2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act that provides legal protection for those with disabilities. However, college students say that there is more that needs to be done to provide accommodations and modifications to support college disabled students. The most recent data from 2016 found that 20% of undergraduates reported having a disability and more than 90% of all colleges enroll students with a disability. Currently, there is no national training in higher ed for professionals to provide disability services and accommodations beyond just the physical campus barriers. It is essential that universities don’t just comply with the ADA, but go above the law to support their disabled students. This includes providing access to equipment that help student connect to classes virtually for those hearing or visually impaired, providing support groups of students feeling isolated due to COVID-19, and setting up professional development hours to train faculty on making their remote teaching inclusive. In an October 2020 article from NBC News, which interviewed over a dozen students with varying degrees of disability at higher education institutions found that “they have faced significant difficulty with accessibility and accommodation beyond just physical barriers, and that this has affected their sense of belonging on campus.”
Disability offices across the country have the responsibly to advocate for their students. According to a recent report from AHEAD on the impacts COVID-19 have had on disabled student:
- In the transition to remote disability services, providing documentation of a disability and discussing new access barriers and solutions were among the top issues;
- Students with disabilities have encountered difficulty more frequently than the general student population across almost all aspects of remote education. Three areas presenting more frequent difficulty for students with disabilities included access to the network/Wi-Fi, access to course assessments or exams, and communication with instructors; and
- Students at some institutions are struggling more than others. Higher education professionals at two-year public institutions reported widespread difficulty for students with disabilities in such areas as having the needed equipment, accessing technical support, and using the learning management system. Professionals at private, for-profit institutions were more likely to report difficulty for students accessing counseling/mental health services.
Yet as 2021 approaches, there are ways that disability offices and higher education institutions can robustly ensure that students are supported. By ensuring that you have a management system to increase reporting and campus collaboration can enable a student to receive the best support that goes above and beyond just simply complying with the ADA. With Symplicity Accommodate, universities can gather invaluable information to swiftly support students with readily available case notes, providing a centralized location of resources, virtual counseling options, and case management.
Symplicity Accommodate can help build a culture of accessibility by modernizing the accommodation request process with a fully ADA-compliant interface that allows students to seamlessly submit requests, connect with note-takers, have assistive devices checked out and tracked, build workflows to ensure that all campus offices are staying connected, and more. It is up to universities to make sure that they build a culture of accessibility by providing students with the ability to approve accommodation requests online, ensure fast and cohesive communication between colleagues, and easily track accessibility resources like study room availability, software and device inventory, and more. Utilizing Symplicity Accommodate’s reporting tool can empower disability services offices to proactively engage and train faculty/staff on the campus needs for a university’s disabled student population by providing robust data to back up the necessary needs of students.