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Division of Student Affairs

Washington State University Access Center

External Program Review

Provided by Association on Higher Education And Disability 

Washington State University

April – May 2018

 

A complete PDF version of this report can be requested by contacting the Division of Student Affairs via email or call (509) 335-4531.

Executive Summary

Washington State University contracted with the Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD) to complete a comprehensive program review of its Access Center and the institution’s general approach to ensuring access for students with disabilities.

The review process included:

  • An overview of the purpose for the review (April 2018);
  • Pre-campus review of the staff position explanations, accommodation language, accommodation processes, and other aspects of Access Center operations (April 2018);
  • A two-day site visit by an external reviewer who conducted interviews with various groups of constituents from across the campus community (April 2018);
  • Preparation of the final report (May 2018).

AHEAD’s Program and Professional Standards served as a general guide for considering the policies, procedures, and breadth of services. The empirically developed Standards present a consensus among experts in the field of disability and higher education regarding minimum essential services that should be available from a disability resource office in higher education.  The eight Program Standards, broken out into key activities and performance indicators, and the five Professional Standards are available at https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/program-standards-ethics

Overall goals provided by Washington State University administrators to guide the review included:

  • Make recommendations to the organizational structure;
  • Identify models of accommodations;
  • Outline opportunities for the future (how to build; who the Access Center is to become).

It was asked to have the review include critical topics and areas of influence including workload ratios, staffing/organization structure, partnerships with faculty and Academic Affairs, current and future partnerships, technology, and services system-wide. The written report will address these matters by providing an organizational plan, staff roles and responsibilities, and recommendations to serve the contemporary needs of students and the campus community.

Findings of the review include the following areas of strengths, opportunities, and recommendations for enhancement and additional assorted topics.  For a discussion of each, see the page numbers noted in parentheses.

Strengths

  • Access Center staff passion and teamwork (5);
  • Access Center desire to operate from a social justice framework (6);
  • Strong Student Affairs and overall campus support (6);
  • Relocation within Student Affairs (7);
  • AIM Database (7);
  • Budget (7-8);
  • Office layout and space (8);
  • Disability Symposium (8).

Opportunities and Recommendations for Enhancement

  • The need for a core mission and purpose (10-11);
  • Practical application of disability as an aspect of social justice (11-12);
  • Access Center staffing structure (12-17);
  • Thoughtfully assess use of Access Center personnel resources (and how this aligns with an intentionally created purpose and mission);
    • Campus Outreach and Collaboration Efforts (17-18);
    • Student Caseload Approach (18-19);
    • Access vs. Success Energy Focus (19-21);
  • Internal process review;
    • Documentation (21-23);
    • Semester or annual renewal (23-24);
    • Note-Taking accommodations (25-26);
    • Attendance and Assignment accommodations (26-27);
    • Language on accommodation letter (27-30);
    • Reassessing Purpose of Exam Accommodations (30-32);  
  • Enhance Emotional Support Animal Collaborative Decision-Making with Housing and Residence Life (33-34);
  • Consider a More Intentional Accessible Technology Approach (35);
  • Purposeful Collaboration with Faculty and Staff (35-38);
  • Intentional Collaboration with System-Wide Campuses (38-39);
  • Intentional Collaboration with Global (39-40);
  • Faculty Advisory Board and/or Campus Accessibility Committee (40);
  • Relocate Access Center Transportation to Transportation Services (40-41);
  • Investment in staff professional development;
    • Leadership development for director (43-44);
    • Staff development opportunities (44-45).

Additional Assorted Topics

  • Office Operating Budget (45);
  • Staff and Faculty Accommodations (45-46);
  • Location within the College Organizational Structure (46).

The overall summary findings are as follows:

  • WSU possess tremendous opportunity to evolve as a campus that recognizes disability as an aspect of diversity and that embraces the social justice approach as the means through which access is created and experienced for disabled students;
  • The Access Center would benefit from more staff, a reorganization of current staff and purposeful changes in processes, and practices to stimulate operational efficiencies;
  • Deliberate partnerships with key campus stakeholders, including faculty, Student Affairs, Facilities, Transportation Services, the system-wide campuses and Global among others, will greatly contribute to WSU being a more fully-accessible campus experience.  
  • Leading a social justice transformation within a disability office and across campus is highly energizing and deeply challenging work that requires tremendous care, attention, and investment starting with the director, filtering down through the Access Center team and extending to the campus community.  

Introduction

Washington State University’s Access Center has provided accommodations for students with disabilities for many years. The university uses a centralized approach for facilitating accommodations. Currently, the Access Center is located within Student Affairs.

The campus has experienced substantial growth over the past five years. Currently, the Access Center reported to be working with 1350 students connected with the office in Spring 2018, of which 616 made accommodation requests. In 2013-2014, 1137 students were considered connected with the Access Center but it is unknown how many made specific accommodation requests. The current overall number is a 19% increase from five years ago. While concrete evidence of overall growth trends across disability offices is not readily available, it is not uncommon to learn of the number of students connected with a disability office to increase between 50 - 100% or more over a five-year period. The WSU Access Center growth is lower than what might be expected but is not necessarily a cause for concern. 

Total campus enrollment at the Washington State University Pullman campus is listed on the website as a headcount of 20,286 for 2017. The guiding rule of thumb for disability offices is that approximately 3-5% of the total campus population will connect with the campus disability center while 10% of the campus population identifies as a student with a disability. Students most often connect with a campus disability office because of barriers within the classroom. The higher campus-wide percentage and lower disability office percentage is often the result of some disabled students not identifying class barriers that warrant accommodations, could be the consequence of students not wanting to disclose due to stigmas associated with disability, or may be the outcome of disabled students not being aware of the disability office resources.  With 1350 disabled students presently established with the Access Center, the number represents 7% of the campus population and suggests that the team has done well in making their resources known to students. Currently having 7% of the campus population connected with the Access Center could be why significant increases in student numbers over a five-year period have not occurred. Perhaps the Access Center has been doing a respective job for quite some time in making its resources known to its target population.  

Strengths

The following strengths within the Access Center were identified based on conversations during the review and each strength will be discussed in detail:

  • Access Center staff passion and teamwork (5);
  • Access Center desire to operate from a social justice framework (6);
  • Strong Student Affairs and overall campus support (6);
  • Relocation within Student Affairs (7);
  • AIM Database (7);
  • Budget (7-8);
  • Office layout and space (8);
  • Disability Symposium (8).

Access Center Staff Passion and Teamwork

It was clear to the reviewer in speaking with the Access Center team that they are passionate about the work they do and the students who are connected with the Access Center. They spoke intently of their desire to serve the students and to help them receive access and experience success.

The external reviewer also noted a promising vibe among the group. Being short-staffed over the previous months may have brought the team closer together. Team members frequently shared their willingness to lend a hand to a teammate during another person’s peak work season, such as final exams. There is a real collaborative effort during finals with everyone helping as needed from proctoring to reading exams to giving up office space to create more testing stations for students. This positive dynamic may benefit the Access Center team as they begin to intentionally journey together on a social justice path. 

Access Center Desire to Operate from a Social Justice Framework

The Access Center team acknowledged the desire to move to a social justice framework and approach within the overall scope of disability office actions. This direction aligns with AHEAD and its increased focused on social justice as the central purpose around which all disability offices should function. Not all disability offices have this mindset currently. Given that the Access Center team understands the importance of this philosophical direction positions the office to maintain pace with the evolution within the field. There is much work to be done nationally, led by AHEAD, to identify what it means to operate within a social justice mentality from a practical standpoint. But the first and most important step is perhaps realizing that disability work needs to align with social justice thinking, which is a step the Access Center has taken.

Strong Student Affairs and Overall Campus Support

Overall, the general atmosphere based on conversations facilitated during the review suggested that there is support administratively at executive levels, at departmental levels within Student Affairs, among faculty and within other units to support the work of the Access Center and to ensure access for disabled students. During one meeting with Student Affairs and Facilities Services, 20 people were in attendance, which is a good turnout for such a conversation. All spoke highly of the work of the Access Center and expressed an interest in partnering closely with them to create a more accessible WSU experience. Of specific note, Facilities shared a number of positive outcomes including a commitment to installing more door actuators as possible, adding curb cuts where needed, maintaining accessible routes around construction sites, revamping light signals for greater access, clearing snow from curb cuts and blocked paths and being open to one-on-one conversations to address other physical barriers a student may be experiencing.

The faculty present for a dinner discussion also spoke well of the Access Center and of a desire to partner further. To truly achieve a campus that embraces disability from a social justice perspective requires the collaboration of the entire campus community. It is not possible to reach this goal without the support that appears to be in place currently.

Relocation within Student Affairs

Effective June 1, 2018, the Access Center will report to the new Associate Vice President of Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence and will exist within a collective and innovative operation of the same Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence name. The Student Affairs units that will be housed with the Access Center in this structure include the Gender Identity/Expression Sexual Orientation and Resource Center, Women’s Resource Center, Multicultural Student Services, Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, and the Office of Equity and Diversity. For a campus that is interested in shifting the work of the Access Center to a social justice model, this relocation positions the Access Center in a terrific location on paper. Numerous synergies seem possible among units that will have diversity outreach as a purposeful action. The Access Center must use this opportunity to thoroughly highlight disability as an aspect of diversity and as an identity both deserving of its own voice and united with other marginalized groups.     

AIM Database

The Access Center recently transitioned to a new database, known as AIM. This database is highly respected in the field. This execution has created many internal efficiencies and will continue to do so as the team learns how to use it more effectively. Students and faculty also experience benefits from the AIM system, which both parties noted during review conversations.  

Budget

It was shared that the Access Center operates one budget for its general office operations (staff, office expenses and materials, travel, etc.) and another budget is used to manage the accommodations (interpreting, captioning, Braille, technology purchases, etc.). This is the ideal budget model to have in place and should not be changed. It is important to have one central budget that tracks all student accommodation expenses so the university has a clear picture on the costs associated with access. Other Student Affairs units and academic departments should not pay for student access and accommodations necessary for a student. Such an approach can create negative perception of students with disabilities if departments see the students as a financial resource drain.

The one potentially uncertain aspect of the accommodation budget is that the initial money placed in the budget is often significantly less than the final access and accommodation expenses for the year. However, administrators assured the external reviewer that the university is committed to funding the necessary expenses through central budgeting as needed. While it is unusual to not fund the accommodation budget closer to the projected overall need, cause for concern was not identified in the budget discussions.   

Office Layout and Space

The current Access Center physical space is uniquely located on a floor of what was used to be a hospital. As a result, the wide hallways, extra wide doors and spacious offices that were previously patient rooms make for a highly accessible and easy to navigate space. Beyond the offices for the staff, there is space for alternative media production, a computer lab, and a testing room with multiple testing tables and nine individual testing rooms.

Disability Symposium

The Access Center hosted a Disability Symposium in March 2018. It appeared this may have been one of the first notable outreach efforts coordinated by the Access Center in quite some time. A number of WSU constituents outside of the Access Center referenced this symposium during the review discussions. People were at least aware of it even if they did not attend. Projects like this, if done well, can reframe the disability conversation on a campus. From what can be speculated based on the titles of the sessions in the symposium program agenda, it seems that the Access Center was very intentional and potentially successful in shaping this program with a social justice focus. Noteworthy session titles included Examining the Intersect of Culture, Disability and Social Justice Education; Rethinking Ability and Challenging Ableism; Ableism in our Everyday Language; and Quick Tips for Creating Digitally Accessible Course Content. Hopefully these conversations can continue on campus in the future.

Opportunities and Recommendations for Enhancement

Many positives were found on campus during the review. The following enhancement opportunities were identified based on conversations and observations. Each will be discussed in detail in order to offer ideas on how to advance the work of the Access Center even further. Topics include:

  • The need for a core mission and purpose (10-11);
  • Practical application of disability as an aspect of social justice (11-12);
  • Access Center staffing structure (12-17);
  • Thoughtfully assess use of Access Center personnel resources (and how this aligns with an intentionally created purpose and mission);
    • Campus Outreach and Collaboration Efforts (17-18);
    • Student Caseload Approach (18-19);
    • Access vs. Success Energy Focus (19-21);
  • Internal process review;
    • Documentation (21-23);
    • Semester or annual renewal (23-24);
    • Note-Taking accommodation (25-26);
    • Attendance and Assignment accommodations (26-27);
    • Language on accommodation letter (27-30);
    • Reassessing Purpose of Exam Accommodations (30-32);  
  • Enhance Emotional Support Animal Collaborative Decision-Making with Housing and Residence Life (33-34);
  • Consider a More Intentional Accessible Technology Approach (35);
  • Purposeful Collaboration with Faculty and Staff (35-38);
  • Intentional Collaboration with System-Wide Campuses (38-39);
  • Intentional Collaboration with Global (39-40);
  • Faculty Advisory Board and/or Campus Accessibility Committee (40);
  • Relocate Access Center Transportation to Transportation Services (40-41);
  • Investment in staff professional development;
    • Leadership development for director (43-44);
    • Staff development opportunities (44-45).

Appendix A on pages 48 – 51 offers guidance on gathering beneficial information when meeting with students and assessing reasonable accommodation options.

The Need for a Core Purpose and Mission

The Access Center must intentionally explore its core mission and purpose for existence on campus, understand its purpose, and strategize how to operationalize it. There does appear to be a specific statement on the Access Center website’s home page, which states:

The Access Center provides accommodations and services to incoming and current WSU students with disabilities, psychological or medical conditions, or temporary injuries that limit their access to the WSU environment. (https://accesscenter.wsu.edu/)

Based on conversations during the review, it would appear that the Access Center wants to establish a greater mission than what is noted above.

When the reviewer asked about their office mission, the predominant theme from the Access Center team was that they see themselves as existing to serve the students. While admirable, an identity centered on taking care of the students will not lead to the long-term accessibility results from a social justice perspective that it would appear the Access Center wants for students with disabilities and the campus commitment.

As Simon Sinek stated in his book Start with Why:

To really inspire us, we need a challenge that outsizes the resources available. We need a vision of the world that does not yet exist. A reason to come to work. Not just a big goal to achieve. This is what leaders of great organizations do. They frame the challenge in terms so daunting that literally no one yet knows what to do or how to solve it.

If the leaders of organizations give their people something to believe in, if they offer their people a challenge that outsizes their resources but not their intellect, the people will give everything they’ve got to solve the problem.

Identifying the right challenge around which everyone within the Access Center is willing to wholeheartedly contribute would corral the outstanding passion of the team into campus results that could be remarkable. And it should be beyond helping students with disabilities be served and successful. Some of these outcomes could be by-products of the overall work done but should not be the fundamental drive.

The director did share some interesting work that the Access Center completed through an internal Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) analysis in Summer 2015. While the director noted that the work was never implemented due to resource limitations, it could serve as a starting guide as this analysis of purpose reignites. Or it may be best to start fully from the beginning given the time and staff turnover that have occurred since the CAS analysis was completed. Staff should at least be aware that the language and direction within the CAS review is closer to the emerging office purpose of interest.

The need for a core purpose and mission is closely connected with the following enhancement opportunity.

Practical Application of Disability as an Aspect of Social Justice

The national disability field is moving in a direction where disability is rightfully recognized as a critical aspect of diversity. Furthermore, the environment (physical design, digital, web and electronic accessibility or lack of, process and procedures, and societal and personal attitudes, assumptions) poses more of a disability barrier than the individual’s disability itself. While compliance will always be a focus of a disability office, a substantial emphasis is being placed on making disability access and inclusion a matter of social justice. As mentioned, the Access Center team understands this direction conceptually.

The challenge for the Access Center, that many disability offices have nationally, is understanding how to turn the conceptual into practical application. How disability offices approach anything and everything (from budgeting; outreach and programming efforts; campus collaborations; student processes; faculty and administrator communication; language used on the website, on documents, and in daily conversations, etc.) must be informed by an interest in providing disabled students with a truly equitable experience that does not stifle them with burdensome expectations, barrier-filled processes, extra efforts, or the focus on the individual disability as the fundamental problem.  

When a social justice approach to disability operations has a strong foothold on a campus, access and inclusion is a campus-wide initiative and not just something the disability office does. Every area on campus must be more intentional about proactively facilitating access as everyone on campus should recognize their responsibility for creating accessible environments within their spheres of influence. With this approach, the disability staff would spend much time educating and empowering others on how to reduce barriers for students with disabilities by modifying the physical environment, creating accessible websites and digital materials, recognizing where policies create barriers and/or maintaining an open-minded attitude. In addition, steps that disabled students must complete to gain access to an environment not initially designed to include them (such as accommodated exam request procedures) must be kept to an absolute minimum.

Thus, this need to advance what it means and how to apply a social justice philosophy must align with a new core mission and purpose of the Access Center. It is strongly recommended that the expressed core mission speak to a social justice focus that is then carefully, creatively, uniquely, and enthusiastically applied within the Access Center and WSU operations.

Access Center Staffing Structure

The following page contains a suggested organizational chart that can guide the restructuring plan for the Access Center staffing model.  The proposed concept includes the addition of an Associate Director and a new Access Advisor. In addition, changes to a number of the current positions are recommended. Any changes in the staffing model will be most effective if the Access Center also commits to greater internal operational efficiencies. A few recommendations to guide this exploration are provided later in the report. 

Proposed Access Center Organizational Chart

A visual description of this chart is available here. 

Proposed Access Organizational Chart

Legend

  • Blue Box = Standard current position
  • Yellow Box = New position recommendation
  • Green Box: Recommendation to modify current position
  • % DSC: Precent of the time the position should be in Direct Student Contact (new student appointments, problem-solving with faculty on classroom issues, responding to student questions, etc.)

 

This section briefly explains the intent of the proposed restructuring plan:

  • The director currently spends at least 50% of work time managing a caseload of approximately 300 students. This degree of direct student contact (DSC for purposes of this review and meant to include work such as new student appointments, problem-solving with faculty on classroom issues, responding to student questions, etc.) is too high for a director with a campus and office staff of the current size. At most, it is recommended that the director spend no more than 10% of work time managing DSC. Focus needs to be on vision development, care of the Access Center staff, collaborative relationship building and committee participation across campus, and active involvement, engagement, and support of the purpose and goals of other WSU departments.
  • It is recommended that a new Associate Director position is established. This role should spend approximately 40% in DSC while leading other internal matters within the Access Center. In the hierarchy proposed, the Associate Director would supervise the respective staff who oversee the accommodated testing, the accessible technology efforts, deaf services, and note-taking. These areas within a disability office operations often generate the most issues, concerns, and procedural challenges that require guidance, problem-solving, and staff support. By removing these responsibilities from the director, the director would be more available to connect with the broader campus community.
  • The Technology Coordinator position is currently vacant. As a result, this topic did not surface during the external review. Based on documents reviewed, it appears that the Technology Coordinator did not conduct any DSC but focused solely on technology delivery. This approach would appear to create significant inefficiencies and lost resource opportunities. It is recommended that the new hire spend approximately 40% of time in DSC. The Coordinator should automatically work with any blind student or student with limited vision, as these students most often need the technology resources that the Technology Coordinator manages. The coordinator should also meet with other general disabled students for initial meetings and as needed. This work can be balanced with the technology focus, including being highly engaged and collaborative with Information Technology professionals, Global professionals, and other campus areas where digital and electronic accessibility is critical.
  • The Deaf Services Coordinator is currently a temporary position that is subject to the service needs of the deaf student population on campus. This work can fluctuate from one semester to another. WSU administrators should consider elevating this position to a full-time, 12-month coordinator role with a focus on deaf access. Because deaf services would generally not be a 40-hour work week demand, the coordinator could then participate in other DSC work for non-deaf students. It is believed this position could spend at least 20% of time on DSC with an understanding that each semester is different. Such a shift may be a cost-effective way to provide more DSC resources for the Access Center.
  • One of the current Access Advisors could assume the note-taking coordinator role as the position’s primary service contribution to the Access Center. This move would justify the Access Advisor being under the Associate Director and moving management oversight from the director. (This position could perhaps also be the lead AIM coordinator though a recommendation on where to house AIM is not being specifically made. Because of the module set-up within AIM, each coordinator who oversees the services within that module are the AIM coordinators. But there should be one overall AIM leader for communication with AIM and as a point of contact for the system-wide campuses.)
  • Given the numbers of students who use testing accommodations, it is recommended that the current part-time, temporary Testing Assistant be a full-time position from August – May during the heart of the academic year. Managing the testing logistics is more complex than most people understand and the resources invested in this area must proactively prepare for future growth, which adds to the complications of logistical management.
  • The Technology Coordinator’s Student Editors and Tech Guides must have basic knowledge on Smart Pens, Kurzweil, and other commonly referred technologies. When students are referred to use these technologies, all Access Advisors should have a basic understanding of the main technologies and be able to answer initial student questions. Having this knowledge may minimize the number of meetings that students with disabilities have to participate in order to use technology. It appears the current arrangement is that a student meets with an Access Advisor and then is referred to the Technology Coordinator to explore technology options. This system flow is not a good use of student or staff time. Access Advisors should be able to guide students initially. If a student has more questions, the student should be referred to the Student Editors and Tech Guides. And only if deeper exploration is needed should the Technology Coordinator become involved. Aspects of this system may have been in place at the time of the external review. The actual process was not discussed and the reviewer made some inferences based on documents reviewed.
  • One additional Access Advisor is recommended at this time. And, if future student numbers continue to follow the same exponential increase path as charted in recent years, an additional Access Advisor may be needed in three years. This immediate new Access Advisor could potentially fulfill the outreach and education roles currently managed by a part-time position.
  • The Administrative Assistant position absolutely must be filled. This position historically provides much needed support to the disability office director, especially with an office this size. In addition, the position can provide a level of professional oversight and support to the front desk area, which is a critical face of Access Center operations.
  • Other hourly employees are not being specifically referenced in this analysis. Not enough information was gathered to make an informed recommendation. However, it is understood that these roles play a critical support function within the operations. When used well, these positions allow the full-time professionals to more effectively handle the responsibilities of the respective positions.

At the time of the review, it was reported that the Access Center had approximately 1,350 students connected with its resources but potentially only 50% of those students (616) actually use accommodations in any given semester. It will be important for the team and administrators to truly understand disabled student usage with the Access Center.  

When all of the DSC percentages are added, the proposed plan indicates that 5.0 full-time equivalent hours will be spent in direct student contact each week and accounts for the additional work that the entire staff must do to coordinate access and accommodations campus-wide. With this plan at the current student levels, the student to staff ratio would still be approximately 270:1 from a DSC perspective with 1,350 students but a much lower 123:1 if only 616 students are actively engaged with the Access Center in a given term.

The recommended model will suffice if the real work is more reflective of 1,350 students connected with the office. At a lower amount, the Associate Director position would still benefit internal and external efficiencies but additional Access Advisors may not be necessary, especially if the Access Center commits to building necessary proficiencies within its own operations and teamwork.

Thoughtfully assess use of Access Center personnel resources (and how this aligns with an intentionally created purpose and mission);

Campus Outreach and Collaboration Efforts

There is no recommended staff-to-student ratio in higher education disability services. While AHEAD is pursuing data that will inform the issue, the consensus among experienced professionals is that no single number can answer the question given the wide diversity of office portfolios, academic degree requirements, and student populations. For example, some disability service offices include computer labs and test centers. Some serve employees as well as students, and some are charged with full responsibility for institution-wide facilities and IT access. Additionally, not all academic programs or students are the same. Students confront different barriers depending on their degree requirements, faculty, and personal characteristics. For example, achieving access for a graduate student in a clinical placement is very different than access for a freshman in a large lecture course or an online course. And, finally, traditional academic programs present more barriers for students with disabilities who are less familiar to higher education, such as chronic health conditions, autism, and psychological disabilities. Identifying accommodations that provide access for students from these populations, while not compromising essential academic rigor, can require significant time and faculty consultation. Given this variety, experts in the field recommend that staffing levels be determined by each service office individually through an analysis of mission, evaluation of timeliness in responding to stakeholders, and exploration of procedures and practices that could enhance efficiency.

In the case of the Access Center, a look at response time and current use of staff resources is the most informing piece of this analysis. Staffing is the linchpin to office effectiveness and efficiency. When speaking with faculty and staff, many noted the helpful responses and caring touch offered by the director though it was noted that there are often two or three day delays in responses. Yet most everyone offered grace on the response times with the understanding that the director is extremely busy.

While the director was often mentioned, other names within the Access Center were rarely or ever mentioned. This information could simply be a reflection of the stakeholders and the positions of the stakeholders who attended the review sessions. Or it could be a larger matter worth exploring. The information gathered from the review would suggest that the director is handling the bulk of communication with campus stakeholders. This approach is probably not sustainable as the office operations grow. And it need not be necessary with the talented team of people available within the Access Center. External opportunities must be carved out for each person, if interested, in order to keep staff energized and invested. As one example strategy, the Access Center could identify internal liaisons for units that the Access Center collaborates with routinely. These liaisons become the consistent and routine point of contact and facilitate the access conversations and manage the specific challenges with the specific unit partners.  

Student Caseload Approach

The Access Center employs a caseload model where the Access Advisors work with students based on initial office contact assignment. This approach can pose challenges. Different student situations necessitate more or less time. Facilitating reasonable access for students with visual or hearing disabilities generally requires more time to be spent with faculty to ensure access. Another potential challenge with this model is that, for example, five students within one person’s caseload could contact their Access Advisor consecutively to request assistance with complicated matters whereas someone else’s schedule may be lighter at the moment. If a particular Access Advisor is extremely busy for a day or period of days, their response time to a student may be delayed whereas someone else could respond to the student more quickly.  

While there is no right or wrong answer in this area, the Access Center should at least examine whether a more generalist approach across all professionals would be beneficial. Should new student meetings be assigned based on schedule availability and a balanced schedule workload? Could a returning student with a question be invited to meet with their initial point of contact or have the option to meet with whomever is readily available? Would an “all-hands-on-deck” approach create greater efficiencies not currently realized? The one exception to this direction would perhaps be deaf and hard-of-hearing students and blind and low vision students. These students often have specific accessibility needs best managed respectively by the person coordinating deaf and hard of hearing accommodations and the Technology Coordinator, who usually facilitates blind and low vision access.

In the end, the caseload approach may make the most sense of all work flow options, but it is recommended the Access Center only continue implementation after a thoughtful exploration rather than potentially relying on “this is how it has always been done.” Perhaps, there is another system not yet considered that could be impactful as well.

Access vs. Success Energy Focus

As the Access Center establishes its core purpose and mission, it needs to determine how the staff will support the purpose and mission through their work. An honest assessment in this area will analyze the role of each position and explore whether or not the office purpose and mission can be better achieved by repurposing staff positions and/or by committing the positions to be more intentionally engaged in the campus community in specific ways. The recommended organizational restructure offers some insight into a reassessment of positions.

As part of the reconsideration of work, the Access Center should contemplate if dedicating time to student-success-oriented resources aligns with the evolving social justice purpose. The team seems to have a vested concern in meeting with interested students on a regular basis to ensure they are adequately taken care of and receiving the direction they need. In some cases, the regular outreach is in the form of academic coaching (time management guidance, assignment management, study skills, and test preparation). These conversations, while well-intentioned, are often beyond the function of access. Furthermore, such an approach can present a subtle message that disabled students have unique needs that only the qualified expert professionals in the disability office can support. This message is not aligned with social justice values.

Could these success-oriented services be offered through other campus resources that have expertise in these areas? Might the Access Center be able to train staff in these other units on strategies that have been found successful for students with disabilities and let those staff blend those tactics with the approaches they use for all students? These collaborative conversations could produce additional benefits. It would be important to ponder what makes coaching and individual conversations for students with disabilities different from the rest of the student population, if anything. If there are select strategies that work well for disabled students, could those same strategies benefit all students and be applied by other professionals? Such an approach could enhance the Access Center collaboration with other units. If a system along these lines is developed, it is important that disabled students receive warm referrals to specific individuals in other units rather than a cold referral to a unit in general.

Overall, campus accessibility and inclusion for disabled students must drive the Access Center professional’s role or the core purpose and mission will not be achieved. Often on a college campus, there are many departments that specialize in some form of student success. But the disability office is often the only one that leads the accessibility charge. Access Center staff work should be organized in a way that supports this unique charge and only then offer success-oriented initiatives as resources allow.

As this purpose is developed internally, it must be communicated externally, especially with faculty. When faculty hear that the purpose of the Access Center is to work with (advocate for) students, faculty may not feel that their voice is heard and respected when it comes to reasonable access and accommodation matters because the disability staff is an overly strong advocate for the student. However, the work of a disability office is really about advocating for access, which should be the communicated message. At times, this means identifying where access is not happening in the classroom and advocating that the student experience whatever access is missing. In other situations, the disability office must inform the student that access already exists in the class or the type of access sought is not reasonable relative to the variables within the environment.

Internal Process Review

Documentation

The Access Center’s initial student connection process appears to highly value the presence of documentation as an upfront requirement before permitting the student to explore access opportunities. The website information stressed the need for documentation at the time of the review. Staff noted that they need to review documentation in full before scheduling the student for an appointment. Due to busy schedules, Access Advisors noted it can sometimes take three to five days to review documentation. From the time a student submits documentation to the time that it is reviewed and hopefully approved in order to schedule an appointment, five to seven days or more may have passed. And the student may have missed one or more opportunities to potentially gain access in the classroom, such as extended time exam accommodations.

The Access Center is advised to consider a different approach with respect to documentation. What if a message along the following was communicated on the website and in practice?

Because each student's situation is unique, the Access Center invites potential students to meet with an Access Advisor to discuss one’s person situation, academic experience, and academic barriers. No student should delay meeting with the Access Center out of concern of not having “appropriate” documentation.  While students are encouraged to provide available documentation in advance of a meeting with an Access Advisor, it is not required. Documentation requirements vary by situation and the Access Advisor can discuss specific personal documentation needs at the time of the initial meeting.

This direction aligns with the 2012 AHEAD Documentation Guidance. The documentation guidance places a focus on the student narrative and professional judgment. Within this framework, third party documentation should be used to address gaps in understanding that the student narrative does not outline and/or when the disability professional lacks information to make an informed decision about a reasonable access and accommodation outcomes. (In some cases, this may mean that less or no documentation is needed initially for a student with ADHD, for example, who requests extended time on an exam. But more documentation may be needed one year later when the student revisits the Access Center and requests a course substitution.)

Documentation is not required per the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The reliance on documentation is a concept that the postsecondary disability field created over time. Placing documentation as a first step in the student connection process resembles more of a social welfare approach where a person must verify and prove beyond any doubt that they are eligible to receive services closed off to them otherwise. This message does not align with a social justice direction.

Students presented the current initial documentation focus as the one point of concern with the Access Center. They felt the process was burdensome and potentially devalued their voice and their narrative. Two students noted that it took six to eight months to get the right documentation on file with the Access Center in order to proceed with access and accommodations. Given the sensitive nature of the situation, the reviewer did not pry for specific details within the group setting. Thus, there may certainly be more to a story. However, it was interesting that the students initiated this topic without a nudge from the reviewer.  

Making this shift, if the Access Center chooses to do so, is not easy. The director would play a vital role in navigating this transition. Staff can feel unprepared and without the skill needed to rethink the practice. It can be quite uncomfortable for staff to wade into these waters initially and the discomfort cannot be ignored. A document on how to have effective initial conversations with students has been provided in Appendix A.

Another challenge with this approach is that staff perspectives may vary. Consistency across the team is necessary to prevent one person from asking for documentation from students regularly whereas someone else may rely on it minimally. One way to combat inconsistency is to have an internal staff rule that no one person will ask a student for more documentation than initially provided without consulting with at least one or two other people on the team. If others feel more documentation is necessary, so be it. But if there are varying opinions, those need to be talked through as the team evolves in this area.

A secondary benefit of rethinking the documentation approach and aligning it more with the AHEAD Documentation Guidance is that staff may actually free some time from their schedule, which can create a resource efficiency. Focusing on the narrative of the student first can reduce unnecessary time reviewing documentation that may or may not actually help with a particular student situation. 

Any changes in this area should be carefully reviewed and finalized with the campus Attorney General.

Semester or Annual Renewal

As a student advances from one semester to the next or from one academic year to the next, the Access Center currently requires that all students revisit with the Access Center team in order to discuss and review accommodations. The intended goal is to discuss what is working and not working with classes and accommodations and to finalize access and accommodations for the upcoming semester or academic year. Many offices require students to meet with the disability personnel at the start of the semester while many other offices do not. Those that do not require such meetings often utilize email communication and/or tools within the office database to get the returning students fully established for the upcoming semester.

The requirement to meet with the disability office every semester or year is potentially one of the biggest barriers students with disabilities experience when an office uses this model. As an initial concern, it makes the thin disability office resources even thinner at the expense of other critical tasks that must be accomplished at the hectic start of the term (new student meetings, alternative media, course note-taker coordination, faculty problem-solving, etc.). Furthermore, this approach often negatively impacts students by delaying access to accommodations. Often, students cannot proceed with alternative media requests or other accommodation arrangement without finalizing the update. However, it was not specifically discussed during the external review what limitations are placed on the student if they do not complete the update in a timely manner. Where possible, why not allow students to complete certain steps, such as the alternative media process, during the semester break? This would spread out the semester workload by utilizing down periods in between semesters.

When the disabled students were interviewed for the review, one of their questions was about how they felt about the regular update system. One student did report that it was helpful to connect and get organized for the term. But the other students found the process to be an ineffective use of time because nothing changes, especially as the students get more established from one semester to the next. 

The Access Center should review its practices in this area. What is the purpose of the meetings for returning students? If the purpose of the Access Center is to facilitate access, how does this model contribute to that goal? Is this more of a success-centered initiative that is unnecessarily tying up limited resources and burdening students? Is this more about the professional feeling good about their role and that the professional has done all possible to help the student experience success? Why is the opportunity for the student to exercise self-directed initiative removed from the equation? Would it be better to give the student a choice to meet at the start of the term rather than require it? Could the goal be met in different ways through technology, especially with the AIM database? There could be substantially greater operational efficiencies if the regular update system is abolished. Furthermore, lack of such a system is more aligned with social justice practices. 

Note-Taking

Facilitating an effective course note-taking system is not easy. This accommodation is often discussed at national levels with no definitive answer available as to how to best manage. Systems usually entail either a volunteer note-taker approach that relies on students within the classroom and/or paid/stipend note-taker approach that utilizes students already in the classroom or students hired and brought into the class for the express purpose of note-taking. The Access Center offers in-class students the opportunity to be a note-taker for service hours or a stipend based on the preference of the student.

Staff did report that coordinating the note-taking process is a highly labor-intensive endeavor. AIM does assist with the management of the note-taker system, as steps can be done through the database. AIM will also allow the team to review the frequency with which course notes are used by the disabled students who seek this resource. Some campuses are reporting the AIM data to suggest that students use the course notes at a lesser rate than might be expected. The usage data can drive decisions once known how course notes are or are not used.

The Access Center team did mention that they do have some Smart Pens that they loan out to students and have purchased a Sonocent license for student use. Both of these technologies offer alternatives to a course note-taker and place the disabled student in charge of the access rather than relying on a peer student for notes. The technology is not always a perfect substitute for a course note-taker, but it can be an appropriate option in many cases. The Access Center should explore whether or not there should be an even greater focus on the role of technology in this accommodation process and whether or not an even greater investment in technology could reduce the reliance on the traditional note-taker.

As one point of feedback on the process itself, the Access Center places the responsibility on identifying a course note-taker in the hands of the faculty. This requirement can be a burden that faculty do not want to carry. Plus, the Access Center is reliant on appropriate and timely faculty follow-through to ensure the access is facilitated. Would it be more effective if the Access Center gained access to course rosters and directly emailed the students within the targeted classes? By managing the communication exchange internally, it could remove one variable of uncertainty (faculty) from the process.

Attendance and Assignment Accommodations

The Access Center currently facilitates attendance and assignment accommodations as access options for students with disabilities. The attendance accommodation is one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, accommodations to facilitate. It requires an in-depth understanding of the specific nature of each classroom environment in order to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodation options exist around the attendance policy. Given the reality of the situation, there is no way for the Access Center to learn of these variables in advance. Thus each situation must be handled on a case-by-case basis.

With the current process in place, the Access Center requires that the disabled students contact professors and discuss/negotiate reasonable options around the course attendance policy and if the student misses a class on the day of a test or on the day an assignment is due. Recent case guidance suggests that it is a cause for concern to place the students in a position to negotiate accommodations within a relationship containing an imbalance of power. The Access Center team is aware of this case guidance but noted that they are too busy and under-resourced to do otherwise. While resources may be an issue, it is recommended that the Access Center rethink its approach.

One possible solution mentioned during the review would be to give the students an option to either speak with professors on their own or to seek Access Center assistance with negotiation.  If a student were to choose the latter option, a system would need to be in place to receive and manage the requests and to engage in conversation with faculty. There is yet to be one known best model on how to handle this accommodation. However, it would not be in the best interest of the Access Center to continue with this current arrangement much longer. And as one staff person noted, the team does spend quite a bit of time reacting to plans that were not created effectively between students and professors. So energy is being spent on this accommodation regardless. It would be advising to spend energy in a proactive fashion doing it right the first time rather than in a reactive manner putting out large forest fires.

It appears the same process is in place for the extended assignment deadline accommodation. What is notable here is that many campuses do not have an extended assignment deadline accommodation. Students are expected to manage their time effectively as part of the college experience. If the student struggles in this area, the student is advised to use campus resources to strengthen the limitation or perhaps enroll in fewer classes. While possible, it is the reviewer’s experience that it is very rare that an extended deadline is needed for legitimate access reasons where the original deadline could not be met due to an environmental barrier beyond the student’s control. The Access Center should consider whether or not it is appropriate to continue with this accommodation option.

For the attendance accommodation, as mentioned above, one side effect of missing a class may be that an assignment deadline is not met. Or a student may have a medical flare-up on the day an online assignment is due and the student subsequently cannot meet the deadline. In these cases, a possible assignment deadline adjustment is part of the attendance accommodation and separate from the assignment deadline accommodation concerns noted above.

Language on Accommodation Letter

What determines access and reasonable accommodations within the classroom environment is dictated by realities that exist at the intersection of a student’s disability and the learning objectives and nuances of the classroom experience. Both of these aspects must be considered when determining whether or not an accommodation is indeed reasonable. When a disability office meets with a student and creates an accommodation letter as a result, the listed accommodations are based on the barriers that align with the disability and what is projected to be a barrier in the environment. But the reality of the environment is not known.

For many accommodations, such as extended time for exams, use of technology or a scribe for an exam, and a course note-taker, the realities of the environment are often a non-issue and the listed accommodations are most often relevant and reasonable in the academic experience regardless of circumstance.

However, many other accommodations, such as the attendance accommodation, a memory aid (formula sheet or note-card), adjustments to a course presentation requirement and more, are greatly impacted by the nature of the environment. Whether or not the accommodation is reasonable within that specific setting truly cannot be known without an exploration of that environment. Given this reality, the messages within an accommodation letter should acknowledge that the environment plays a role and its impact is not known at the time the letter is created and distributed. Specifically, accommodations where reasonableness is highly influenced by the environment should not be listed on the accommodation letter as an outright definitive mandate but can also not be stated with great hesitancy. To “recommend” an accommodation has been determined to be too soft based on recent legal guidance. But to require an accommodation that is not reasonable within the context of the course is problematic as well.  

For the Access Center, the accommodations on the accommodation letter do present as being definitive. For example, the “Memory Aid” accommodation indicates that “Student is authorized to have 1 3X5 notecard (double-sided) on all closed book exams; exceptions are noted in ADDITIONAL MODIFICATIONS.” (It was not clear to the reviewer what exceptions might exist.) Another example is “Access to Power Points,” which denotes that “student is to receive copies of all PowerPoint materials before or after class (timing is to be determined by student and instructor…) if they are not available to all students.”  

In both of the above mentioned cases and in other similar accommodations, the following challenges can result:

  • Faculty may read the accommodation and disagree with it (fundamental alteration, intellectual property concerns, privacy concerns, etc.) but resentfully facilitate the accommodation because that is what the letter tells them to do. Faculty may assume their opinion does not matter;
  • Faculty may disagree with the accommodation and deny the accommodation. In this case, the university enters a challenging scenario when a professor denies and fails to act on an accommodation that a university document has outlined must occur. This student experiences confusion as well, perhaps unsure if the right course of action is to accept the professor response, to discuss concerns with the Access Center or to just ignore the situation and do as best as possible without any further consideration of access.

To navigate these accommodations more effectively, the Access Center should review overall language on the accommodation letter to assess what message is being communicated compared to what message should be communicated. Most important from an Americans with Disabilities Act perspective is that accommodation requests be considered for reasonableness within the context of a specific situation. The ADA expects a deliberative and collaborative process that is responsive to the unique experience of each individual with consideration for the environmental variables. Through exploration, barriers at the point of the intersection between a disability and the environment are identified and reasonable accommodations, where appropriate, are facilitated.  

For accommodations that are definitely influenced by the nature of the environment, the Access Center may want to introduce the accommodation with more caution. Back to the example above, the “Memory Aid” accommodation explanation could read as,

Consideration of 1 3X5 notecard (double-sided) on all closed book exams must take place upon student request to faculty or to the Access Center. Faculty are highly encouraged to contact the Access Center if they have questions about how to determine whether or not the request is reasonable for the class in question.  The Access Center can facilitate a discussion to explore if this request would offer appropriate access in line with the course objectives or if it would fundamentally alter the course experience if implemented. Faculty should not deny this request without first exploring with the Access Center.

Other language may better align with the WSU culture. Campus legal perspective may be important as well. Regardless, employing an approach along these lines better recognizes the dual role of the disability and the environment when coordinating access and accommodations. This tactic also invites faculty to be part of the conversation by acknowledging that faculty have meaningful and necessary insight that must be considered. Using a collaborative approach builds goodwill among faculty and minimizes the likelihood that a student can assume they have the right to use an accommodation that is actually a fundamental alteration or otherwise unreasonable in a course.

Reassessing Purpose of Exam Accommodations

Accommodated exams taken at the Access Center are on the increase, which parallels trends across the nation. The Access Center proctored 6,091 exams in 2017-2018, which is a 12.5% increase from 2013-2014 when 5,410 accommodated exams were proctored. Due to the increase in exams, the space set aside for testing is tighter, as the center has more times when it is operating very near capacity. When these moments occur, including during final exams, staff offices or spaces elsewhere in the building are utilized. To best manage the space and the schedule, it is important to have strong processes that maximize the resources available.

The Access Center mentioned a couple of challenges with exams currently. One situation of concern is how exam start times are determined. At the time of the review, accommodated exams had to overlap the class time but the definition of overlap was vague and posed problems. A student could start a three-hour class exam two hours and 30 minutes into the test. Through experiences during the spring 2018 semester, staff reported to understand how this language posed problems and should perhaps be revised for fall 2018.

Another potential issue of note is that students could start exams up to one hour after the initially scheduled exam times. The student would lose some of the available exam time when running late or choosing to start late but could still take the exams. As space in the testing center becomes tighter, it is important that the exam schedule is managed more firmly in order to effectively utilize the accommodated testing space available. If a couple of students arrive late at the same time, it can impact the testing schedule and the pre-determined seating assignments for exam takers.

The external reviewer discussed with the Testing Coordinator about the need to think of accommodated exams as a resource for faculty and not as a resource for students. The university has a responsibility to ensure access in the exam setting. The professor created an exam experience with barriers that warrant accommodations. At WSU, one way to address those barriers is through the Access Center testing resource. However, faculty could also choose to proctor their own exam with reasonable accommodations if so inclined. Regardless of how the exam is accommodated, it must occur in response to the environmental barrier and not due to the student’s disability.

When placing the focus of the accommodated testing as a resource for faculty, accommodated exam policies are addressed from a different angle. With the situations mentioned above, the start time should be the start time of the course exam, period. It is the faculty test and all students must take the exam at the same time. Treating the student with a disability differently from the rest of the class actually sends the wrong message about the process, a message where disabled students get special privileges beyond access and accommodations not available to anyone else. In some cases, a student may need to take an accommodated exam at an earlier time in order to take the exam with extra time and not miss the class after the test. Or the students takes three classes in a row and needs to move the middle course exam in order to not miss other classes. When alternative times are needed, the professor must be aware of this need in advance of the test and has the right to explore options that work for the professor as well as for the student. Because this accommodation is for the professor and it is the professor’s class in question, the professor must have a voice in this matter with the Access Center facilitating as necessary.

With respect to late arriving students, the same concept as discussed above applies. In the classroom, if a student shows up late, they likely take the test but lose the time missed by arriving late. Or the professor may have a limit as to how late someone can be before the student forfeits the opportunity to take the exam. There should not be great deviance from what occurs in the classroom when a student tests at the Access Center. One possible policy idea is to give a student a 15 or 20 minute grace window on the account that life happens. In those cases, the student starts the exam but loses the time missed. Should a student arrive after the 15 or 20 minute limit, the disabled student is referred back to the professor to determine if and when the student can still take the exam. This time limit could be standard across the board and could be advertised in the AIM agreement with professors. (With this process and a referral back to the professor after arriving late, the professor may request/require that the student take the exam right away at the testing center, which can be done if there is sufficient space to do so). The idea with this plan is that it places the focus on the professor and the course practices as opposed to the student and their preferences).

To guide testing center staff in how to handle a matter such as a late arriving student or an alternative exam start time, the team should ask “Is X necessary for access purposes?” If the student arrives late for no other reason than time was not managed well or wants to take an exam at a different time for the sake of personal convenience, accepting the late arrival or bending the start time would not be done in the name of access. If it is not for access, it rarely should be done unless approved by the professor who is managing the course.

Enhance Emotional Support Animal Collaborative Decision-Making with Housing and Residence Life

The external reviewer met with Housing and Residence Life teams to learn about their collaborative efforts with the Access Center. The bulk of the conversation centered on emotional support animals (ESA). Aligned with national trends, WSU has seen a spike in ESA requests with nearly 100 ESAs reported to be living on campus.

The current process appeared to be one that both sides felt could be better. As explained to the reviewer, a student would submit an ESA request form with appropriate documentation. The Access Center team would review the documentation and make a determination as to whether or not the ESA removes a barrier in the housing environment and is a reasonable accommodation. If approved, the student would then meet with someone in Residence Life to discuss details around the presence of the ESA in the housing environment.

Similarly to what was discussed in the section on accommodation letter language, a reasonable outcome in the case of an ESA request must acknowledge both the disability and the environment. It did not appear, based on conversation, any consideration was given to the environment. If the Access Center deemed the ESA request reasonable on disability alone, the request was carried forward in the housing environment. This acceptance held true even if the animal may pose challenges to the greater housing community. Housing and Residence Life did not appear to question the animal or its appropriateness upon approval.

This lack of collaboration and coordination could present problems for WSU. If the Access Center approves a snake, a pig, or a brand new puppy that is not house-broken, Housing and Residence Life has to deal with the consequences under the current model. Housing and Residence Life must not forego their opportunity to weigh in on an ESA request, as they are the experts within their community and their operations. The Access Center’s expertise is within the documentation analysis.

It is recommended that the Access Center and Housing and Residence Life staff collaboratively review all ESA requests and make a joint decision. The current system and the disconnect within it is not effective and fails to adequately consider the full picture that must be viewed when pondering the reasonableness of an ESA. Perhaps the joint review could be done through meetings twice per month or scheduled as needed based on requests. Both sides should weigh in on the appropriateness of the request from a disability and an environment perspective. It is possible that an ESA could be approved as a reasonable accommodation for disability purposes but not be a reasonable accommodation from an environmental standpoint in housing. The response back to the student in this example and in all cases should be a joint approval or denial. When approved, Housing and Residence Life would continue to work with the student to discuss proper and required care of the ESA in their space.

The above recommendation focused on ESA request and approval process. Any specific ESA policy established by Housing and Residence Life and the Access Center was not discussed. Some policy information on ESAs was found on the Access Center website.  To guide approval decisions moving forward and to guide students on expectations, it is recommended that this policy be reviewed and possibly be expanded. Recent Department of Justice guidance and university response from ESA reviews at the University of Nebraska Kearney and Kent State University indicate that universities can have parameters to manage ESAs in the community. References as to what may constitute an unreasonable animal request (size, not housebroken, noise disturbance, etc.), animal care, animal control, managing animal waste, actions in the event of property damage and what behaviors or actions would constitute removal of the animal from campus among other criteria can and should be clearly articulated. Because ESAs are in the housing environment and ESA presence impacts housing space specifically, Housing and Residence Life should perhaps take the lead on establishing these guidelines and updating as necessary with Access Center support. Regardless, both units should recognize the value in outlining the details.

Consider a More Intentional Accessible Technology Approach

Over the past five to ten years, much activity has taken place on the national level with respect to universities not complying with digital media accessibility. This term is used here to broadly reference the need for accessible websites, accessible online classes, captioned videos used in the classrooms and on websites, accessible documents, and accessible considerations for campus third party software purchases to name a few of the core areas. Outcomes at Harvard, the University of Miami (Ohio), and in California offer insight as to what the Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights are increasingly requiring and expecting of universities with digital media accessibility. This link lists recent reviews and outcomes on campuses: http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/atteam/lawsuits.html. It was shared during the review that WSU had been part of a similar compliance review and was in the process of making the WSU website more accessible as a result. As the field continues advancing in this area, this issue warrants on-going monitoring by WSU.

At the time of the review, one person within the Access Center was assigned to manage the Accessible Technology work but this person had resigned shortly before the review. The reviewer was not able to receive a good read on the overall campus progress with respect to digital accessibility beyond the work being done on the website. It seems some positive progress has been made. Effective work in this area requires substantial collaboration with many stakeholders beyond the disability office. The new Technology Coordinator will need to invest in building the relationships necessary to ensure digital media accessibility across campus as described above.   

Purposeful Collaboration with Faculty and Staff

Disability and accessibility intersect with every facet of the college campus environment and experience. When implementation and application of the social justice mindset for disabled students on a campus is at its finest, the disability office uses its purpose, voice, and campus influence to challenge and encourage campus stakeholders (Faculty, Student Affairs, Information Technology, Facilities, online learning, etc.) to make their spheres of influence as proactively accessible as possible from the outset.

The disability office is not a gatekeeper and authority of all things disability on the campus. Rather, the disability office is a facilitator and collaborator with every entity on campus and empowers others to use their influence in and expertise of their environments to create and maintain accessible experiences. Environments that are designed with accessibility in mind require fewer reactive accommodations for disabled students to experience access. (The Global representative present at the faculty dinner shared a tremendous understanding of this perspective and should be an ally for the Access Center moving forward as great synergy could be created.) While it is easy to state that all environments need to be accessible from the outset, this is a substantial undertaking to accomplish in reality but an energizing endeavor if the disability office is committed to the journey one step at a time.  

Overall, the representatives from the different units present at the review conversations expressed a willingness to collaborate with the Access Center. Most everyone noted that most conversations with the Access Center over the past two to three years were focused on the immediate situation at hand. There seemed to be little proactive, forward-thinking discussion perhaps because the director and the rest of the Access Center team were seen as being short-staffed and substantially overworked.  

When the social justice concept was discussed with the stakeholders during the meeting, there was a collective openness and willingness to move in this direction. WSU employees expressed a desire and need to be guided in what to do, how to consider accessibility within their areas of influence and how to get support from the Access Center (and WSU) to make access happen. This collective mindset offers a wealth of opportunity if the Access Center commits to intentional collaboration in this area.

On the flip side of this positive momentum, the reviewer did learn of some challenges that the Access Center team and the disabled students have working with WSU faculty. The Access Center team acknowledged that not all professors are open to working with students with disabilities. Because the team works with large numbers of faculty every semester, varying faculty interest is expected but need not be tolerated without an attempt to reframe disability. All nine students with disabilities who attended the lunch session with the reviewer cited at least one highly problematic interaction with a WSU professor with respect to accommodations. Reported concerns included professors:

  • giving the student the run-around on how to obtain accommodations;
  • belittling students in the classroom about the need to use accommodations;
  • informing a student they will struggle in a particular class due to the disability; or
  • openly telling a student that the professor believes the student will use disability as an excuse for poor performance.

One student also noted how exhausting it is to have to repeatedly explain one’s personal situation to professors, often multiple times per semester and with great initial fear as to how the professor will respond to the disclosure and the conversation. These reported concerns are not unique to WSU based on national conversations and must be managed effectively. Students often report that these attitudinal barriers pose more daily challenges than anything else for someone with a disability.

While it is essential that the Access Center conduct outreach, programming, and facilitate discussion, the Access Center must be very calculated in its message and how to connect and engage people with the core purpose and mission. The information stakeholders may think they want and the content they need will not initially align, which is part of the process in navigating this paradigm shift from a mindset that recognizes disability as the core problem to one that realizes the limitations within the environment. The Access Center should build on the momentum of the Disability Symposium. At the same time, the team must consider the best use of resources. Is a heavily programmed two-day schedule once a year the best approach? Would one strong two-hour workshop offered multiple times per year be effective? The Student Affairs marketing team offered to assist the Access Center with messaging. What possibilities on social media or elsewhere could promote the social justice message?

Many opportunities exist here and the Access Center will need to invest time and energy in its outreach in order to transform the campus culture’s understanding of disability. With the Access Center’s hierarchal move to Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence, timing is perfect to craft a new and relevant message that emphasizes the disability as an aspect of diversity and as a matter of social justice. Conversations, messaging, and programming should focus on disability as a standalone topic and must also be woven into other diversity conversations that the units within Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence will surely have across campus.

Intentional Collaboration with System-Wide Campuses

WSU has a system-wide campus model where WSU campuses exist outside of Pullman in the cities of Everett, Spokane, Tri Cities, and Vancouver. Each of the campuses operate independently but certainly work closely together. The staff representing the Access Center on the physical campuses often wear multiple hats with disability work being one component of the overall job.

With respect to the system-wide physical campuses, the people overseeing the disability work noted that they are all in transition to the AIM database after letting Pullman get established with it first. They have their own processes to manage access and accommodations but do look to Pullman for guidance as necessary. While they find such support helpful, all mentioned that the director and the Pullman staff seem very overworked and have not committed to the system-wide campus relationship as of late. They reportedly used to have monthly web-conference meetings to discuss how to handle student situations and to review trends and updates to policies and practices. However, Pullman staff did not participate routinely so the concept was abandoned. All of the campus partners stated that it would be ideal to revisit these meetings. It is recommended that the Pullman Access Center staff make rebuilding these relationships a priority, especially with the emphasis on social justice. When asked about working from a social justice framework, none of the system-wide partners were familiar with this concept. It is important that Pullman include these colleagues in the conversation.

The Pullman team can be a positive influence on the system-wide campuses. The staff on these smaller campuses often have to know enough about disability and access processes to be effective in their role but they do not spend enough time to become vast experts in the work because of the many other roles of the position. Because the Access Center team at Pullman focuses solely on this work, they can coach and guide the system-wide campus staff in being as effective as possible on their respective campuses. One approach to nurture this relationship could be to designate a liaison from the Access Center to be the primary point of contact with the system-wide staff. The liaison could be a resource when challenging situations arise. When the Access Center team makes important updates to practices, the liaison could share this information with the system-wide partners to keep them informed. The liaison could also commit to the monthly check-in meetings and perhaps could coordinate an annual summer meeting at one of the campuses. 

Intentional Collaboration with Global

The Access Center team indicated that the number of students connected with the Global online degrees was on the rise. However, data provided, if read correctly, suggests that the Access Center worked with 39 Global students in Spring 2018, which was down from the past two semesters reported. The Access Center wondered if Global should start to work with these students in lieu of the Access Center due to the current numbers.

Generally speaking, students in online programs require less assistance to create an accessible experience. It is not clear to the reviewer if something about WSU is different in this regard. The online environment is either naturally accessible for students or only requires smaller adjustments, such as programming an online exam to include extended time. Of course, more complex accessible needs do occur on occasion. Overall, the collective accessible needs of online students are often less than the collective access needs of the same number of students taking classes on a physical campus.

While the Access Center would prefer that Global staff work with disabled students directly, the external review does not recommend this approach based on information gathered. Keeping the process centralized is usually a strong practice. The numbers do not appear substantial and problematic access needs were not reported in this environment. If reality is beyond what the reviewer could observe or if numbers substantially increase in the future, a Global representative did note during the review that they could consider funding a portion of an Access Center position to address the access needs of the online students.

Beyond students, the Global team appears to be taking a strong approach to proactively considering accessibility within the online environment. The to-be-hired Technology Coordinator should place an emphasis on fostering a strong relationship with Global.

Faculty Advisory Board and/or Campus Accessibility Committee

To assist with the recommended collaborative efforts, the director should create a Faculty Advisory Board and/or other campus accessibility committee. Regarding the latter, the reviewer did learn that a number of committees around various accessibility issues do exist. However, it was not clear as to how often the committees meet, who serves on these committees, the goals and intended outcomes of the committees and general effectiveness. Whatever is happening should continue in earnest. Keeping different stakeholders involved in campus access discussions is critical for long-term success. 

The Faculty Advisory Board would be a productive way for the director to teach a group of faculty on the nuances of the access and accommodation process and to receive feedback on the faculty-Access Center collaboration and communication exchange. Building these relationships can create strong allies for the Access Center as the faculty can then be a voice for the Access Center within faculty departments and circles. It can be highly effective for the disability office when faculty are well-versed in the accessibility process and then subsequently train, coach, and guide other faculty through various accessibility situations.

Relocate Access Center Transportation to Transportation Services

The Access Center facilitates a transportation service for students with physical and temporary mobility disabilities. This resource is funded annually through student fees. As described to the reviewer, the system is door-to-door to the greatest extent possible. One seemingly passionate system coordinator manages the schedule and often provides the rides. To assist with scheduling, a new online scheduling database is being explored.

While this system is beneficial, especially with the hilly terrain on the WSU campus, it is not necessary from a compliance perspective. The specific resource does not align with the overall daily work of the Access Center because the riders most often have temporary disabilities. To better align with the social justice focus, it is recommended that the oversight of this resource be relocated to Transportation Services. Such a move places the resource in an area that is more equipped to ensure the ride system is managed well by those familiar with how to do so. Perhaps greater synergies with other campus transportation needs could be realized with a relocation.  One of the challenges with the current system and location within the Access Center is that rides are only offered between 7:30am and 6:00pm due to staffing limitations. If campus is operating into the evening hours, the same service is ideally available at these later hours. Would it be feasible for Transportation Services to provide extended hours through its resources with minimal overall impact?

Investment in Staff Professional Development

Leadership Development for Director

The campus leaders and Access Center staff made it clear that there is an interest in aligning the work of the Access Center with more of a social justice focus. The journey to reach this goal will not be easy. Everyone will need to ponder a new way of considering disability with a shift from viewing the limitations of the person to the limitations of the environment (physical barriers, technological barriers, procedural and process obstacles, and limited attitudes and understanding). The Access Center will need to carefully review where their office processes and their roles may create the greatest blockades for disabled students. It is important that the Access Center fully lead by example through its operations while pushing this focus forward campus-wide.

During the external review, the reviewer gathered substantial information to suggest that the current director is doing a phenomenal job in managing the daily needs of the Access Center operations. The director manages a substantial caseload of students and seems to support the achievement of the basic daily needs of staff and operations within the Access Center. Many campus stakeholders expressed appreciation for the director’s insight in how to solve a particular situation. Students who worked with the director cited her as helpful when they had to speak with her.

While these management needs are being met, the shift to a social justice focus will require effective leadership. Not enough information was collected during the external review to know how the director will handle this transition from being a manager to being a leader with influence. As author Cheryl Bachhelder states in Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, the leader must create the conditions for superior performance by:

  • Making a conscious and humble decision to serve others well;
  • Inspiring people to pursue a daring destination, an aspiration greater than self;
  • Boosting the capabilities of people;
  • Moving from being a powerless victim of circumstances to being a person who owns, acts on, and creates opportunities;
  • Holding people accountable; and
  • Having the appropriate confidence.

Author Daniel Pink, in his book Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, offers additional insight on how leaders can maximize employee contributions and increase motivation by facilitating three critical aspects of the employee experience:

  • Autonomy – Encouraging and fostering self-direction increases employee engagement;
  • Mastery – Promoting personal and professional development and concrete means for employees to see and experience measurable progress;
  • Purpose – Guide people in understanding how their work makes a real difference and adds real value to others and/or to an environment.

As mentioned in the Strengths section of this report, the Access Center team appears to be very solid and capable of accomplishing great things on campus. The director will capitalize on this potential by finding ways to empower employees to find their niche and to use their skills within office operations in ways that maximize employee contributions and satisfaction while also maximizing Access Center outcomes.  Thus, it is critical that the director make care of the Access Center staff a number one priority even at times at the expense of the director. The collective WSU reach and influence of the Access Center team is far greater than the reach of one director. Thus, the team must absolutely know that the director is concerned about their well-being, their professional growth, their need to have autonomy and their desire to have a meaningful role that maximizes their strengths and interests within Access Center and WSU operations.

Specifically to the emerging direction of the Access Center, the director will need to initially get the team on board with its mission and will need to carefully lead the Access Center in defining what its vision means for the Access Center and WSU. This purpose impacts every facet of the Access Center operations so every nuance of the Access Center processes and service delivery must carefully and slowly be evaluated against the core purpose. Such an endeavor takes time, is not easy, will come with challenges, and will probably include staff struggles and disagreements. The director must guide the Access Center during this time by knowing when to push and when to rest.

Beyond the Access Center, this social justice vision must be articulated clearly to the campus community in a way that resonates with the various stakeholders. The Access Center, likely led by but not solely the responsibility of the director, must also know when to push and when to go slow with stakeholders. Interactions with others must effectively address the necessary issues of today while also exploring what tomorrow must look like in order for disabled students to experience seamless access and inclusion at WSU.

Listening will be essential on this journey as it is at all times to be an effective leader. The director need not have all of the answers in any situation or be expected to know what to do. Through listening to the many perspectives of the talented individuals within the Access Center and on campus, solid approaches and good directions can emerge. It is often more important for the director to be a vessel through which ideas can be presented by the many than it is for the director to provide ideas from the one (self). In many ways, this approach is social justice in action, as true social justice recognizes the value of each person and their voice. With that stated, it is also critical for the director to know when to make a decision and to do so with confidence.

What is described above is likely vastly different from how the director has operated within the Access Center to date. Being a leader is a much different focus and use of energy than being a manager. Managers generally focus on responding to situations, building and following processes, completing specific tasks, asking how, maintaining the status quo, minimizing risk, succeeding in the short-term, and being an overall administrator. Leaders tend to envision a new and exciting future, influence and inspire colleagues, focus on taking care of people, develop employees’ skills, build relationships, empower people to act, ask why, embrace change and risk, attend to the long-term, and shape a culture. The reality is that a management approach will not yield the results that seem to be of high interest to the WSU community. To support the direction in being a leader, it is highly recommended that the director attend at least one AHEAD conference event per year. AHEAD currently offers an annual July conference with an array of pre-conference sessions on many topics. In addition, AHEAD offers deep dive annual Management Institutes and in-depth Master Classes opportunities on topics that are explored beyond the depths of a 60- or 90-minute concurrent conference session. Within the opportunities, more focus is being placed on social justice implementation on campus. As a field, we all have much to learn in this area and AHEAD is a great place to explore with one another.

The director must also attend the WAPED annual conference. It is important to stay engaged with this community and to develop a support network. Furthermore, WSU could be and should be an effective leader in the state on social justice work if the director and the Access Center chooses to own this mission and chooses to lead conversations and explorations in this area. WSU must financially support these opportunities for the director and the director must own this responsibility. True progress will not happen otherwise.

Staff Development Opportunities

As with the director, staff must have the chance to engage in professional development opportunities. This involvement builds the staff person’s toolkit and elevates the profile of WSU as a voice of influence in this area. It is recognized that budget will prevent all staff from being consistently involved in various opportunities so strategic decisions must be made. WAPED could perhaps be attended by multiple people in the Access Center each year. AHEAD webinars are another viable option. WSU must also financially support these opportunities.

Additional Assorted Topics

The reviewer identified additional matters of note (office operating budget, staff and faculty accommodations, and location within the college organizational structure) that did not necessarily fit into the strengths or enhancements areas.

Office Operating Budget

The Access Center office operating budget appears to be very low, reportedly around $16,000 for the year. This limited amount of money makes it difficult to effectively operate an office of the Access Center’s size. It is recommended that this budget be increased to a more functional level.

Staff and Faculty Accommodations

While this report is focused on student accessibility, one comment about staff and faculty accommodations was of note to the reviewer. During one conversation, someone indicated that staff and faculty accommodations must be paid for, when necessary, by the department that houses the staff and faculty. It was suggested that this arrangement could hinder staff and faculty receiving reasonable access in their work environment because department leaders do not want to spend budget money on accommodations. If this process is accurate, it is recommended that WSU change the process to where staff and faculty accommodations are paid for out of a centralized account managed by Human Resources.

When departments are responsible for the expenses pertaining to accommodations, leaders may be loath to pay, especially if the expense limits or removes other opportunities within the department, such as faculty travel or office equipment upgrades. The disabled staff or faculty member may be seen as a financial drain on the department and may be the recipient of overt or covert negative attitudes by department leaders and colleagues. In these cases, it is often not the idea of the access and accommodations that department leaders object to but rather that they have to pay to make the access happen. As a result, departments may choose to not even hire a highly qualified candidate with a disability if it is realized that the hire will have a negative impact on the department budget.

By removing the department’s financial (emotional) connection with staff and faculty accommodations through a centralized Human Resources accommodation budget, disabled staff and faculty will have a greater opportunity to be fully included in the department.   

Location within the College Organizational Structure

Disability offices generally exist within Student Affairs or Academic Affairs. In some cases, disability offices are part of Affirmative Action or other diversity initiatives on campus. Because potential accessibility matters intersect with every facet of campus, campus disability personnel must effectively work with many constituents. However, the primary reason a student connects with a disability office is to experience access within the classroom. Therefore, it is vital that the disability office have a strong relationship with faculty on campus. The disability office also benefits when there is clear support of its mission and work from the executive administration voices on campus, especially from leaders who have positive influence within the faculty culture.

During the review, there were some casual wonderings as to whether or not the Access Center should remain in its current place within the organizational structure or if there would be benefit to being part of Academic Affairs. There is no right or wrong answer on this subject. As the Access Center embarks on a number of changes to enhance operations and to elevate the understanding of the need for the WSU campus experience to be fully accessible, there are benefits to remaining within Student Affairs. But if the Access Center does not increase its collaborative efforts with faculty successfully over the months to come and if this lag in positive development is impacting students and the social justice efforts of the Access Center, it may be worth exploring the potential benefit of relocating the Access Center to Academic Affairs.

Conclusion

The Association on Higher Education And Disability appreciates having the opportunity to work with Washington State University and the institution’s students, faculty, staff, and administrators in conducting this program review.  The commitment of the institution to improve its approach with facilitating access for disabled students is obvious. With intentional commitment to social justice and collaboration with the campus community, fantastic outcomes are possible. The reviewer remains available for consultation as the Access Center and the university moves forward with plans for promoting an inclusive and accessible campus.

 

Appendix A

Standing Committee on Professional Development

Disability Resource Professional’s Guide to Exploring and Determining Access

Adam Meyer, University of Central Florida

Many disability resource professionals have used AHEAD’s 2012 Documentation Guidance to assist them in modifying their documentation practices to be more responsive to the broader definition of disability put forward in the ADA as amended. However, since AHEAD recommends a flexible process rather than providing a standard list of documentation characteristics, implementing the Guidance can be challenging.  The intentionally fluid and individual approach described requires professional judgment and the ability to listen, question, trust, reflect and analyze.

The following seven steps, are offered as a guide for maximizing the wealth of information that can be discovered during conversations with students, processing it, and determining whether it is adequate to respond to a student’s request for accommodation. Depending on the student’s experiences and fluency and the disability professional’s knowledge and observations, there may be no or limited need for external documentation following a complete student interview.

7 Step Guidance on Utilizing the Student Conversation as an Effective Resource

  1. Listen to the student’s story (or read if an email conversation).
  • Based on conversation, determine…
  • Why has the student contacted the office in the first place?
  • What barriers to access has the student described?
  • What is the student requesting?
  • Questions to assist in developing the story and in learning about the barriers present:
    • What brought you here today?
    • What environments create barriers/challenges for you? What barriers/challenges in the classroom or otherwise are you experiencing currently?
    • How does X experience impact you?
    • What type of classroom environment do you prefer?
    • What solutions have worked in the past?
    • What solutions might work in this situation based on your assessment?
    • How is X class designed? How are you graded?
    • What kind of exams or assessments work well for you?
    • What is it about Y test (class, paper, etc.) that meant you didn’t need accommodations for it?
    • What types of assignments do you enjoy? What types of assignments challenge you?
    • What is your experience when reading (focus, comprehension, etc.)?
    • How is the housing experience going?
    • What accommodations did you use in high school?
  • When a student does not indicate a specific condition or impairment in conversation or in answer to the above questions, you may need to explore more specifically to understand whether the situation is related to an underlying disability. While that exploration will likely result from questions that flow naturally from the conversation, the following may be helpful:
  • I understand the barrier /challenge you've described, but wonder if you can tell me more about why you think X situation may be a problem for you but not for other students?
  • You've described the barrier clearly but have not mentioned a disability/impairment/underlying condition. Can you tell me more about that?
  1. Initial professional observations?
  • Does a disability-related barrier exist?
  • Is there a clear connection between the barrier and the student’s condition?
  • What makes sense based on your conversation with the student?
  • Did the student provide any external documentation that is helpful? Is it consistent with the student’s report and your observations?
  • Is anything not adding up for you at the moment? Start to recognize any gaps in your understanding of the situation.
  • Are there factors the student may not have mentioned that could have an impact on the situation, such as the impact of pain or medication?
  • Are there any red flags cycling through your internal filter?
  • Do your concerns have to do with determining access or are you thinking about creating a success plan for the student? Keep in mind that accommodations are about access.
  1. Any known environmental barriers, considerations, or fundamental components in play?
  • What is the role of the environment in creating and/or maintaining the barrier?
  • Is it immediately obvious that accommodations could create access based on the information provided?
  • Is the requested accommodation clearly related to the student’s disability but inappropriate in the context (such as a request for note-card on exams that test primarily measure recall)? Accommodations that undermine academic integrity are not reasonable regardless of a clear connection to the disability.
  • Consider what might warrant additional consultation with others on campus.
  • Is the requested accommodation likely to effectively remove the barrier for the student in that environment?
  1. Any gaps between what the student requests, details in the environment and what you believe would create access?
  • Put the story, initial observations, and environmental variables together.
  • Can any adjustments in the environment be made, such as seeing if the professor would modify the course to remove the barrier without accommodations?
  • Based on all information gathered, determine where reasonable accommodations can clearly create access (extended time on tests, computer for essay exams, note-takers, etc.) when environmental changes are not feasible.
  • Does the student specifically seek something that does not make sense to you based on the information gathered? This is the gap that needs to be addressed…
    • Are there other questions that you can ask to get to this information?
    • Do you need to let the student know you need time to consider the request?
    • Can you talk to others on campus about the situation, including getting more information from faculty, housing, etc.?
    • Would a review of the student’s academic transcript provide any beneficial information?
    • Could you experiment with certain accommodations (a modified response to intervention process) to see what impact it has on the barriers?
  1. Your judgment and assessment matter!
  • Trust your instincts and common sense abilities.
  • Trust the student.
  • How have similar situations been handled on your campus? What (good and bad) can be learned from past experiences?
  • Do you not trust your ability to make a decision? If so, what is missing for you to have that trust?
  • Is there anything you fear about making a decision in this case?
  • Your judgment and assessment can be documented to support decisions made.
  1. Use 3rd party documentation to fill gaps in understanding.
  • Before requesting additional 3rdparty documentation, ask yourself how it will assist in your decision-making.
    • Will it really be a difference-maker in the end?
    • What will it address that you cannot address within your office or in consultation with others on campus?
    • Why would you feel more confident making the decision with this additional information than without it?
  • Request documentation that specifically fills in gaps that cannot be filled otherwise…gaps must be about access only, not treatment or success plans.
    • The requested information should clarify the connection between the condition and the environmental barrier for which accommodations are requested.
  1. Student or disability office consults with course and department as necessary.
  • What next steps does the student need to take?
  • Does the disability office need to get involved with access outcomes in some way?
  • Might the accommodation result in a fundamental alteration requiring that you consult with faculty, housing, etc. before making a decision?
  • Keep the conversations going as necessary, including as changes evolve either with the person or within the environment.
  • Identify the appropriate path of action based on the situation at hand.

Access: The Core Mission of the Disability Office

While the student interview is an important step in considering accommodations, disability professionals should always approach these conversations with a clear understanding that the goal of all accommodations is to create access. This requires a fundamental understanding of the two terms: “access” and “accommodation.”

Definition of Access-- An equitable opportunity to full participation resulting from either:

  • An environment that is designed (proactively) to work for a majority of people; OR
  • Effective, reasonable modifications to policies, practices, procedures and other environmental barriers (reactive) that result in access.

Using Accommodations as a Path to Access

Reasonable accommodations, such as the ones typically discussed in our field and communicated to faculty through “letters” of accommodation, are retrofits to inaccessibly designed environments put in place on an individual basis to create access. They are not the only course of action.

Access can be achieved through accommodations or when:

  • An environment is proactively designed from the outset (such as all course videos including captions);
  • Creative alternatives outside the norm are identified (such as when a professor agrees to facilitate access by giving a student a paper version of a test when all other students take the test online);
  • The values, behaviors, beliefs, attitudes and/or level of awareness of others are shifted.

Disability professionals often need to facilitate creative solutions to the barriers that exist by learning about and analyzing environmental variables and working proactively to reframe notions of access for faculty and other campus personnel. While some accommodations may not be reasonable because they would fundamentally alter the nature of an academic experience, design modifications and shifts in attitudes can provide access while also removing stigma from students with disabilities and creating an improved experience for all.