Advancements in technology and increased job specialization have resulted in career opportunities in fields that were once considered unattainable for individuals who have disabilities. Many of these careers require knowledge and skills obtained through postsecondary education. Although the number of individuals with disabilities seeking postsecondary education continues to increase, these students experience lower success rates than their non-disabled peers. Individuals with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in many challenging academic and career fields.
Federal legislation mandates that academic accommodations be made to ensure that qualified postsecondary students with disabilities have educational opportunities that are equivalent to others. Faculty and staff members who are familiar with disabilities, accommodation strategies, and resources are better prepared to make arrangements that will ensure that students with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in their programs.
Since 1992, DO-IT has promoted the success of individuals with disabilities in postsecondary education and employment through direct work with students who have disabilities, and through professional development for educators, service providers, and employers. DO-IT has been recognized for its efforts through many awards, including the 1995 National Information Infrastructure Award in Education; the 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring; the 1999 Golden Apple Award for excellence in education; the 2001 exemplary program award from the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD); a 2001 Bright Ideas Award from the Professional and Organizational Development Network; the 2004 Sloan Consortium Award; the 2004 BizTech Accessibility Award; several Achievement Awards from the Washington Association for Postsecondary Education and Disabilities; the 2006 Trace Research and Development Center's Catalyst Award; and the 2007 Greenberg Award for Innovation from Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) funded DO-IT Prof (grant # P333A990042). This project created these professional development materials to train faculty and academic administrators to more fully include students with disabilities in their courses. In 2009, the AccessCollege project (grant #P333A050064) project updated these popular faculty development materials.
Six Models of Professional Development
Responding to the diverse content and scheduling needs of faculty and administrators, the project team created six models of professional development for faculty and administrators:
Model 1: A 20-30 minute overview to introduce participants to basic legal issues, accommodation strategies, and resources specific to their campus.
Model 2: A 1-2 hour presentation with special focus on providing accommodations to students with a variety of disabilities and introducing campus participants to legal issues and resources.
Model 3: Tailored workshops for in-depth training on specific topics.
Model 4: A televised instruction option using a series of videos for delivery on public television.
Model 5: A distance learning "anytime-anywhere" course that provides lessons and discussions delivered via email.
Model 6: Self-paced, web-based instruction with expanded content of other models (www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty).
The project teams that created and updated these materials included faculty, disabled student services staff, and administrators at institutions of higher education nationwide. Project team members chose institutional partners in their states. Team members from four-year institutions chose community or technical colleges as partners; team members from community or technical colleges chose four-year schools. Participants represent schools with a wide range of demographics (e.g., racial/ethnic diversity, size, location).
Project team members participated in multiple collaborative meetings. As part of a needs assessment, they conducted focus groups with students who have disabilities, teaching assistants, faculty, and administrators on their campuses. Representatives from team and partner schools delivered professional development programs, disseminated materials, and explored strategies for providing technical assistance to faculty and administrators. Ongoing discussion and coordination of project activities took place on an Internet discussion list and during telephone conferences.
All project materials are offered in formats that are readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. Permission to copy and distribute project products for educational, noncommercial purposes is granted as long as the source is acknowledged.
The AccessCollege project also supported the development of The Center for Universal Design in Education website to complement websites developed in earlier projects that support faculty, administrators, and other stakeholders. In addition, project staff edited the book Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice that brought together more than forty experts to share research and applications of universal design in instruction, services, physical spaces, and technology. It was published by Harvard Education Press and provides comprehensive foundational content for those who deliver professional development to postsecondary faculty and administrators.
The professional development activities that these materials support help faculty and administrators fully include students with disabilities on their campuses and contribute to systemic change within postsecondary institutions across the nation. Ultimately, such efforts can lead to increased educational and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
I hope that you find these materials useful in your efforts to ensure that all students on your campus have equal opportunities to learn, explore interests, and express ideas.
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.