We strive to provide useful information to faculty as we work together to create an inclusive community for students with disabilities on the campus.
We wanted to take a moment to share the reason the university has decided to add these resources. The first reason, in all honesty, came from the faculty members who asked for information to be distributed in a way that didn't lead to an overwhelming amount of paper in an already complicated information-driven culture. Many of you have worked at Gonzaga for years and know the processes that students use to secure accommodations well. Placing implementation assistance and other information of note on the web allows the faculty member to find the data on a need to know basis rather than redistributing the same information semester after semester to an already informed audience.
The second reason is driven by the strategic planning initiatives on the campus and recommendations on the national level authored and endorsed by the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). The new AHEAD Program Standards and Performance Indicators will be used as part of the benchmarking process in the creation of an accessible environment at GU. The Standards are indicative of a paradigm shift in the expectations of enforcement agencies and the disability community now that we are 30 years post the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 and 15 years post the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The emphasis has changed from one of reactive accommodations and retrofits to one of systematic design and inclusion in all areas of the campus from the physical environment to program and course development to student life. A sample set of the recommendations included in the AHEAD Program Standards and Performance Indicators is listed below:
- Work collaboratively with academic affairs on policy regarding course substitutions and foster an institutional commitment to promoting student abilities rather than a student's disabilities.
- Disseminate information through institutional electronic and printed publications regarding disability services and how to access them and ensure access to information about disabilities to students, administration, faculty and service professionals.
- Promote universal design in instruction and communication.
- Provide faculty/staff awareness training to enhance the understanding of faculty's responsibility to provide accommodations to students and how to provide accommodations and modifications as well as enhancing the institutional understanding of the rights of students with disabilities.
An up and coming issue for disability inclusion in campus communities is the development of online programs and courses for distance education.
In addition to the information we are offering, we plan to visit with many of you in your departments this year to gain access your perspective and collective wisdom as we move toward greater inclusion for students with disabilities in the classroom and on the campus.
Thank you for your ongoing assistance and cooperation in providing an accessible academic environment to students with disabilities.