2021 Preconference Sessions

Two-Day Preconferences; Monday, July 19 and Tuesday, July 20; 9:00 am – 5:30 pm

PC 1: AHEAD Start: An Introduction to Access for Newer Disability Resource Professionals

Carol Funckes, AHEAD

Location: JW Grand Ballroom 1-4

This two-day program is designed to provide those newer to higher education disability resources with a foundational overview of the major issues that shape access in higher education today. In the dynamic postsecondary environment, the disability service office must be both a service unit and a vital center of information and collaboration for the campus community. Disability resource professionals must balance their work in determining and coordinating accommodations for individual students with the equally important role of campus-wide consultant, advisor, and leader. 

This workshop will support participants in building on the skills they bring to the field, acquiring the knowledge and the critical judgement to analyze access barriers, apply consistent principles to diverse situations, and foster change within established systems. Through instruction, discussion, hands-on activities, and resource sharing, we will explore the civil rights foundation, legal underpinnings, and practical realities of creating accessible, welcoming higher education environments. Guided by participant questions and interests, we will cover the following topics:

  • foundational legal, disability, documentation, and design concepts;
  • the interactive process, working with students to assess barriers, achieve access, and establish accommodations;
  • strategies for designing service delivery practices that minimize extra efforts by disabled students and encourage faculty collaboration;
  • considerations for implementing common accommodations and addressing developing issues
  • Collaborations to create a more inclusive and accessible campus

Unlike online trainings and other forms of distant education, this two-day Institute 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, retired Hastings College of Law and the Office of Civil Rights
Jamie Axelrod, Northern Arizona University
Mary Lee Vance, California State University Sacramento

Location: JW Grand Ballroom 6

Back by popular demand, this updated two-day preconference will give disability resource, ADA, disability law, 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 intersectional 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 student with a disability” (QSD).   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 QSD 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 disability resource offices. Opportunities to apply concepts will be provided through discussion of recent cases.


CANCELLED - PC 3: Ableism at Work: Unpacking How Ableism Shapes the Disability Experience and Informs Professional 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.

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One-Day Preconferences; Monday, July 19; 9:00 am - 5:30 pm

PC4: Building, Defining, and Updating Processes: Test Accommodations, Note-taking, and Assistive Technology

Rachel Kruzel, AT Consultant

Location: 203/204

Process guides most everything we do on a day-to-day basis. From getting up and getting ready for work, to writing a paper or ordering food at a restaurant, process runs our lives. In a disability resources office, this is no different. Best practice tells us that having written processes provides structure and standards to the work we do. “Do you have a process?” is often the first question that the Office of Civil Rights or the Department of Justice asks if an institution is involved in a complaint investigation. Couple this with the ever-changing landscape of our field, and it is essential that we have written procedures and stay abreast of what they should include. However, many disability resource offices have processes that are known but not written or reviewed recently. Or these policies lack applicability over time when changes come our way. Many times, we have the best intent to update our processes but time constraints and competing priorities prevent follow-through. No matter the issue, carving out dedicated time to address, update, or write procedures is essential.

In this preconference, we will address processes and procedures in three key areas of accommodation provision: accommodated testing, notetaking, and assistive technology. Participants will learn best practices in each of these areas of accommodation, discuss processes in place at similar institutions to theirs, and share challenges and successes with their current procedures. We’ll discuss the changing landscape of higher ed as a result of Covid-19 and ensure our procedures are sustainable for the future, no matter what direction our field heads. Then, through "choose-your-own-adventure" worksheets and writing exercises, participants will take a critical look at each of their own processes and tweak, change, or draft procedures for their office. You will leave with tangible updates or processes that you can implement upon return to campus. Make sure to bring copies of your current policies!

PC5: Principles of Reasonableness: Returning to Basics to Address Challenging, Nuanced Situations

L. Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

Location: JW Grand Ballroom 8

Those of us who have been in the field of higher education and disability for some time know the principles that underlie our work, the relevant legislation, and best practices. Yet, synthesizing that information to make a decision on the reasonableness of a request 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 expertise and experiences, this highly interactive preconference will be organized in four conversations around critical topics in disability services:

  • Principles of Reasonableness: Balancing competing equities while juggling fundamental program goals. To set the stage, we’ll revisit basic principles and discuss how they inform decision-making in even the most complex situations.
  • Documentation: Anchoring policies to institutional mission and philosophy. Moving the conversation from “Is she qualified?” to “How do I collect and use the most critical individual information to address access in unique contexts?”
  • In the afternoon, after foundational information is explored, we’ll consider access and decision-making in highly nuanced areas:
    • The Intersection of Student Conduct and Accommodation: Examining behavior and process
    • Course Substitutions
    • Accommodations in practica and placements

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. 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 development.

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One-Day Preconferences; Tuesday, July 20; 9:00 am - 5:30 pm

CANCELLED - PC 6: Alternative Format Textbooks and Course Materials: Policy and Production

Rachel Kruzel, AT Consultant

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. Recent developments in the field as well as the shift to more classes and content being taught online can also lead professionals to scratching their head and asking, “What do I do?” As a result, many students who could benefit from etext and other accessible formats are overlooked or 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 efficiently and effectively, while navigating an ever-changing landscape which impacts this work. Attendees will explore “reading disabilities,” learn which students might benefit from accessible materials, and explore the available resources. We’ll discuss publisher files, sources of accessible textbooks, and scanning and editing files. We will also touch on current issues, such as ePub files, copyright issues, what the landscape of this part of our field looks like as a result of Covid-19, and wider accessibility efforts to ensure accessible documents campus-wide. Practical workflows and systems that that can be implemented quickly along with policies and procedures that are sustainable to adapt to our evolving field will be shared. Attendees will leave with information and guidance to create a streamlined process for securing and producing alternative textbooks and course materials for today and beyond.


PC 7: Policy Incubator: Workshop Your Policy Challenges

L. Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

Location: 203/204

Are you struggling with developing technical standards, framing attendance/deadline accommodations, drafting policies for supporting students in placements and practica, using documentation consistently, or documenting a dispute resolution plan? In theater and creative writing, it is common to “workshop” a draft with colleagues. In industry, “incubators” provide support for inventors or entrepreneurs to develop an idea. This full-day, working session offers the opportunity to review and refine particularly challenging policy areas for disability resource professionals and ADA/504 Coordinators.

Prior to the preconference, participants will be asked to submit a draft or current that they’d like to address or fine-tune. These will be used as material to form working groups around clusters of related policies. NOTE: there are other preconference sessions covering policies on Attendance Modifications and Assistance Animals those will not be topics for this workshop.

The session will begin with a group discussion that recognizes institutional idiosyncrasies but focuses on the typical policy development cycle: catalyst, assessment, development, promulgation, implementation, and review. An overview of the common elements of an effective policy will provide the working groups with a structure for applying policy principles (scoping, definitions, accountability, interpretation, control vs. operation, life span, etc.) to their chosen policy. Working groups will share observations and discuss each policy element with the larger group before returning to a smaller group to apply it.  

The full-group portions of the preconference will provide policy development tools and concepts. In the intimate policy clusters, participants will have the opportunity to compare their institutional policies, identify model language and structures to address common goals and concerns, and get specific feedback on their work. Participants will return to their campuses with a well-designed policy statement in the area of their interest and strategies for its implementation.


PC8: The Tools, Techniques, and Strategies of Assessment in Disability Resource Offices

Tom L. Thompson, TMLS Consulting Inc. / Retired Director of Disability Resources

Location: JW Grand Ballroom 8

Disability resource professionals are expected to participate actively in their institution’s assessment plans, documenting the effectiveness of their office and contributing to the larger goals of their division (Student or Academic Affairs). This one-day preconference session will focus on how you can build ongoing assessments into your annual work along with planning for a comprehensive Program Review.  We’ll discuss how to align the work of Disability Resources with larger divisional and institutional goals.

Evaluating any service starts with identifying a well-articulated purpose for the review, understanding & using professional standards, and incorporating thoughtful planning for use of review results. The presenter will take attendees through a process for developing these elements, providing examples and opportunities for application and networking.

Attendees will learn about the use of professional standards to conduct self-assessments.  We will focus on the new AHEAD Domains, Standards and Performance Indicators and will reference the CAS Disability Resources Standards, particularly the Mission Standard.

This session will also address how to build data systems for capturing the various elements of our work and how a comprehensive program review benefits from the use of outcome data, how to use data so that it talks for you, and how to understand the difference between a basic program summary that reports numbers and a complete review that is a strategic planning tool. We will also discuss the difference and value of having performance objectives and student learning objectives.

Topics will include:

  • The cycle of Strategic Planning, Assessment, Operations data and Evaluation
  • Collecting evidence/information/data to tell the story of the department for annual reporting and for a comprehensive review
  • Assessing the effectiveness of disability resource offices through assessments and evaluation
  • How to present findings to management – Stats and Stories
  • Resources from CAS and AHEAD

Attendees will have the opportunity to consider practices that they can use at their own institutions conducting assessments and for conducting a program review.


PC 9: Universal Design Thinking: A Culturally Humble Strategy for Applying Universal Design to Design Processes

Cole Eskridge, University of Arizona
Naty Rico, University of Arizona

Location: 201/202

Universal Design has been heralded as a model for inspiring more equitable course experiences through its three principles: multiple means of "engagement", representation, and "action and expression." However, despite the best of intentions, UD has both theoretical and pragmatic shortcomings. We will explore these limits as we introduce "Universal Design Thinking" (UDT), a UD-inspired process that merges the principles with design thinking and cultural humility.

The social model, and its most powerful tool universal design, is increasingly popular in conversations within the disability services. Despite its recognizability, many find UD difficult to make actionable, perhaps due in part to the fact that the original seven principles were developed by architects, which tends to skew perceptions to the "physical." While UD has been adapted to fit more abstract concepts, e.g., Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Universal Design for Instruction (UDI), these models have been adapted specifically for their context, limiting their applicability. Noticing similar trends in nursing practical models, professors Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia proposed reframing practice along three commitments: a commitment to life-long, self-critical reflection; a commitment to actively recognize and fix power imbalances; and a commitment to creating mutually beneficial, non-paternalistic partnerships with marginalized communities. Following their lead, the "Universal Design Thinking" process was developed to assist in applying UD principles in ways that honor the expertise and experiences of all stakeholders within a design process, while centering the voices of those most impacted by the current design of the policy, practice, space, etc.

In session workshop, that includes engagement in a simulated full "Universal Design Studio," we will share the UDT process/framework and guide them through planning programs that can be used to instruct campus partners from across campus.

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