2023 Virtual Mini-Conference Session Descriptions

All Times Eastern

Tuesday, August 1

Wednesday, August 2

Thursday, August 3

Keynote Presentation (Recorded in Portland)

Lachi, an award winning creative artist and prolific Dance Music vocalist whose works have debuted on national Dance charts, amassing millions of streams, and finding placements on TV, radio and film. Born legally blind, Lachi advocates for Disability Culture and inclusion in the music industry and is widely known for partnering with the Recording Academy (through her organization RAMPD) to bring accessibility to the GRAMMYs.

Tuesday, August 1

Noon – 1:30 Block V1 (2 concurrent sessions)


V1.1: OCR Year in Review

*This session was not recorded at the request of the speakers, and is not included in the Virtual Mini-Conference recording package.

Amy Kim, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Charlotte Cunningham, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) assists individuals with disabilities who face discrimination and guides institutions in developing solutions to civil rights problems by investigating complaints, initiating compliance reviews, and providing technical assistance. OCR representatives will review recent, illustrative OCR decisions. 


V1.2: Disability Culture, Campus Alliances, and the Role of Disability Services: Insights from the Creation of Three Disability Affinity Groups

Jeffrey Alex ("Jae") Edelstein M.A., University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston  
Elizabeth McLain Ph.D., Virginia Tech 
Luke Kudryashov M.S.I., M.A., University of Minnesota
Rachel Adams M.Ed., University of Massachusetts Amherst
Joshua ("Josh") Pearson B.A., Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, Inc.
Oluwaferanmi Okanlami M.D., M.S., University of Michigan, University of California Los Angeles

What is disability community, and how can disability services professionals support it on their campus? In this session, six presenters will share the stories of how disability affinity groups were started at three different institutions, the impact these groups have had on disabled students, faculty, staff, alumnx, community members, and allies, and how these communities have been sustained within and across said institutions. Within these narratives, specific attention will be drawn to the sometimes fraught relationship between each university’s office of disability services and the members of these communities, as well as the ways these relationships have evolved over time with institutional changes. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in critical discussions in small groups with presenters and one another about how they might support the creation, work, and longevity of similar groups on their own campuses.


1:30 – 2:00 Break


2:00 – 3:00 Block V2 (3 concurrent sessions)

V2.1: Onboarding for Excellence: Creatively Recruiting and Training New Disability Office Staff

Amanda Feaster, M.Ed., Kent State University
Julie Di Biasio, M.Ed., Kent State University
Courtney Jarrett, Ed.D., Ball State University

As higher education deals with the effects of “The Great Resignation,” so does our field of disability services. With this comes a wave of new professionals who are learning to do the work, often well after they are hired, which can lead to frustration and attrition. In this session, two schools will showcase their initiatives to recruit and retain new staff. Ball State University offered in-office professional development training to two newly hired professionals and multiple graduate students from three master’s level programs. They will share specific examples that can be adapted by other campuses, as well as discuss their challenges and future training plans. Kent State University launched a data-informed office reorganization to hire, train, and supervise new team members. Using an AHEAD external review and four years of data, they restructured the office and embraced systemic and personal vulnerabilities (inspired by Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead) to prepare for new staff members, all of whom were new to professional roles within disability resource offices. This session is open to those who train new disability services staff or new practitioners looking for ideas. 


V2.2: Determining Clinical Accommodations, Advocating for Inclusive Technical Standards, and Managing Third Party Relationships: The Health Science Disability Provider's Survival Guide

Grace Clifford, M.A.Ed., David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Christine Low, M.S.W., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Jennifer Gossett, M.S., Portland Community College

Three board members from the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science Education, with extensive experience in determining and implementing health science program based accommodations, will review three key areas of creating disability access in the health sciences: determining clinical accommodations, advocating for inclusive technical standards, and managing third party relationships (i.e. clinical sites).

Case scenarios will be used to "bring it all together" via small groups at the conclusion of the presentation. Plenty of time will be left at the end for attendee sharing of promising practices and Q and A.


V2.3: Disability IS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Repositioning and Strengthening the Work

Chianti Blackmon , M.S., AMDA College of the Performing Arts
Hannah Enenbach, M.A., AMDA College of the Performing Arts

Disability is an integral part of diversity. Despite this, campus disability services offices and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices at most postsecondary institutions are not housed within the same structural division, separating their work. Drawing from their experience incorporating an existing Accessibility Services office into a new office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the presenters will offer insights on how joining the two offices can positively affect the framing of disability as a valued identity, elevate disability justice, and disrupt the racialization of DEI work.


3:00 – 3:30 Break


3:30 – 5:00 Block V3 (3 concurrent sessions)

V3.1: Disrupting Ableism by Engaging Student Affairs Staff in Division- Wide Disability Justice & Access Education

Danielle Susi-Dittmore, University of Utah

Frequently, we see the work of access and disability inclusion falling solely on an institution’s department of disability services. This session focuses on practical tools and long-term implications for engaging student affairs staff in education and training around disability justice and access. In this particular session, the facilitator will highlight a five-week email-based education series, which includes multimodal learning materials as well as guided discussion prompts. This session will also give participants the time and space to engage in conversation around barriers for full staff engagement in disability justice education and training, and begin to brainstorm what it might look like to be able to implement something like this at their own institutions.


V3.2: The Disabled Perspective: Through The Eyes Of Disabled Disability Services Practitioners

Ryan McCombs, M.A., Purdue University Fort Wayne
Antonia DeMichiel,M.A., University of San Francisco 
Dr. Courtney Jarrett, Ed.D., Ball State University
Dr. Allison Brewer, M.A.T., Saint Louis University
Dr. David J. Thomas, Ph.D., West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Maria Schiano, M.S.W., County College of Morris

The ability to understand someone’s disabled experience is a fundamental part of working in disability services. While many practitioners have the experience of observing and learning about disability, fewer know how it feels to be disabled. Currently, research focused on the disabled perspective as it relates to disability services (Barnard-Brak, Lan, & Sulak, 2010), focus on the student experience, not the experiences of disabled practitioners working in disability services. This panel will profile the experiences of disabled disability services practitioners and how their lived experiences inform their practice.


V3.3: Navigating the Grievance and Complaint Process

Emily Singer Lucio, M.A., University of Maryland 
Lorre Wolf, Boston University 

Public institutions with 50 or more employees are required to adopt and publish procedures for resolving grievances arising under Title II of the ADA. But it is also good practice for private or very small institutions to implement a robust written grievance procedure. Grievance procedures set out a system for resolving complaints of disability discrimination in a prompt and fair manner. This session will share information on different formats for a resolution process and what is and what is not required by the Title II regulations. Participants will be invited to share issues and provide feedback on what they have encountered when helping students navigate the complaint process at their schools.

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Wednesday, August 2

Noon – 1:30 Block V4 (2 concurrent sessions)


V4.1: Legal Year in Review 

Paul Grossman, Executive Counsel of AHEAD, and OCR and Hastings College of Law, retired
Jo Anne Simon J.D., New York State Assembly

AHEAD’s legal experts will analyze court cases and OCR letters from the past year of great significance to AHEAD members.

*This session was not recorded at the request of the speakers, and is not included in the Virtual Mini-Conference recording package.

V4.2: Guiding the Office - Different Approaches to Leadership: a Panel Discussion and Networking Opportunity

Tom Thompson M.A., MLS Consulting Inc. / Retired Director of Wm. R. Harper College in Illinois
Ian Kunkes, Virginia Commonwealth University
Enjie Hall, University of Minnesota
Rosalind Blackstar, Austin Community College District
Kaela Parks, Portland Community College 

The leadership staff of an office (often, but not limited to, Director, Associate and Assistant Directors) have vital strategic and operational responsibilities to fulfill, including overseeing student accommodation processes, campus outreach, collaboration with faculty and other offices, setting the campus agenda for disability, and much more. How these responsibilities are allocated and carried out can greatly impact the accessibility and inclusivity of a campus. The panelists, who serve in leadership roles in both two-year and four-year schools, will share their perspectives and experiences in ensuring strong awareness of roles and responsibilities, fostering collaboration with colleagues, and promoting greater campus accessibility and inclusion. Attendees will then be invited to participate in a large group discussion with the panel, and then encouraged to join small group discussions with other attendees in similar office types or roles, to meet colleagues and form professional relationships to call on in the future when in need of a sounding board or professional advice. Bring your business cards and come prepared to engage with other leaders in a casual, collaborative way!


1:30 – 2:00 Break


2:00 – 3:00 Block V5 (3 concurrent sessions)

V5.1: Is That a Reasonable Accommodation? Understanding the Effects of Technical Standards and Essential Elements (and How to Support Faculty to Establish Them)

Marilyn Harren, M.S., Collin College
Teressa Eastman, MBA, Butler Community College
Michelle Mitchell, M.Ed., Lehigh Carbon Community College

Many schools, particularly open-enrollment community colleges with workforce training programs, are seeing an increase in the number of students coming into programs and requesting unique accommodations to allow them to participate, which may have been appropriate in high school, but could constitute fundamental alterations to a college level course. When evaluating the requests, disability professionals should look to the program's technical standards for program entry and essential elements for coursework, but how does that process work? This session will discuss how to apply those standards to evaluate requested accommodations using the Wynne v. Tufts analysis and how to engage faculty in the evaluation process. We will also discuss how to develop appropriate technical standards with faculty members and why this is beneficial to the student and the disability office. Attendees will leave with an understanding of fundamental alterations processes they can add to a procedure manual to assist when grappling with unorthodox requests.


V5.2: Housing Accommodation Challenges and Decisions

Chris Dallager, Mississippi State University
Samantha Thayer, Carleton College
Matthew Hoekstra, University of Minnesota Morris

Housing accommodation decisions can create challenges for collaborations between the disability and housing departments at college and university campuses. The wide range of requests, the requirements for on campus residence, and the often times limited options available add difficulty. This presentation will share the results of interviews with dozens of housing staff and disability staff from public and private institutions that speak to the dilemmas and resolutions to challenging housing accommodations. Some of the topics to be addressed include single room requests related to mental health, autism, etc., private bathrooms, kitchen availability, exemption from residency requirements, limited room availability to meet demand, preference versus need, competing accommodation needs between roommates, late notice of requests, alternative furnishings, air conditioning, mold abatement, and many more topics. Through think-pair-share activities, attendees will be able gain in knowledge and contribute to the learning of the group.


V5.3: Let’s Prevent the Fire Instead of Putting it Out:  Preventing Burnout in Higher Education

Julie Olson Rand, M.Ed., University of Minnesota, St. Catherine University
Alyssa Klenotich, M.S., St. Catherine University, St. Cloud State University

As higher education staff, we are faced with supporting stressed out students while managing our own personal stressors. The pandemic has made this even more challenging. We need to create sustainable practices—both personally and collectively– to ensure longevity in the field. This workshop will provide an overview of the concepts of burnout and stress, address systemic barriers, introduce the concept of community care, provide tangible strategies for self-care and community-care, and additional strategies for supervisors in the higher education setting. This session will include time for small group discussion, large group share-out and Q&A.


3:00 – 3:30 Break


3:30 – 5:00 Block V6 (3 concurrent sessions)

V6.1: Clinicals, Practica, Placements, Student Teaching, and Other Off-Campus Learning Experiences: Accommodations, Policy, and Practice

L. Scott Lissner, The Ohio State University

Many educational programs, from tech and trade programs to advanced professional degrees, require students to complete an off-campus professional experience. Are the same accommodations that were provided in classroom settings appliable to externship settings? Who determines that? Who is responsible for implementing accommodations in those placements? This session will cover the obligations and responsibilities of the student, site, program, and disability office. Topics will include site contracts/memoranda setting expectations, identifying and implementing appropriate accommodations, how to use the site’s own access infrastructure, working with students who do not want to disclose a disability to their site, and the scenarios and questions you bring. This session will allow you to create the policies and practices needed to help academic programs develop seamless access to off-campus learning experiences.


V6.2: Disability Orientation Programming: Easing the Transition to College for First-Year Students with Disabilities and their Families

Sarah Young, Ed.D., Trinity Washington University
AnnMarie Thorpe, M.Ed., University of Massachusetts, Amherst 
Rachel Adams, M.Ed., University of Massachusetts, Amherst

New student orientation is a hallmark experience for attending higher education. These orientations focus on introducing and acclimating newly admitted students into the cultural, social, and academic environment of higher education. Existing research discusses the crucial role orientations play in effective transition planning (Chan, 2019), but for students with disabilities and their families, there is often a lack of clarity around supports available from disability offices, as well as undefined expectations about the student’s role in receiving supports, including formal accommodations. This session combines data from a recent study of disability office orientation programming for students and their families with an innovative disability-specific orientation model proposal that new and seasoned disability practitioners can use to prepare their offices, incoming disabled students, and these students’ families during students’ entry into the college environment. Organizers will discuss specific study data and personal experiences in facilitating orientations for disabled students and their families, along with providing specific recommendations for developing effective disability office orientation programming and areas for future study and attention.  


V6.3: Starting from Scratch: Disability Services at a Small College

Megan Launchbaugh, Hastings College
Emily Dunbar, Hastings College

This presentation offers insights and support to disability service providers working in small private colleges who are in the early stages of establishing or formalizing their accommodations process. Disability service offices at small private colleges face challenges of burnout and employee turnover exacerbated by isolation and lack of opportunity for support and collaboration. Furthermore, such turnover often results in disruption of processes and procedures, which can make it feel like providers are constantly starting from scratch. This presentation offers a disability services development model as both a starting point and an ongoing tool for growing your disability services office from providing essential services to establishing a legacy of service and advocacy.

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Thursday, August 3

Noon – 1:30 Block V7 (3 concurrent sessions)


V7.1: “I’m a Team of One”: How to Advocate for DSS and Disability Resources as an Office of One

Sarah Young, Ed.D., Trinity Washington University 
Jeriel Rolle Jr., MSW, Notre Dame of Maryland University

This session will delve into what it means to be a disability services ‘office of one,’ by first discussing the practical day-to-day activities that the single staff member encounters and engages in. We will also provide insight and discuss first-hand accounts from directors in ‘offices of one,’ in order to better portray how the lone staff member experiences and deals with the tension between advocating for students and serving them through accommodation development and implementation while simultaneously dealing with institutional constraints, such as limited office space, lack of testing areas, administrative oversight, etc. Finally, we will provide specific guidance on how ‘offices of one’ can maximize their own individual stamina as the office leader, as well as overall office sustainability through resource advocacy among senior administration and proactive collaboration with faculty and staff.  


V7.2: Decentering Whiteness in Disability Services: An Intersectional Approach to the Work We Do

Connie Gutierrez, Rio Hondo College
San Lu, Napa Valley College
Gail Ann Rulloda, Napa Valley College

As our community college system works towards fostering anti-racist institutions, we examine the archaic lens that has guided the work that disability professionals engage in on a daily basis. The presenters' motivation derives from a culmination of our positions and experiences as Faculty, Administrative and Classified practitioners of color who have witnessed the discrepancies among experiences of disabled students of color. We use a Community Responsive Pedagogy to serve the disabled student population, which encompasses three domains - relationships, relevance, and responsibility - to provide an equity-centered approach that centers the student’s lived experiences. In practicing this pedagogy, we can attest to the ways it transforms climate, culture, and curriculum.


V7.3: Developing and Implementing an Information and Communication Technology Accessibility Policy in Higher Education

William Myhill, Syracuse University
Brian Tibbens, Syracuse University
Melanie Domanico, Syracuse University
Bethany Heaton Crawford, Syracuse University

Digital technologies have created both access and barriers to the disability community, especially those with visual, hearing, and fine motor impairments. The commitment to disability inclusion launched a university-wide policy for accessible Information & Communication Technology (ICT), aiming to ensure all disabled community members and guests have effective access to our institutional ICTs and content. This workshop will demonstrate how to advance from no policy to a robust policy, and from small cohorts thinking about accessibility to an institution that expects and enables its constituents to create and procure accessible ICT. Additionally, an assessment committee, comprised of disability and ICT leaders with and without disabilities, was formed, which developed and implemented a transparent process for procuring accessible ICT applications and hardware. The workshop will shepherd participants through our processes, such as with case studies of requested procurements and conclude with takeaways, sample tools, and Q&A time.


1:30 – 2:00 Break


2:00 – 3:00 Block V8 (3 concurrent sessions)

V8.1: The Impact of “Stress Culture” on Students’ Mental Health and How We Can Address It

Emily Harris M.Ed., Villanova University

There has been a recent rise in students with mental health conditions looking for accommodations to address concerns around test taking, participation in class discussions, deadlines, attendance, and more. This increased need is in part due to the “stress culture” placed on students, particularly at competitive schools. We are seeing more and more students feeling overwhelmed, struggling, and shutting down. As a result, these students often stop communicating with their professors, disability offices, and other support staff on campus. In this presentation, we will discuss how disability offices can encourage campus conversations to address the underlying issues around “toxic rigor” and performance expectations, provide specific guidance to faculty to better support students who are struggling, and give students the tools they need to communicate effectively about their needs.


V8.2: Denied: Navigating Difficult Decisions and Telling Students "No" Within the Social Model

Leslie Casarez, L.C.S.W., Texas A&M University
Kristie Orr, Ph.D., Texas A&M University

Every day we make decisions regarding students' needs based on their disabilities. We believe that disabled students have a right to an equitable learning experience and that disability rights are civil rights. With that in mind, what happens when a student requests an accommodation that we don’t feel is reasonable? What happens to us when we say “no” to a student? How do we handle the cognitive dissonance between our beliefs and denying an accommodation request? This presentation will explore how we hold space for ourselves and students as we process through accommodation denials. Through learning about the presenters’ experiences and discussing their own experiences, attendees will gain a better understanding of naming these conflicting feelings and how to process them through self-compassion and reflection. 

V8.3: Taming the Beast: Managing Flexibility with Attendance, Tardiness, and Deadline Accommodations

Amanda Rodino, M.Ed., University of Memphis
Marissa Martinez, M.A., University of Memphis

Through the interactive process, you have determined that a student is eligible for flexibility with attendance, tardiness, or deadlines. Now what? This presentation will take you through our journey to manage this growing group of accommodations. We will detail our course analysis process with faculty to determine what is reasonable and appropriate versus what constitutes a fundamental alteration as well as the resulting plan for flexibility shared with students. Participants will receive all materials related to our process so that they can adapt them to their institutions.


3:00 – 3:30 Break


3:30 – 5:00 Block V9 (3 concurrent sessions)

V9.1: Student Evaluations of Disability Resource Office Staff and Operations: Gathering Data to Improve Effectiveness

Alan Safer, Ph.D., California State University Long Beach
Lesley Farmer, Ed.D., California State University Long Beach

Across most U.S. college campuses, student evaluation of faculty is done every semester for every course taught. However, the same student evaluation process is not as frequently used for staff of disability centers. This presentation will describe how a detailed student survey of disability staff was developed, disseminated, and analyzed, to accurately assess the overall quality and effectiveness of individual service providers. In addition to an assessment of student satisfaction with specific staff, the analysis of the surveys provided direct feedback on whether the student’s expressed disability needs were met. We added to the survey's effectiveness by linking data to student demographics, enrollment and major status, current accommodations, and reason for the appointment. This session will offer tips on survey construction, and provide opportunities for group work to brainstorm information/data needs, discuss dissemination logistics, and consider ways to optimize response rates.


V9.2: Promoting Full Participation: Remote Access as a Key to Retention

Kaela Parks, Portland Community College

Historically, classes at Portland Community College were offered in either an on-site modality, wherein students needed to be in a set physical location at a designated time, or an online modality, where there was no set meeting time, and students completed work asynchronously. While there were benefits and drawbacks to each of these options, the rapid shift to remote operations that was triggered by the pandemic helped spur innovation and led to new approaches that allowed for scheduled time with classmates and instructors without the need to battle traffic and navigate campus. With remote participation enabled, the college was able to offer greater support for the students who were working the hardest to navigate complex barriers. During remote operations, the Accessible Ed and Disability Resources team saw increases in course completion, and a reduction in GPA gaps for the students we served.


V9.3: Meeting Disabled Student Veterans Where They Are: A Collaborative Campus Resource Presentation

Kimberly Bell, M.S., Norco College
Michael Sauter, Saddleback College

Meeting every student veteran where they are is crucial to their success. It is imperative to understand a student veteran's connection to military culture when addressing acquired disabilities and learning. Two institutions share the programs they have created to specifically address the student veteran with disabilities experience. Saddleback College shares a student development course dedicated to the student veteran transition experience into the classroom. Norco College shares their 9 Line Project, a disability support program specifically designed to be approachable to student veterans.

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