This week’s readings and videos strongly support the webinars and experiences that I’ve had in serving students with disabilities. Early in my career, I can honestly say that I did not feel that I was prepared to address the needs of students with disabilities. I was not trained or accustomed to consistently consider the needs of students with disabilities when planning a program, teaching a course or creating electronic resources. But I was willing to understand and be an advocate for this population.
However, there are attitudinal barriers for students with disabilities that exists within certain individuals and departments within my institution. The author’s note that “ableism leads to the presumption that accommodations for disabilities are typically expensive, inconvenient, hold people to lower standards, and that they have no benefit for users without disabilities (Griffin et all as quoted in Quaye and Harper, 2015, p. 194). The second attitudinal barrier, stigma, creates the assumption that students with disabilities are not capable (p. 195). Thus, I agree with the author’s assessment that “ablest” attitudes and stigma because I have investigated and been witness to both attitudinal barriers daily. For example, this week, a faculty member presented to my office refusing to permit the accommodation of a dictionary or word bank for a student with cognitive processing issues because she felt that a word bank “watered down” a biology test and gave the student an unfair advantage. A faculty member is expressing concerns because a quadriplegic student is enrolled in a science lab. She would like the student removed from the class claiming that the student’s wheelchair is blocking students access to the lab table. Lastly, a student was given an accommodation of double time for assessments for a course that requires 90-minute exam so the instructor gave a 3-hour time limit for the entire class. I explained that if the entire class has a 3-hour time limit than the student with the disability gets 6 hours, he didn’t get it…stating that anyone could finish this test in 3-hours.
I think what resonated most with me is the concept of universal design. Our text and this week’s PowerPoint note that the student’s lack to self-report is a barrier. I agree with this and the reasons noted. But the concept of universal design attempts to create a learning environment that fosters the learning of all students, with or without disabilities. Universal design implemented successfully would help to address the needs of students that are resistant to self-identifying. But the faculty need to be trained to assess the course and course materials to ensure compliance. Quaye and Harper (2015) state that “students reported their instructors who received universal design training made multiple changes to their teaching that supported students’ academic success.” (197).
The readings provided this week provided me with greater insight of universal design and additional literature to support the development of policies and procedures for the Office of Disability Support Services at my institution. Additionally, textbook publishers, student affairs personnel and faculty really need to change their mindset to become more inclusive. As the number of students with disabilities enrolling in college increases, we as practitioners, need to be prepared to respond to their needs.