2021 AHEAD Start

A Virtual Academy and Mentoring Experience
for New(er) Disability Resource Personnel

October 20-22, 2021

For the past three years, the AHEAD Start Academy has offered a foundational experience to disability resource professionals who are just building or continuing to grow their fundamental knowledge and skills. As we did in 2020, we this will be a virtual experience that includes a year-long mentoring component to again offer newer professionals the opportunity to explore, discuss, and apply concepts important to building equity on college campuses. AHEAD membership through the end of the calendar year is included in the conference registration fee.

As always, the Academy is designed to orient, refresh, and engage. We’ll begin with a foundation in disability history, social justice, and civil rights. After framing disability, we’ll cover essential legal principles, documentation considerations, the interactive process, and reasonable accommodation decision-making. We’ll consider common and emerging issues, service coordination, and outreach. Topics include:

  • Disability as a civil right: examination of the history of the disability rights movement, discussion about disability in society today, and how it informs service delivery.
  • Legal concepts from Section 504, the ADA, case law, and settlement agreements: the interactive process, “reasonableness,” fundamental alteration, undue burden, and direct threat.
  • The interactive process: student interview, documentation, and decision-making in context.
  • Accommodation design and coordination.
  • Outreach and consultation: campus leadership and influence.

To build community and provide opportunities for networking and group support, the three-day October component of Academy will be synchronous. Therefore, to be fully immersed in the content, discussions, and activities, we recommend participants connect away from the daily demands of their jobs, from a home office or a private location. While we appreciate the challenge of finding that space and will record sessions for later viewing as necessary, participating in this event as though it were an in-person training will provide the most benefit. Please review the Academy schedule to block your schedule now.

During the Academy week in October, participants will be paired with a small cohort group lead by a long-term AHEAD member mentor. The week’s schedule will include an initial opportunity for engagement with the group mentor and peers to establish relationships that will provide connections and support over the course of the next year in ongoing monthly discussions and Q&A sessions.

If you are in your first three years of higher education / disability resource work, have gaps in your knowledge that a review of foundational concepts would help to fill, or are interested in a sustained cohort/mentoring opportunity, this training/mentoring program may be exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you work alone, with a large staff, or address disability as one component of a larger role, join us for this comprehensive introduction to a dynamic field. 

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Wednesday-Friday, October 20-22, 2021

We will engage throughout the day in synchronous learning via Zoom. Because time zones vary, participants should plan to be involved with the Academy activities for approximately 6 hours/day between the hours of 8:00-2:00 Pacific/11:00-5:00 Eastern. An hour-long lunch break and two 30-minute breaks will be incorporated each day, to let you step away from the computer. However, participants will benefit the most if they dedicate these three days to the Academy and separate themselves from their daily work during this time.

Follow-up Sessions & Cohort/Mentor Meetings:

During the AHEAD Start Academy session on Friday morning, each mentor cohort group will choose a mutually agreeable date and time to meet monthly for the next 11 months. This time can be used however the group finds most beneficial—for sharing information, asking questions, sounding board opportunities, or moral support.

AHEAD Start Schedule (all times Eastern)


11-1:30Introductory/foundational information on disability (history, narratives, models, perspectives)

1:30-2:30—Lunch break

2:30-5Legal foundations of our work


11-1:30Interactive process: student interview, documentation, and decision-making in context

1:30-2:30—lunch break

2:30-5Outreach and consultation: campus leadership and influence


11-12—Mentor/mentee introduction sessions—Individual Zoom sessions led by each mentor



1:30-2:30—Lunch break

2:30-4—Q&A Panel with all five panelists

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AHEAD Start Academy Pricing

Registration on or before September 30, 2021

  • AHEAD members: $300 
  • Non-AHEAD members: $400 


Registration after September 30, 2021

  • AHEAD members: $375 
  • Non-AHEAD members: $475

Refund Policy

Registration canceled before October 1 will incur a $75 charge. No refunds are available after October 1.

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Zebadiah Hall
Zebadiah Hall is the Director of Student Disability Services (SDS) at Cornell University. He has shifted SDS to a Civil Rights for Social Justice model instead of the medical model approach to determining accommodation. His pronouns are He, Him. Zebadiah has worked in higher education in various departments such as Admissions, Academic Support, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, and Disability Support Services. He served as the President of the State of Indiana’s Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) chapter from 2013 -2014. He is currently serving a three-year term as a board member of AHEAD’s national organization as the Equity Officer. Before being the director at Cornell, he was the director of Access and Accommodation Resource Center at Valparaiso University and director at Calumet College of St. Joseph Disability Support Services as well. At Valparaiso, he served as the chair of the Staff Employee Advocacy Council and the chair of the Minority Employee Support Group. At Cornell, he currently sits on the Diversity Working Group for Cornell Health. He is a regular speaker and facilitator on topics around access and opportunity for disabled students as well as other oppressed populations. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI.

Richard "RJ" Kilgore
Richard “RJ” Kilgore is the Director of Academic Support for the Center of Academic Support at Johnson and Wales University, Charlotte. He began his career with North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agency and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate. RJ has worked with high school and college students with disabilities and presented at conferences on the local, state, and national level. Most recently, he presented on collaborative efforts with campus partners to promote access during COVID for AHEAD’s virtual conference. RJ serves as Treasurer of the NCAHEAD Board of Directors. Throughout his career, RJ has dedicated intentional effort towards social justice, serving as Chair of the UNCW Student Affairs Diversity Committee and a member of the UNCW Black Faculty and Staff Association. He is currently working with colleagues from Cornell University, University of Chicago, and Valparaiso University on a call to action paper focusing on Blackness and Intersectionality with Disability.

Chris Stone

Chris Stone is Director of Disability Resources at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to that, Chris worked as a Learning Specialist, Assistant Director, and then Director at the Disability Resource Center at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Currently a member of AHEAD’s Board of Directors, Chris previously served as Treasurer and President of NCAHEAD (AHEAD’s North Carolina affiliate). He was the Co-Chair of Programs for AHEAD’s 2016 International Conference and an advisor to AHEAD’s work to revise its campus assessment tools. Along with his AHEAD involvement, Chris served as Chair of Sponsored Programs for ACPA’s Coalition on Disability. Most recently, he has presented on managing during crisis and disaster situations, intersectional approaches to supporting students in collaboration with Title IX, and disability resource’s role in university behavior intervention teams. Chris often speaks on topics of inclusion and involvement of diverse populations, the metacognitive development of students, legal aspects of disability in higher education, and best practices for supporting disabled students. In January 2020, Chris was a keynote speaker and featured presenter at the inaugural Inclusion School 2020 conference held in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Melanie Thornton
Melanie Thornton is the Coordinator of Access and Equity Outreach at the University of Arkansas - Partners for Inclusive Communities. In this position, she provides professional development and technical assistance on topics related to disability, diversity, digital access, leadership, and design. Previously, she worked at the Disability Resource Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she served as the Associate Director and Director of Project PACE, a Department of Education model demonstration grant. She led the campus community in increasing capacity related to Web accessibility and inclusive curricular design. Melanie has also served as a trainer for Project ShIFT, a project designed to develop the leadership skills of professionals across the country and supporting them in infusing disability studies perspectives into their practices. Melanie has presented at state, national and international conferences on topics related to disability and access and has worked as an independent consultant in a variety of capacities for 10 years.

Katy Washington
Katy Washington serves as the Director in the Office of Disability Access at the University of North Texas. She has spent over fifteen years working with faculty and staff to facilitate an inclusive campus environment for students with disabilities in various educational settings. Katy received a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. She also holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Arkansas. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) as the President-Elect. Dr. Washington is a highly motivated student affairs administrator with seventeen years of professional experience in various areas of student development such as disability services, standardized testing, student development, academic advising, and student success/retention programming. She has worked within a variety of institutional sizes and types including metropolitan and land-grant universities, a liberal arts college, and urban and Hispanic-serving two-year colleges and universities. She has fifteen years of progressive experience in Disability Services in the postsecondary setting, with eleven years in an administrative capacity.

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