Well into the Spring 2021 semester, disabled university students are still lacking effective solutions to help them succeed, even in a post-COVID 19 reality. In particular, for students across the country awaiting their college acceptances, for those with a disability the rigor of applying for schools is compounded by navigating how once they attend a university if it will support their disability. Universities are in a position to ensure that students are able to attend their university, despite their disability.
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. This means that a significant portion of college students have a form of disability whether visible or otherwise. For disability services offices, this means that university-wide policies should be put in place to train faculty and staff on how to provide education and student services to all students and eliminate the various hoops students with a disability have to jump through in order to get an accommodation in the first place. If a student needs an accommodation it should be built into all the touch points of a student’s university journey, from yearly check-ins and student assessments.
This includes providing mental health support for students, helping them get proper accommodations, and ensuring that faculty members are properly trained and informed on how they can be partners with the disability office to ensure student success across the board. By incorporating universal design learning into student academics to help universities look at what accessibility looks like in the new normal of online learning and how those lessons can help in a post-pandemic college environment.
As individuals begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and universities decide if they’ll be in-person, disability services offices across the country will have to prepare to continue to support students virtually. While in-person classes will one day resume, the accommodations that students have been given in the wake of COVID-19 will continue to be necessary for disabled students that will still need the flexibility of remote learning to succeed, accommodations that many in the disability community had been asking for prior to the pandemic. This includes providing access to equipment that help student connect to classes virtually for those hearing or visually impaired, hiring students or staff members to provide closed captioning for live sessions, 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.
With Symplicity Accommodate, universities can help build a culture of accessibility and inclusion at your university. Accommodate allows for disability services to communicate, in one system, across campus to help students with all aspects of a student’s success by identifying campus resources for students . By modernizing the accommodation request process with a fully ADA-compliant interface, Accommodate allows students to seamlessly submit requests, submit note to disability offices for questions, 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 not just with a student’s disability, by providing robust data to back up the necessary needs of students.