Meeting Institutional Challenges
- In response to the Mathematics Department’s use of ALEKS, an inaccessible algebra program, DRC collaborated with the department to create two accessible math courses for blind students. This was a PACE collaboration. Florida State University is being sued by National Federation of the Blind for using an inaccessible math program.
- Implemented a new service, automatic speech recognition (ASR) in the classroom and for online videostreams. The training time for this system is significantly less than for TypeWell.
- Began utilizing remote speech-to-text services at Bowen School of Law from a company out of Missouri; exploring its use on the UALR campus to help with overflow and with classes using specialized vocabulary, since there is a shortage of skilled transcribers.
- After five years of DRC staff working with campus community, UAMS and UA Fayetteville, Faculty Senate approved a resolution supporting domestic partner benefits for UALR employees; has direct impact on recruitment and retention of DRC staff.
- To better reflect the complex implications of various disabilities, revised course waiver procedures in consultation with ARS psychological text examiners.
- Established CADA website (ualr.edu/cada); information includes CADA’s charge, committee members with bios, examples of past expenditures, and a web-based form for making requests of the CADA committee for funding.
Enhancing Quality of Campus Life
- Developed Diversity Climate Assessment in collaboration with Social Work, former Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/ Curriculum, Assessment and Diversity and Cindy Boland with Institute of Government; will collaborate with Dr. Karen J. Wheeler; possible 2012 dissemination.
- Served on committees: eLAG; CADA; Interpreter Education Advisory; Commencement; Web Advisory; Web Content Management System; Fringe Benefits; Issues and Concerns; and Chancellor’s Policy Advisory Committee.
- DRC staff assisted Pedestrian Safety Committee by surveying the entire campus and documenting safety hazards; report was forwarded to the Chair of the committee; some improvements are already being made.
- Presented to faculty and staff about diversity, the role of the DRC, and UD, to the following audiences: Rehabilitation Teaching class, Communication Skills Center staff, Resident Assistants, Bowen School of Law freshmen, Diversity Forum for incoming UALR freshmen, new faculty orientation, Alliance, IT Minor class, Rehabilitation Counseling students, and Interpreter Education Program.
- CADA funds contributed to the physical and programmatic environments at UALR being more accessible; purchases include SiteCheck software that automatically finds accessibility problems on the UALR website, and Click and Go wayfinding system to aid blind users in navigating the campus.
Noteworthy Unit Activities
- In order to more closely represent the intent of the ADA Amendments Act, created a Documentation Decision Tree so documentation is requested only when necessary. System attorney who reviewed it indicated it was a very effective tool.
- Participated as a trainer with Project ShIFT, a DOE initiative, facilitating a leadership development project for 25 Disability Service Providers from across the US with a goal of ShIFTing the disability service paradigm in ways that challenge the dominant view of disability.
- Fostered growth of DIG (Disability Interest Group), which is comprised of students, faculty and staff; meets regularly during the fall and spring semesters; shows films that demonstrate more helpful ways of framing disability.
- Made presentations at the national Association on Higher Education and Disability conference, ARCPA, and Ark-AHEAD on universal design; power, privilege and disability; gender identity, sexuality and disability; intercultural dexterity; designing more usable digital environments; and articulating our values. Five hundred and fifty contact hours of training provided at the state and national level.
- Created DRC Student Lounge, a one-stop website for students to access online resources provided by the DRC, that is linked on home page.
- Director asked to serve on AHEAD’s new Standing Committee on Professional Development; has begun revising the national organization’s Professional Standards to reflect more progressive views of disability.
- Held annual staff retreat to discuss organizational culture, organizational change, and our mission statement; Dr. Kristen McIntyre and two of her staff facilitated.
- To help the campus community learn practical applications of universal design, began a series of ‘Accommodations Reframed’ on our website that to date include assessment, handouts and notetaking segments.
- Successfully lobbied for financial reimbursements for accommodations at Bowen School of Law (beginning October 2010) and from Extended Programs (beginning July 2011).
Challenges and Opportunities
- The department has outgrown its space in DSC 103 and 113, and is exploring options for a possible future move to space that will accommodate a film studio, one-on-one training space for students using adaptive technology, a User Experience lab, and growth; will again request two new positions next year (Office Manager and Access Consultant).
- Numbers of new students registered with the DRC has increased at a rate 9 times that of new students entering UALR. From 2002 to 2010, UALR had numbers of new students (freshmen and transfer) increase 13%; during same period, new students supported by the DRC rose by 119%
- Developed plans to establish a User Experience Lab, collaborating with Computing Services and Web Services. The establishment of this lab would eventually help the campus avoid purchasing inaccessible software products, like ALEKS (see Meeting Institutional Challenges) that require expensive and time-consuming workarounds and put the university in legal jeopardy. Currently are exploring options for space for the lab.
- AHEAD studies with Harvard in 2008 indicate a caseload of 150 is the maximum recommended. DRC caseloads are approximately 300.
- Multiple construction projects, renovations to 29 elevators on campus, and frequent redirection of pedestrians to new pathways have increased the DRC’s workload tremendously this year; DRC works to ensure adequate signage and notification, helps redirect disabled pedestrians, and collaborates with Facilities to minimize disruption to disabled students.
- Hired consultant through AHEAD per the Chancellor’s request to help us “hit the reset button” on some disability issues; the consultant failed to follow through with writing a final report, which left the campus community in limbo on several issues.
- Project PACE collaborated with the Music Department to make music courses accessible for blind students. The DRC now has the software (Goodfeel by Dancing Dots) and expertise to convert music into a Braille-ready file; has converted music for six classes so far.
Trends and Implications
- Worked with Social Work diversity class to infuse disability content into curriculum, and to maximize usability and accessible design of online courses; DRC has long-term plans to help establish some Disability Studies courses at UALR.
- There has been a marked increase over the last several years in the numbers of lawsuits against universities, and companies by National Federation of the Blind over inaccessible web content and web applications: Netflix over no captioning on streaming videos, Target for their inaccessible website (e-commerce), an international airport for inaccessible ticket kiosks, and requests for investigations against NYU and Northwestern for their use of Google Apps, which are not fully accessible.
- Collaborating with Web Services, Computing Services, and Lions World Services for the Blind to do usability testing on UALR’s web-based applications; this begins our efforts to move toward a User Experience Lab, and toward creating more accessible and sustainable environments for all students, which is consistent with the direction of the field of disability and postsecondary education.
- The June 29, 2010 Dear Colleague Letter and the 5/26/2011 FAQ from Department of Education clarified that every aspect of a university’s educational program and services are subject to the rules regarding nondiscrimination, and that the obligation is shared by everyone in the institution (not just the DRC or the ADA Coordinator); professional development for the campus community on this matter would be prudent.
- Proposal to Design for Social Justice:Â Partnerships in Diversity Access to Design Professions 2010 – 2011 was accepted.Â Collaborated with Ark-AHEAD on the project.