UALR’s transition from WebCT CE6 to Blackboard CE8 created barriers for blind students as a result of its design. The DRC responded with:
an increase in staff hours dedicated to providing technical assistance;
the creation of a listserv where assistive technology (AT) users can post questions; and
a new process for enrolling DRC staff in online courses of students using AT in order to provide technical assistance.
Implemented innovative strategies in response to the increased need for technical assistance.
Completely rewrote DRC Faculty Handbook and published on the DRC website; new handbook takes the focus off of individual accommodations, and instead focuses on how faculty can design classes without barriers.
E-Newsletters: The Lowdown (for faculty and staff) and The Inside Scoop (for students) greatly increase ability to communicate news, events, and information about accessibility and good design.
Continued to promote and advance the reframing of disability and good design to the campus community, e.g. PACE collaborations with Computing Services, Web Services and Office of Communications have resulted in staff in those areas being more proactive in finding accessible solutions.
Increased DRC visability and accessibility by creating a presence on Facebook.
Enhancing the Quality of Campus Life
Served on committees: Academic Affairs; Academic Adjustment; Distance Education Advisory; CADA; Interpreter Education Advisory; Recycling; Commencement; Web Advisory; Web Content Management System; Fringe Benefits; Non-Classified, Non-Faculty Grievance, Issues and Concerns, and Chancellor’s Policy Advisory Committee. Served on 17 regular or ad hoc committees in addition to participating in campus personnel searches.
Administered student survey which assesses campus climate for students with disabilities. Assessment documentation posted to DRC website.
Continued working with administrators, faculty, staff, and relevant committees to advocate implementation of benefits for domestic partners of UALR employees, fostering diversity.
Developed faculty survey that will assess attitudes toward disability; will be administered in September 2009.
Conducted presentations across the campus to faculty and staff about such issues as the role of DRC, universal design, DRC’s assessment efforts, appreciative inquiry, and web accessibility. Presentations made to CSAM chairs, Academic Success Center, IT Minor faculty and staff, Communication Skills Center, Housing staff, and faculty in numerous departments.
Appreciative Inquiry, illustrated below, has proved to be a helpful tool when working with faculty, to help keep the focus on what they were doing well in creating usable, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable learning environments.
Noteworthy Unit Activities
Made presentations at conferences, meetings and inservice trainings on the local, state, national, and international levels. 21 presentations reached 660 audience members.
DRC participated in the Assessment Expo by providing a poster on Universal Design and the assessment efforts of DRC; the presentation won Grand Prize. Assessment information is on website – ualr.edu/disability.
Developed new student database that is more secure, more accessible, and automates processes done before by hand, thereby freeing up precious staff time for other activities.
Hosted week-long iTransition College Camp, sponsored by PEPNet; due to tremendous success, next year will be a national conference; 16 deaf and hard of hearing students attended.
Developed staff-only website for DRC, where all relevant forms, training materials, and other resources are housed and easily accessed; included orientation information for new staff.
Held 2-day staff retreat facilitated by Catherine Lowry and discussed DRC’s mission and goals, 5-year plan, and job duties of all staff; had MBTI personality inventory administered and staff discussed results.
Participated on the leadership team of Project ShIFT, a DOE initiative, working to create progressive philosophical constructs of disability within DRC offices, to correct negative messages that are transferred to faculty, and to assure skills in faculty development.
Associate Director was recognized with a prestigious honor from national professional organization, the AHEAD Professional Recognition Award.
Participated on the Universal Design Initiative Team of AHEAD, leading to collaboration with this international organization which will greatly enhance UALR/PACE product dissemination and outcomes.
PACE web and video content will be migrated to AHEAD.org where it will increase its impact dramatically.
Challenges and Opportunities
Increase in demand on DRC staff due to technology-related issues; caused by conversion to Blackboard from WebCT, greater number of students, and an anticipated move to using lock-down browsers.
Enormous increase in requests for captioning of media is challenging and demonstrates the value of the 10 UD recommendations being implemented (one of which is that only captioned or subtitled media may be purchased).
Developed suggested policies and procedures for hiring and employing people with disabilities utilizing expertise of an ad hoc CADA committee and information from other universities.
Director and Associate Director were invited to submit an article to the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability (JPED) highlighting the changes made in the DRC office toward the social model of disability and universal design; will be published in March 2010.
The DRC was unable to get an acceptable resolution on universal design through the Faculty Senate. Will continue to work toward educating faculty about social model and UD.
Marked increase in number of books in alternate format requested, and edited; editing is a labor-intensive process.
Increase in demand for interpreters and speech-to-text transcribers
Trends and Implications
Department restructuring in keeping with universal design and the move away from medical model of disability puts UALR in the forefront of this international movement.
ADA amendments went into effect 1/1/2009; impact to universities may be a greater number of students who apply for services with the DRC. DRC philosophy is already consistent with the shift resulting from these amendments.
More staff resources are being utilized at the Bowen School of Law; consideration should be made about requesting financial support for the DRC from the law school for these speech-to-text services.
The university’s decision to use BlackBoard as its course management system has created innumerable technical problems for online students who use assistive technology, adding to the workload of DRC staff.
Increase of returning disabled veterans, many of whom have such disabilities as traumatic brain injuries, mobility disabilities, loss of hearing, loss of vision, anxiety disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Increase in video streams used in online classes; DRC transcribes lectures and adds captions and/or interpreter to the video; consideration should be made about requesting financial support for the DRC from departments who utilize videostreams.