What are the Motivations, Objectives, and Processes for Systemic Change?

Change can be viewed from three perspectives: the reason for change, the content of change, and the process of change (Levy & Merry, 1986).

Reason for Change

Individuals as well as entire institutions may experience both internal and external pressure for change (Levin, 1998). Internal factors that might promote positive change include placing a high value on diversity and educational equity (Oliver & Barnes, 1998) and seeing individuals with disabilities as a minority group with civil rights instead of a needy population deserving charity. These factors can motivate faculty and staff to increase the accessibility of their courses and services once they become aware of accessibility barriers and accessible design strategies. Although these individuals may be motivated to learn new skills and gain knowledge that will enhance student access, a competing motivation may be the comfort and efficiency of maintaining existing standards and procedures.

Knowledge of disability-related legislation will provide external motivation for change only if the individual makes the connection between this legislation and his/her practices and responsibilities. Another promoter of change for an individual is the existence of institutional policies relative to the accessibility of courses and services. An individual with a disability who requests accommodations may motivate a faculty or staff member to help this person, but may not provide the motivation to change future practices.

Lack of time and funding are common reasons for not making programs and courses more accessible. These factors often have as their root a lack of information about how to go about making a change or looking at accessibility as a huge project rather than an ongoing effort accomplished in incremental steps.

Content of Change

Many faculty and staff are unaware of the need for accessible design and, after becoming aware, perceive that they do not have the expertise or time to deal with accessibility issues. The two negative motivational factors of lack of prerequisite knowledge and time to implement accessibility measures might be addressed by providing specific, readily-achievable suggestions that apply principles of universal design to improve accessibility and resources specifically designed for faculty and staff. They should include introductory training materials as well as searchable, detailed content (Burgstahler, 2002, 2005).

Process of Change

Members of the AccessCollege team and those of earlier DO-IT projects determined that effective outreach efforts include on-site training as part of regularly scheduled and stand-alone meetings, video presentations, short informational handouts, and comprehensive web resources and searchable knowledge bases. To promote systemic change toward a more accessible campus, the AccessCollege team developed Communities of Practice (CoPs) and Capacity-Building Institutes (CBIs).