Meeting Institutional Challenges
- DRC is in great need of more space to (1) unify all DRC employees into one suite of offices, (2) set up a filming studio for making online classes accessible, (3) establish an assistive technology lab to work with students on the increasing demands of learning new technologies, and (4) accommodate the needed additional staff.
- DRC and Health Services have proposed an expansion of the Donaghey Student Center to accommodate the needs of these rapidly growing departments. This expansion would add over 15,000 square feet to the building, at an estimated cost of $7.4 million.
- After losing DSC 117 space (upon completion of the Project PACE grant, it was reassigned to another program), DRC took steps to find additional space within the main office suite. In order to address the space problem, DRC began the process of repurposing the file room. DRC scanned 1,725 student files, shredded the paper records and eliminated two large lateral file cabinets. This has created space that will enable the department to keep some assistive technology ready to use that is currently pulled out of storage as needed.
- Complete College America – Changes were implemented in remedial math and reading that dramatically impact students with disabilities. DRC worked with both departments to eliminate as many barriers as possible to full inclusion.
Enhancing Quality of Campus Life
- DRC is represented on the Sustainability Committee, and DRC staff headed up the Earth Day activities. The department has been an example to the campus community by reducing paper use by 77% in one year, as well as going paperless on student documentation.
- DRC is represented on the new university-wide Diversity Council by appointment of the chancellor. The work we have done to develop a Diversity Climate Assessment over the last few years has been taken on by this Council. The survey is to take place over the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters. The survey focuses on various diverse groups, including those with disabilities. The survey results will inform the Council on future activities.
- Consulted with architects on design of the interior ramp leading to the Student Services Center skybridge. The double ramp is more usable, and allows all users to exit in the direction they need to go.
- Consulted with designers on the need for an accessible path between the DSC exit near the DRC toward Fine Arts, by Campus Drive.
- Staff retreat in May 2012 provided professional development as well as team building for the department. UALR’s Catherine Lowry and Kristin McIntyre led the group in discussions and activities that helped the department clarify its values and set departmental goals.
Noteworthy Unit Activities
- DRC went paperless this year for student records, scanning over 1,725 files. Records for new students are scanned rather than copied. For these and other efforts, the DRC won the 2012 Trojan Green Award from the Sustainability Committee, that came with a $1000 award.
- Director serves on the AHEAD Standing Committee on Professional Development; developed conference strand for 2012 national conference that included two pre-conference sessions and ten concurrent sessions entitled Out Of The Box! – which focused on progressive approaches for disability service providers.
- Authored ALERT article (AHEAD’s e-newsletter) responding to the new guidance from the organization on documentation requirements. National dissemination to over 3,000 subscribers.
- Project ShIFT: National collaboration with other trainers to develop a product which will guide service providers through the process of challenging current practices.
- Director serves on the Governor’s Commission on People with Disabilities. Reappointed in June 2012. Primary focus is to organize a committee to assess the website and make a proposal for improvements.
- The DRC’s Accommodation Decision Tree is being adapted for dissemination nationally by the AHEAD Standing Committee on Professional Development as an example of best practices.
Challenges and Opportunities
- Test accommodations continue to be a struggle for many faculty due to limited space in their departments. A Testing Center is needed at UALR for make-up exams, proctoring tests for online students, and for accommodated tests. This would ensure an improved testing situation for disabled students, and much less effort for faculty.
- There are increasing demands placed on students to know how to use various assistive technologies. An assistive technology lab is needed on this campus to assist students with mastering these skills.
- Five DRC staff resigned over the last ten years due at least in part to the overwhelming student caseload. AHEAD recommends a caseload of 150 maximum, and UALR DRC’s caseload is 300. DRC needs approval to hire more full-time employees to aleviate this problem.
- DRC needs approval to hire more full-time employees who can be trained in speech-to-text transcription. Total hours for both interpreting and transcribing has more than doubled in five years (128% increase). Sevenfold increase in transcription services in five years. DRC is training more hourly transcribers to try to keep up with the demand.
Trends and Implications
- AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disabilities) released new guidance on documentation for use by postsecondary institutions. This is in response to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, as well as updated EEOC and DOJ regulations and accompanying guidance. This guidance fully supports the progressive direction the UALR DRC has been heading for the last several years, and this university is being held up as an example of best practices.
- Obtaining / creating books in digital format is a labor-intensive process. The demand has more than quintupled in six years.
- Number of new students registered with the DRC has more than doubled in six years.