Viewing the work of disability services differently

Project ShIFT

Background

In August, 2008, Disability Resources at Lane Community College, in Eugene Oregon was awarded a three year grant from the Department of Education to improve the quality of higher education for students with disabilities. Project Shift, Shaping Inclusion through Foundational Transformation, builds on the excellent resources created by previously funded grants to demonstrate a model that offers sustainability in institutional change by addressing underlying systems and campus-wide conceptualizations of disability.

Historically the Disability Service (DS) office on a college campus is the entity entrusted by administration with responsibility for anticipating and responding to all issues related to disability. DS personnel usually operationalize this role by focusing on legislative requirements to ensure that the institution stays in legal compliance. Thus, DS staff spends the majority of its time requesting and reviewing disability documentation, determining and implementing individual accommodations and consulting on physical facilities. With an almost singular focus on legal compliance, DS offices typically lead their institutions to consider “what must be done” rather than “what can be done.” This emphasis impacts their interactions with students and faculty, affects the development of policies and procedures and may keep the DS office, and by turn the campus, stuck in a compliance narrative that promotes a response based on an obligation rather than one based on the values of equity and inclusion.

Project ShIFT was founded on the belief that if DS offices reframe their notion of disability and redesign their service delivery practices, they would send different, more positive messages about disability to students, faculty and administrators. They would serve as leaders for faculty in the redesign of curriculum, the use of inclusive instructional strategies, and the infusion of disability into course content. Their leadership would include initiating and sustaining change on campus.

Implementation

From the over 70 professionals who applied to participate in the Project, twenty-five* DS staff from across the country were selected to examine their personal conceptions of disability, challenge the predominant approach to service delivery in higher education , and implement changes in language, procedures and campus interactions. Through a comprehensive curriculum delivered in three annual summer institutes, facilitators guided these DS staff in a process of analyzing current practices through a lens of social justice informed by disability studies scholarship as an alternative to basing their work on legal compliance. Project participants also engaged in faculty collaboration and consultation to impact curricular design, foster pedagogical changes and infuse disability scholarship into course content.

This Website shares some of the conceptual framework offered through the Project.

*Twenty-two participants participated in all three Summer Institutes. Examples of how they used concepts presented through the Project include:

  • Revised processes for meeting with students to discuss barriers and implement accommodations, including changes in the third-party documentation required to verify disability
  • Discontinued awareness events that focused on disability simulations and use of discussions, events and activities that promote disability culture
  • Edited department literature and websites to relocate the problem of access from the student’s disability to attitudes and barriers in the environment
  • Expanded the office mission statement to include not only provision of individual accommodations but a significant role in fostering an inclusive, welcoming campus community
  • Modified approaches to faculty consultation and outreach, including implementation of a faculty book club, ally program and discussions of universal design

Project Participants

[Participants are listed at insitutions and with titles they had at the time of the project.]

  • Tara Buchanan
    Director, Disability Resource Center
    Western Illinois University
  • Margaret Camp
    Director, Disability Services
    University of South Carolina Upstate
  • Trudy Carey
    Director, Disability Support Services
    Montana State University – Billings
  • Kaye Ellis
    Manager, Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    Tulsa Community College
  • Kara James
    Director, Disability Services
    University of Wisconsin – Stout
  • Katsura Kurita
    Associate Dean, Student Affairs
    Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University
  • Susan Lausier
    Director, Center for Teaching & Learning and the Disability Resource Office
    Aurora University
  • Lynn Lodge
    Coordinator, Disability Resources
    Lane Community College
  • Adam Meyer
    Director, Disability Resource Center
    Eastern Michigan University
  • Steven Moats
    Director, Student Disability Resources
    Iowa State University
  • Amanda L. Niguidula
    Director, Disability Resource Center
    Florida International University
  • Lisabeth (Betsy) Pacheco
    Coordinator, Disability Resource Center
    Clackamas Community College
  • Ginny Perelson
    Director, Ross Center for Disability Services
    University of Massachusetts – Boston
  • David Pruden
    Assistant Director, Disability Resource Center
    Utah State University
  • Suzanne Raffeld
    Director, Access and Wellness Services
    California College of the Arts
  • Corey Shaw
    Director, Disability Resources
    Westminster College
  • Katheryne Staeger-Wilson
    Director, Disability Resource Center
    Missouri State University
  • Kimberly Tanner
    Director, Access Office
    Valdosta State University
  • Melanie Thompson
    Director, Center for Access-Ability Resources
    Northern Illinois University
  • Patty Wallway
    Access Consultant, Resources for Disabilities Office
    Saint Catherine University
  • Randall Ward
    Director, Student Resource Center
    Lake Michigan College
  • Ellen Wertlieb
    Coordinator, ADA Transition Services
    Schenectady County Community College

Project Staff

Nancy Hart, Principal Investigator

Robert Choquette, Project Director

Diannah Anavir, Administrative Specialist

Barbara Estrada, Project Evaluator

Carol Funckes, Curricula Developer/Trainer

Sue Kroeger, Curricula Developer/Trainer

Gladys Loewen, Curricula Developer/Trainer

Melanie Thornton, Curricula Developer/Trainer

Funding

Project ShIFT is funded by the Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education under the Demonstration Projects to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive a Quality Higher Education. (PR Award #: P333A080082-09) Additional resources were provided by the University of Arizona, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Lane Community College.