Annual Report 2015-2016

In the interest of creating usable, inclusive and sustainable environments, the Mission of the UALR Disability Resource Center encompasses two primary functions:

  • To consult and collaborate with faculty, students, other campus stakeholders, and outside entities regarding Universal Design and reframing disability.
  • To facilitate access via accommodations, including those related to communication, the physical environment, print materials, and technology.
  • Collaboration
  • Access

DRC’s vision is that UALR’s educational opportunities, services, programs, technology, and web presence can all be accessed seamlessly by everyone, without DRC intervention.

Annual staff retreat

The focus of this year's retreat was transition.  With the imminent reorganization of Student Affairs, the department used the retreat time to plan for a new director, and for a realignment of responsibilities of the staff.  With some creative planning, the department is well positioned to meet student and university needs, despite the change in personnel.  Part of the changes include utilizing student labor more creatively to free up the time of full-time staff to work directly with students.

Annual reports overhaul

The DRC Director headed up a team within Student Affairs to develop a cumulative Student Affairs curated report suitable for printing. The online document was designed to be fully accessible.  From this report all departmental reports are linked, as well as a PDF and flip-book version.  Print copies were provided to Cabinet and to external constituents as needed.

The new Wordpress-based annual reporting mechanism developed last year for Student Affairs was adapted by the Provost for use campus-wide.  The DRC Director worked with Digital Strategy on this next iteration, incorporating improved input mechanisms.

Improved Faculty Notification Letters

In an effort to create more visual interest and usability, the DRC worked with IT Services to incorporate images into the Faculty Notification letters.  The images appear on the right side of the text, correlate directly with specific accommodations in each letter, and link to more detailed information.  The feedback received during beta testing was favorable, and so it went live campus-wide during the first summer session of 2016.

New policy - nut allergies

In response to feedback from the Faculty Planning Group, a more proactive approach to responding to peanut allergies was put into place.  When students have nut allergies, the following is linked to on the Faculty Notification Letters:

A student in your class has a dangerous peanut allergy and we are asking for your help. Peanut residue from anyone using your classroom could pose a serious health risk for this student.  In order to avoid that scenario, a sign needs to be posted so everyone who uses the classroom knows that peanuts and peanut products are not allowed.

Instructions are provided for the faculty to download and print a 'nut-free zone' sign and post it in the classroom.  Students with this accommodation can also notify DRC staff and we will print and post signage in all the student's classrooms.

New policy - Emotional Support Animals and animal policy

New policy was written and approved by university attorneys regarding animals on campus.  The DRC has never had written policy about service animals before because they are so clearly covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  However with new legal requirements to allow emotional support animals (ESAs) in residence halls, we wrote new policy that clarifies the difference between service animals and ESAs, and outlines responsibilities of students with each type of animal.

Stacy Willis Memorial Scholarship awarded

The Stacy Willis Memorial Scholarship Committee selected Ms. Connie Jones as the recipient for 2016-17. This competitive scholarship is awarded every year to a student of distinction with a disability at UALR. Congratulations to Ms. Jones!

Connie Jones

This scholarship honors Stacy Willis, a dedicated student at UALR who graduated with honors, then moved to Florida State University where she obtained her Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.  UALR saw her potential and hired her to work  in Student Support Services.  Counseling, supporting and working with students with disabilities to achieve their educational goals was her highest calling. This scholarship honors her to follow through with that calling.

Presentation at Partners for Student Success Conference

The DRC Director presented ‘Ensuring Every Voice is Heard’ at the Partners for Student Success conference in October 2015.  This session covered Liberating Structures, both by content and by demonstration.

Service Learning Academy

The DRC Director participated in the Service Learning Academy over the course of four weeks, with the goal of better understanding how service learning works, and how we can work with faculty to design meaningful and fully accessible experiences for students.

DRC Presented at National Conference

The DRC co-presented at The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) national conference in Indianapolis, IN.

Presentation shared perspective of different Student Data Management Systems from 3 different Universities: Univ. of Arkansas Fayetteville, Univ. of Northern Arizona and UALR.

Survey sent to interpreters about tuition discounts

The pool of available sign language interpreters has gotten very low over the last few years.  A survey was sent to determine if offering a new benefit of employee discount for classes would increases the chances they would interpret for UALR. Below are the survey questions, along with an explanatory paragraph that was placed mid-survey.


 

  • What's the likelihood you will interpret for UALR in 2016?
  • How many classes do you anticipate being available to interpret in 2016?   This means committing to a course for the semester (not subbing).
  • How many hours per week are you typically available to sub for UALR classes?

The UALR Disability Resource Center would like to submit a proposal for contract interpreters to get the same tuition discount as full-time employees (90% off tuition). The number of courses a contract interpreter could take would correlate with how many hours they interpret for UALR. The details are still being worked out. With this in mind, please continue the survey below.

  • With this in mind, what would the likelihood be that you would interpret for UALR in 2016?
  • With this in mind, how many classes would you anticipate being available to take in 2016? This means committing to a course for the semester (not subbing).
  • With this in mind, how many hours per week would you anticipate being available to sub for UALR classes?
  • What are barriers for you to interpreting at UALR?

 

The results of the survey indicate UALR would easily have enough sign language interpreters to cover the schedule every semester if the tuition benefit was in place.  A report will be forwarded to university administration for consideration of this proposal.

Follow-up on the open-ended question about barriers will take place in 2016-2017.  They include:

  • parking
  • earn time and a half in the community after 5:00 and on weekends
  • mileage
  • need back-to-back classes to justify the drive
  • want online time sheet
  • pay is lower at UALR than in the community
  • Develop online training for books conversion in order to increase capacity for converting books and other print materials to digital or Braille formats
  • Work with the Graduate Assistant in Student Affairs to identify potential grant opportunities that could further the goals and vision of the DRC
  • Explore utilizing responsive WordPress to improve the process for students requesting books in digital format
  • Develop policies and practices around students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in order to educate faculty on helpful interaction techniques and potential behavior issues, and to work with the student to have a smoother entry into college life
  • Work with the Interpreter Education Program to develop and implement an interpreter internship in the DRC
  • With two of three full-time interpreters expected to retire in June 2017, transition planning and cross-training will be a high priority for the coming year
  • Approximately 650 students worked with the DRC this academic year
  • Eight full-time employees; reduced to seven full-time employees in 2016-17 due to Student Affairs reorganization which is made possible by realigning job responsibilities and cross-training student labor