have both academic and health results.  For example, data from several newly-built schools in Minnesota’s Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916, which set the gold-standard for sensory-friendly design, have shown that behavioral issues are down, and academic achievement is up.

In this preconference, you will learn about both designing welcoming spaces and providing individual supports for students on the spectrum and those with anxiety. We will address unique accommodations for students with autism and/or anxiety and discuss their implementation and effectiveness. We will explore strategies, sensory and otherwise, and connect them to cognitive results. If your campus is seeing an increase in the number of students with autism and you are finding that traditional accommodations alone aren’t effective in removing barriers for students, join two national experts in exploring innovative strategies and solutions.

Level: Intermediate (some background in disability services is required)


PC#9- Ask, Don't Tell.  Using Powerful Coaching Questions to Increase Student Self-Reliance
Jodi Sleeper-Triplet, MCC, JST Coaching and Training
Christina Fabrey, M.Ed., Prescott College

As disability service providers, we are positioned to ask students questions to empower their self-awareness, personal exploration, focus, clarity, and decision-making. In this session, disability support providers will take a dive deep into the inquiry process to better understand how powerful questions can increase student self-reliance both personally and academically. From topics of self-care to academic excellence, participants will master the art of questioning.

Students can be harsh on themselves, highlighting their deficits and often not seeing themselves as others do: as creative, intelligent, and resourceful human beings. Employing holistic coaching techniques is a helpful strategy to support students’ positive school experiences, social skills, and skills for future academic and career success. Through the coaching process, disability service professionals have an opportunity to help students think critically, solve problems, overcome personal obstacles, discover their strengths, and generally make the most of their college experiences.

One of the most important skills in coaching is asking powerful questions. While the concept may seem simplistic, the shift from good questions to great questions is an art that requires active listening, patience, understanding, and practice.  In this interactive workshop, the presenters will model the art of powerful questioning using real examples and student situations shared by participants. Each participant will have the opportunity to practice asking and answering questions during coaching sessions, so they can experience the power of great questions versus good questions. We will share common mistakes in the inquiry process, as well as strategies to help disability support providers use powerful questions to expand student self-awareness.

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One-Day Sessions - Wednesday, July 10

PC#10 – What You Need to Know: Assistive Technology and Digital Accessibility
Rachel Kruzel, University of St. Thomas

Over the last decade, the assistive technology industry has boomed. With the explosions of apps, accessibility being built-into many of the devices we use daily, and a decrease in the cost of assistive technology devices and programs, these tools are becoming easier to integrate into daily life. However, with a field flooded with options and limited time, understanding and learning about, let alone mastering, assistive technology can feel like another language. Assistive technology can be a huge asset to any disability resource provider and having the knowledge to provide these invaluable tools to students is essential.

Coupled with assistive technology, the digital and technological accessibility is taking over college campuses. For many, accessibility is another task on the long list of job responsibilities, an area in which we are expected to provide leadership. Given the importance of the topic, it is essential that every disability resource staff member have a basic knowledge of digital accessibility and how to support and partner with stakeholders to advance campus accessibility.  

This preconference session will address necessary, but often overlooked, topics central to our work. First, attendees will be immersed in a crash course in assistive technology. We will begin the session by learning what assistive technology is and why disability resource staff should embrace it. We will then drive into the different types of tools that are available are available and commonly used in higher education. Then, practical steps, including a framework and workflow, for working with students and logistical tips to start or tweak your assistive technology loan program will be discussed. The assistive technology portion will round out with a showcase of common tools used to support students.

The second portion of this preconference will introduce on digital accessibility. Participants will receive training on accessibility and how it applies to their campus. Participants will leave with language, steps to move these efforts forward on campus, and an understanding of the laws and lingo that drive the movement. New disability resource staff, as well as seasoned veterans, looking for updates will benefit from attending this session to round out their expertise and knowledge on assistive technology and accessibility. Every attendee will leave with a toolkit of technology tools and implementation strategies.

PC#11- What Makes Community College Disability Services Tantalizing? A Dive into Discourse and Discovery
Michelle L Mitchell, M.Ed., Lehigh Carbon Community College
Linda Nissenbaum, M.A., St. Louis Community College

Thanks to popular demand, AHEAD’s Community College Special Interest Group (SIG) is again offering a full-day opportunity for disability resource personnel to come together for professional development and networking. Designed SPECIFICALLY to address the unique challenges and concerns faced by two-year campuses, the session content is informed by feedback from the SIG membership and will address the following topics:  Thanks to feedback from many of our community college institutions, topics will include:

  • Challenges with open door admissions, open enrollment
  • Parental expectations and underprepared students
  • Social engagement on a commuter campus and for students taking limited classes but remaining on campus
  • Being asked to do more with less
  • Community-based instructors not invested in professional development agenda
  • Creating on-campus and off-campus collaborations and partnerships
  • Role of disability services and Title IX and code of conduct

Whether you work at a traditional community college, a two-year regional or state university, or a technical or vocational two-year college, please join us for a day filled with practical application and collaboration. The format will provide opportunities for small group discussion, dedicated time for networking, and experiential activities. We’ll also save time to explore how AHEAD can work for you.

Participants will leave with tools and resources to be used to meet the needs of their unique campus environment. The session is facilitated by one of the Co-Chair of the Community College SIG and kicks off a full track of conference sessions dedicated to the issues common for those of us who work at two-year institutions.


PC#12- ADA Coordinators SIG / Seven Essential Components of the Role
Gabriel Merrell, M.S., Oregon State University
Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University
Tina Vires, Georgia State University

This one-day preconference is designed for participants who are serving (formally or informally) as the ADA/Section 504 Coordinator at their institution in areas beyond student accommodations. This fast-paced training assumes a working knowledge of the accommodation process. Our focus will be on articulating a philosophy for institutional access and translating it into a compliance and inclusion program.

Using a review of the administrative requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended, Non-discrimination, Notice, Designated Coordinator/Compliance Officer, Accessibility, Accommodation, Grievance, Self-evaluation and Transition/Strategic Plan) the facilitators will draw on their and participants’ experiences to explore the role of ADA Coordinators within higher education to highlight best practices. We will discuss models for implementing a coordinated program that moves your institution towards seamless access and enhances the full participation of disabled individuals in all aspects of the institutional enterprise.

Interactive scenarios will highlight principles in action and illustrate best practices, allowing participants to workshop policy and process elements to bring back to their campuses.

PC#13- Leading with Purpose

Courtney Jarrett, Ed.D., Ball State University
Zebadiah Hall, Ph.D. student, Cardinal Stritch University

Those of us who care about leadership development rightly spend much of our time improving how we lead others. Yet we often don’t think about the equally important question of why we lead. Join us for an exploration of this side of leadership. We will discuss both external and internal leadership, social justice in leadership, workplace culture, and the terminology used by leadership experts. 

Participants will be active throughout the day. You’ll share your leadership style and develop plans to change, update, and share it with colleagues. What have you found challenging and rewarding as a leader? After exploring your leadership strengths and learning more about the themes from your mental model, you will develop a short statement that describes the unique and animating purpose of your leadership. Properly conceived, your purpose statement will help you make better choices about your lifelong work as a leader. You will develop an understanding of how to lead out of your best self on a daily basis and learn how stereotype threat affects all of us as leaders, especially those from marginalized communities. 

Participants should come prepared for a contemplative and challenging workshop in a supportive environment. This program is recommended for people interested in engaging in self-discovery and the simplicity of self-awareness.


PC#14- Reframing Deaf Services to Ending Band-Aid Solutions!
Lauren Kinast, M.A., NIC, National Deaf Center
Tia Ivanko, M.S., National Deaf Center
Stephanie Zito, M.A., National Deaf Center
Dave Litman, M.A., NIC, National Deaf Center 

This preconference is an opportunity for participants to take steps toward reframing access services for deaf students. Instead of reacting to requests, this proactive approach integrates accessibility into the fabric of the institution. The National Deaf Center (NDC) Nav Team will guide participants through a self-assessment and planning session to improve access from a systems level. Participants will self-identify areas for improvement, learn about evidence-based recommendations, explore resources, and discuss timelines for implementing new strategies.

This preconference is an opportunity for participants to gauge their institution’s readiness for change, identify target areas of improvement, and create a plan of action. The day will begin with a self-assessment using NDC's Project Open Doors, which measures institutional capacity, accessibility, and inclusion of deaf students from the faculty, staff, and student perspectives and can be used to provide a baseline understanding of the institution’s readiness and progress. Using their survey results and NDC data, participants have a global view of their institution’s physical environment, technical supports, communication and information delivery, attitudes, service provision, and opportunities to build social capital. The group will then identify common areas of improvement, brainstorm effective solutions, learn about resources on trending topics, and identify strategies to improve institutional access. In the afternoon, we will target accommodation and access services directly. Participants will be guided in implementing an infrastructure that anchors policies, protocol, and processes to evidence-based practices. They will leave with an action plan for improving specific areas of service in their department.

NCD recognizes systems change is a strategic process. Using the framework provided in this preconference, participants will have the resources necessary to reduce barriers, improve access services, and improve postsecondary outcomes for deaf students.

PC#15- A Perfect Storm – How Campuses Are Responding to Undergraduates’ Mental Health Challenges
David Parker, Ph.D., Children’s Research Group

The continuing rise in students with psychiatric disorders is nested within a larger trend of increased mental health needs in undergraduates with and without disabilities. This preconference session will explore societal causes for these developments, describe campus practices designed to promote students’ resilience and grit, and link these efforts to evidence-based outcomes for college students to become more self-determined.

Participants will:

  1. review national statistics regarding college students’ mental health challenges while discussing related trends on their campus,
  2. identify societal factors that explain why growing numbers of undergraduates come to college with increased risk factors for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety,
  3. apply evidence-based strategies for promoting students’ resilience and grit in small group activities, including guided opportunities to learn/practice coaching techniques,
  4. identify examples of courses, programming, and online resources that campuses use to promote students’ resilience, grit, and emotional fortitude, and
  5. brainstorm ways to contribute disability/mental health expertise to campus-wide partnerships that promote students’ emotional well-being.

This preconference session will explore issues such as the 2008 recession, the impact of social media, and consequences of a “do-over” culture in competitive high schools to help participants better understand why today’s “bubble-wrap generation” seems so poorly prepared to handle challenges in constructive ways. By promoting students’ resilience and grit, we can help undergraduates develop stronger self-determination.

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Half-Day Sessions - Wednesday, July 10

PC#16- Vetting Before Getting: Considerations for Procuring Accessible Information and Communication Technology
Kelsey Hall, M.S., AT for Education
Kristina England, M.A., UMass President’s Office

Accessibility isn't a "nice to have." It's the law! Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires higher education to provide all individuals with equal and equitable access to the benefits of services, programs, or activities. One of the key components of any accessibility program is the procurement of technology. You can implement accessibility standards and provide training and education, but without the upfront vetting of products and services, purchasers are held liable should a formal complaint be filed.

The recent 508 refresh, combined with working group’s updates to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, sheds light on the need to establish policies, procedures, and consistency when procuring accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT). However, not everyone shares the same ideas regarding accessibility. This workshop will cover vetting products, software, websites, and other technology to ensure WCAG compliance. We'll address: 

  • Implementation of formal procurement standards
  • Prioritization of products, and
  • Example RFP and Contract language - what to avoid and what to emphasize.

We will also cover contract renewals and expanded rollout of existing products. To fully understand "accessible," we'll dive into actual testing of products with various assistive technologies. Opportunities for hands-on testing with a laptop and mobile device will be provided. Questions to be answered include: What is an accessibility compliance review? How do we prioritize products and services? How do I validate products?

Join us to learn about the accessibility testing process, as well as the responsibilities of both the vendor and the procuring institution in ensuring accessibility for all.

Participants should bring a laptop and mobile devise to benefit maximally.

PC#17- Universal Design Studio: Applying Principles to Disability Services and Practices
Cole Eskridge, M.A., University of Arizona

We all strive to apply Universal Design (UD) in the work we do; however, UD has traditionally been difficult to make actionable to move our practice away from providing the same accommodations time and time again. In this unconference-style workshop, participants will apply updated UD principles to challenges they encounter regularly to incubate design changes that can be tested in their office upon return home. Participants will form an accountability network to continue conversations beyond the conference. 

The social model is increasingly popular in conversations within the disability services field, as is its most powerful tool: Universal Design (UD). Despite its recognizability, many find UD difficult to make actionable, due in part to the fact that the original seven principles were developed by architects, which tends to skew perceptions to the physical environment. While UD has been adapted to fit more abstract concepts (Universal Design for Learning, etc.), these models are limited in applicability. Instead of encouraging the proliferation of newer, more specialized forms of UD, the original tenets need to be updated to maximize the philosophy's flexibility.

In this “unconference” workshop, we will review this flexible, updated form of UD to allow for application in both physical spaces and more abstract ones: policy, practice, experience, courses, etc. We will specifically focus application on our own practices in Disability Services to inspire prototypical UD solutions to common challenges. Following a review of the seven principles of UD and how they relate to the disability community, participants will work in small groups with guided questions to address common challenges. If you’re ready to act rather than simply think philosophically about UD, join us for this design studio and leave with a plan and a network of colleagues to support and encourage you in implementing innovative practices.


PC#18 - In Pursuit of Equity on Behalf of Blind Students: Adopting a Multimodal Service Structure with a Social Justice Approach

Jewls Griesmeyer Krentz, M.A., Portland State University
Michele Bromley, M.A., Portland State University

Portland State University has adopted a social justice approach to accessible, inclusive, and equitable education for students who are blind. There are material and classroom access barriers that remain unsolved by the simple provision of audio textbooks or a note taker. This preconference session will provide an overview of our approach to fully accessible course materials and personalized classroom support.

Portland State University (PSU) applies an equity-based, social justice approach to the provision of accommodations and services for blind students through solutions that are sustainable and reflect universal design principles. The first half of this preconference will detail methods for providing holistic, inclusive, proactive, and reactive wrap-around support, including:

  • Consistent one-on-one collaboration with students to develop a plan specific to their needs, complete with short term and long-term goals.
  • Robust and intensive resources and assistance to faculty in areas of alternative formats and inclusive classroom activities.
  • Early and thorough engagement with community partners to establish a plan for ongoing, coordinated support.
  • Inclusive, accessible technology options through initial assessment and planning for ongoing adaptive technology access and training.
  • Fully accessible alternative formats for all course materials, including STEAM subjects, that considers individual needs and preferences.
  • Supplementary support provided by classroom assistants who are fully trained to work with students when visual elements in the classroom are not accessible.

The second half of this preconference will focus on the task and crisis management resources for addressing accessibility and interpersonal barriers in the following areas:

  • Ableist or unresponsive behaviors on the part of faculty members when communicating with or about blind students.
  • Problematic understandings of disability and identity on the part of alternative formats technicians or classroom assistants.
  • Inadequate training or experience on the part of blind students that may affect their ability to access necessary resources.

Participants in this preconference will have ample opportunities for discussion and practice using case studies. Every participant will also receive a print and/or accessible, electronic version of PSU’s toolkit, which will include sample email templates, faculty educational resources, comprehensive alternative formats guidelines, and sample job descriptions and training resources for classroom assistants and alternative formats technicians.

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