The 2021 Spring Colloquium

Three-days of virtual presentations on three topics crucial to
higher education disability resource professionals
May 19, 20, and 21, 2021
11:00-5:00 Eastern Time

For higher education disability resource professionals, professional development and professional colleagues are essential for ingredients for fostering accessible campuses environments. Because the pandemic has restricted both travel and budgets, AHEAD is exploring ways to connect you with both information and each other. The new Colloquium is one such opportunity.

We will be focusing on legal/policy issues on Wednesday, accessible online learning on Thursday, and DEI on Friday. Each day will feature an opening plenary on the importance of the topic and to set the stage for a series of concurrent presentations and a closing Q&A opportunity to ask the experts. Between presentations, step away from your computer for a well-deserved break or join optional discussion groups to engage with colleagues over identified topics. We are thrilled to welcome expert presenters including Eli Clare, Sheryl Burgstahler, and Paul Grossman.

Daily Schedule

All times Eastern

  • 11:00   Plenary Address
  • 12:00   Concurrent Block 1
  • 12:40   Discussion Block 1
  • 1:40     Concurrent Block 2
  • 2:40     Discussion Block 2
  • 3:40     Concurrent Block 3
  • 4:20     Q&A Presenter Panel
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This event will be hosted in Attendee Hub, an online conference platform that supports Zoom presentations by allowing you to enter the virtual space and move quickly from presentation to discussion to presentation.

All participants should have a Zoom account. If you don’t have one, establish a free account.

All sessions will be live, professionally captioned. If you need any other accommodations, please let us know during registration.

All sessions will be recorded and available to all registrants after the event ends live.

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Topical Plenary Addresses

Wednesday, May 19, 11:00 Eastern

Implementing the Spirit of Disability Access Law
Jamie Axelrod, Northern Arizona University

Thursday, May 20, 11:00 Eastern

Online Learning: Lessons Learned from a Pandemic
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

Friday, May 21, 11:00

Intersectionality Flirts with Inclusion and Belonging to Deconstruct Ableism 
Zebadiah Hall, Cornell University

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Registration Fees

  • AHEAD Member registration: $259
  • Non-member registration: $399
  • Single day registration: $159/day 

Registration is for a single entry. A 10% discount is available for any college or university registering ten or more participants. Contact to arrange for the discount.

Refunds are available, minus a $25.00 processing fee, through May 1st, 2021. After that date, refunds are not available. All sessions will be recorded for later viewing, meaning registrants will not need to be present to take advantage of program content.


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Wednesday, May 19: Legal and Policy

11:00 Eastern

Implementing the Spirit of Disability Access Law

Jamie Axelrod, Northern Arizona University

As a Disability Resources staff member your primary job is not about preparing legal briefs or litigating cases. However, the laws related to equitable access for disabled students provide important guidance and a helpful framework for implementing the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law. To set the stage for a day of more specific legal/compliance guidance, we will explore how the spirit of the law can guide you in creating access for disabled students on your campus.


12:00 Eastern

  1. Qualified Students with Disabilities: A Review
Paul Grossman, OCR Regional Attorney, Retired
The bottom-line question in most court proceedings concerning disability discrimination, alleged by a student in higher education, is whether the plaintiff is a “qualified student with a disability (QSD).” Students who are qualified are nearly impossible to lawfully dismiss or sanction on the basis of any disability-related rationale. Students who are not, have very few protections available to them under Section 504 or the ADA. We will consider a working-definition of a QSD and an introduction into the how the courts determine who is or is not a QSD.


  1. Effective Grievance Procedures
Heidi Pettyjohn, University of Cincinnati
Matt Olovson, University of Cincinnati
Whether or not a grievance procedure is effective depends on the purpose of the procedure – is it to check a box and protect the college? Or, is it to ensure that there is objective, equitable, and effective resolution to problems faced by students with disabilities so that they can truly experience full and equal access? We will share effective strategies for transforming your grievance procedure to be student and solution focused and address student needs while remaining compliant.

  1. Housing Accommodations
L. Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

As students return to in-class learning and to on-campus housing, colleges and universities are seeing an increasing number and type of requests for housing accommodations. In addition to students who have traditionally requested accommodations, more requests are coming from students impacted by the pandemic. We’ll discuss strategies for analyzing the need behind various requests, responding based on your campus’ policies and unique inventory of housing options, and collaborating with housing staff.


1:40 Eastern:

  1. Fundamental Alteration: A Review
Paul Grossman, OCR Regional Attorney, Retired

Colleges and universities have an array of defenses available when they are accused by a student with a disability of unlawfully denying or falling to implement a necessary reasonable accommodation. The defense with the greatest potential for success is that implementation of the accommodation would require a “fundamental alternation in the nature of the program.”   Legitimately or not, fundamental alteration also may be cited by faculty as the reason for refusing to implement a proposed accommodation  Based on court precedents, a working definition of fundamental alteration that will help with every day decision-making will be presented. We will also describe the court and OCR-approved process for reaching a sound decision about whether implementation of an accommodation would lead to a fundamental alteration.  Most important, schools that follow this process are likely to find that the courts and OCR will defer to their fundamental alteration decisions.


  1. Accommodations Outside the Classroom: Clinicals, Student Teaching, & Practicums, oh, my!
Elisa Laird, AHEAD
Many academic programs at the community college, university, and graduate level include off-site educational requirements. Whether a student is in a student teaching experience, on a clinical rotation, or in an office environment, creating an accessible experience in non-didactic settings requires understanding the demands of the site and the learning objectives, as well as creative thinking and close collaboration with the student, academic department, and off-campus site. This session will address the legal requirements regarding accommodations in off-campus settings, as well as the practical approaches to creating effective, appropriate accommodations there.


3:40 Eastern:


  1. Information/Instructional Technology: There be Obligations in them There Wires
Robert Beach, Kansas City Kansas Community College
Technology accessibility is just as important as physical access to your institution. You would not dream of building a brick structure with doors too narrow for a wheelchair user to navigate. We should not consider building a technology structure that is not accessible either. However, with technology, this isn’t always possible and still meet the needs of the institution. So, what do we do? We will discuss the relative laws and troubleshoot how to address them in general situations, as well as clarify the higher education institution’s legal and social obligations for accessibility. A sample step-by-step process for evaluating a technology situation will be given.

  1. Service Animals, ESA's and COVID-19: Truths and Consequences
Mary Lee Vance, California State University – Sacramento
Understanding the distinction between service animals, emotional support animals, and other categories of animals, including service animals in training, can be challenging. In this session, we will provide a brief overview of the ADA and FHA relevant to animals, OCR cases regarding ESA’s, the rights and responsibilities of service dogs in training, and the impact of COVID-19 on common household animals. Participants will acquire tools to better determine how and when to approve a variety of requests for animals.

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Thursday, May 20: Accessible Online Learning

11:00 Eastern

Online Learning: Lessons Learned from a Pandemic

Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

As thousands of courses were converted from on-site to online formats at lightning speed, many of us are not surprised that accessibility concerns were not addressed in the process this lack of proactive efforts resulted in a heavy burden for disability services personnel to remediate inaccessible documents, videos, and other digital content and to make pedagogical adjustments to ensure access. Now is a good time to communicate with the huge audience of online instructors about making those courses and new ones more accessible as one way to support their campus diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Learn about how a universal design framework and evidence-based practices can lead us in the right direction and who should be involved to do what?


12:00 Eastern

  1. Supporting Faculty in Providing Access to Online and Hybrid Courses
Melanie Thornton, University of Arkansas Partners for Inclusive Communities

The increase in online learning experiences is likely to be with us as we move into a new normal. The role of the disability resource professional will increasingly include supporting faculty to provide accessible online courses. If you are looking for resources to assist you in this work, join us in this overview of the Designing an Accessible Online Course toolkit available on followed by a discussion of how to make digital access a part of your campus culture.


  1. Welcoming New Students in a Virtual Resource Office
Paul Harwell, Purdue University
Mandie Waling, Purdue University
With the explosion of online learning both as an educational initiative and in response to the pandemic, disability resource professionals have less and less personal contact with students. How do we use technology and professional strategies to develop meaningful relationships, identify accommodations that are effective in the online learning environment, and resolve problems that may emerge. From setting up Zoom lobbies to identifying questions that elicit important information, we’ll support you in ensuring that online students have experiences with your office as valuable as students sitting in the chair across from you.


1:40 Eastern

  1. Accessibility in Zoom Meetings and Classes
Korey Singleton, George Mason University

While Zoom provides several accessibility features that enhance the user experience (e.g., keyboard navigation, customizable alerts, live transcription, etc.), there are additional things we can all do to make our Zoom meetings and classes more accessible. In this training, participants will be provided with an overview of Zoom’s accessibility features and strategies for creating a more inclusive experience for all when using Zoom.      


  1. A Strategic Partnership: Disability Resources and Instructional Designers
Dawn Hunziker, University of Arizona
Barbie Lopez, University of Arizona
Janet Smith, University of Arizona
As increasing numbers of students have been enrolling in online programs over the last decade, disability resource offices have become adept at addressing barriers to access in that environment. However, the pandemic has taken the issue to new levels. We can no longer respond one student at a time! Online curriculum designers offer the perfect partners to address the issue systemically. Join us for an example of a successful collaboration and how you can model it on your campus. What does disability resource staff, even those who are less familiar with technology, bring to the table? How do we leverage our relationships to impact faculty members’ long term understanding and implementation of accessible online courses?


  1. Working with Faculty toward Accessible Assessments in the Online Environment
Beth Harrison, Consultant
Robert Spangler, University of Dayton
As we know, assessments of student learning do not always accurately measure what disabled students have learned. This is true for in-class assessments, and, as classes have moved online, the same problems persist. As a result, disability resource professionals spend significant time remediating problems with online assessments. While it is important to become familiar with the tools available for providing accommodations for online assessment, we must also develop strategies for working with faculty to consider their assessment choices. We’ll discuss transitioning from face-to-face to online assessments, concerns about cheating, and the challenge of adapting to change.

3:40 Eastern

  1. Integrating Communication Access Services for Deaf Students in a Virtual World

Cassie S. Franklin, National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Lore Kinast, National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes

As the virtual landscape from the pandemic continues, inquiries on the AHEAD listserv indicate there are many colleagues in need of guidance with coordinating interpreting and speech-to-text services (CART, C-Print, TypeWell) for online classes. Integrating service providers in virtual settings requires proactive planning to ensure effective communication with deaf students. Join the National Deaf Center to learn current practices and tips when coordinating service providers for online meetings, campus events, and more. Presenters will share resources to commonly asked questions from AHEAD members with the goal of providing an equitable college experience for deaf students in a virtual world.


  1. Testing Online Course Materials: Hiring Students with Disabilities
Cyndi Wiley, Iowa State University

Students with disabilities have unique perspectives when it comes to online course materials. Many experience barriers accessing the required readings, presentations, and lectures, simply because an accessibility-in-mind approach was not utilized. For faculty, developing assessible online course content can be an arduous task. While there are many tools available that help check for accessibility errors, automated tools only identify 30-40% of those errors. Another approach is the Digital A11y Lab in which disabled students are hired to check online course materials using assistive technology and discuss their findings with instructional designers and faculty. The program is supportive of faculty and disability service staff, gives students valuable work experience, and leads to small changes that make huge differences in online course material accessibility.


  1. Accessible Online Learning
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington 
Terrill Thompson, University of Washington 
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions to offer online options for courses and services. In their rush to evolve on-site to online offerings, one issue is often overlooked: how to ensure that digital tools and methods are fully inclusive of students with disabilities. Students with disabilities need accessible online options both now and after the pandemic ends, when we can expect there to be more online offerings than pre-pandemic. This presentation will provide evidence-based tips and resources on how to ensure that digital materials, tools and pedagogy are accessible to and inclusive of all students, including those with disabilities.

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Friday, May 21: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

11:00 Eastern

Intersectionality Flirts with Inclusion and Belonging to Deconstruct Ableism 

Zebadiah Hall, AHEAD Equity Officer; Cornell University

AHEAD’s Equity Officer will discuss the importance of history in framing ableism and how DEI work is essential to our roles on campus. We must begin to understand who we are to understand how it affects the students we work with and our campus partners. Moving from what we do to why we do it, we will explore disability resource practices, from accommodation letters to campus collaborations, and the importance of acknowledging our and our students’ intersecting identities. 


12:00 Eastern

  1. Great Minds DON’T Think Alike: The Cultural Sweet-Spot
Amber Booth-McCoy, The Diversity Booth
Donald Wood, One Eight CREATE Consulting
In September of last year, The Diversity Booth and One Eight CREATE Consulting, in partnership with AHEAD’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Disability Knowledge and Practice Community, held three listening sessions for AHEAD members to engage in safe space conversations about equity and diversity. In a follow-up to those discussions, and using what they learned from us last fall, the facilitators return to AHEAD to discuss the importance of advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion. Using a data-driven, humanistic approach and centered in the philosophies of cultural humility and cultural proficiency, they will share tips and guidance on we can promote diversity, support inclusion, and advocate for equity in our personal and professional lives. 


    1:40 Eastern


    Eli Clare, Visiting Scholar, The University at Buffalo

    Many of us encounter the idea of intersectionality with some frequency but don't quite know what it means. This workshop delves into the framework of intersectionality, its roots, how it necessarily expands our understanding of disability and the impacts of ableism, and why it is relevant to disabled student services work.


    3:40 Eastern

    1. Getting into Good Trouble: Effective Allyship
    Andrea Neal, Goucher College
    Doris Pierce, University of Central Arkansas
    Join the leaders of AHEAD’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Disability Knowledge and Practice Community in considering the evolution of and parallels between the civil rights movement and the disability rights movement. How do they inform AHEAD and our work around equity in higher education? We are at a turning point culturally and have the opportunity engage in the struggle and be a part of this human rights movement.


    1. When the Spirit of Compliance Fails:  The Importance of Mattering, Social Justice, and Diversity
    Katy Washington, University of North Texas

    While compliance with disability law is the foundation of the Disability Services’ mission, it cannot legislate behavior or the campus/classroom environment. There is always a possibility that when an accommodation decision is at odds with the faculty’s point of view, it may consciously or unconsciously negatively affect how the instructor thinks and feels about the student. This can result in behaviors such as microaggressions or implicit bias toward the student – which in some legal lenses can be viewed as discrimination. During this presentation, we will discuss how to move the conversation beyond compliance and add an additional conversational tool to your kit.

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