Western Connecticut State University was using an entirely paper-based system to manage student accommodation requests. The process in place required staff members to pass student files around the office and hand-write case notes directly into the file. While the office had an Excel file documenting student accommodations, student contact-tracking was done by hand in a hard-copy file. The system was time-consuming for the staff and did not facilitate student accommodations very efficiently.
“[Accommodate] is making life a lot easier for students with disabilities because it's all online and it takes away the need to come into the office to get their accommodation letters at the start of each semester."
Director of AccessAbility Services
When Elisabeth Morel began working as Director of AccessAbility Services at Western Connecticut State University, she quickly learned the office was employing an entirely manual process for student accommodations. The system required students to submit their requests through a paper-based Accommodation Intake Form, which the office would receive via mail or in-person and enter into a hard-copy case file. The staff would then organize student records in file cabinets and hand-write notes within the file. This method was very time-consuming for the staff and did not provide visibility into the student’s status in the accommodation process.
Additionally, the AccessAbility Services office had little control over what accommodations students could select when requesting accommodation letters due to the limited functionality of an online request form. Students would view a form that had all available accommodations listed rather than the accommodations the student had been approved for. This resulted in students selecting the wrong accommodations and staff having to reach back out to students to confirm whether these were previously approved.
The AccessAbility office implemented Accommodate in 2015 to streamline the accommodation process for both staff members and students. With Accommodate, any staff member could access a student’s profile online and type notes directly into the electronic case file. Case notes were time-stamped and organized by staff member, date, and content. This ensured clear communication between staff and provided a comprehensive view of student accommodations.
Elisabeth and her team worked closely with Symplicity to customize the platform to show only the accommodations for which students were previously approved, rather than giving them the ability to hand-pick their accommodations. The system was also modified to mirror the electronic submission system in place to avoid confusion for returning students seeking accommodations. Students were also notified about the new system change, which simplified the process and reduced the amount of time students spent going to the office to receive their accommodation letters.
Since launching Accommodate, Western Connecticut’s AccessAbility Services office has streamlined communication between staff and allowed them to serve their students more effectively. Having an online system that is easily accessible and that can immediately provide updates on student accommodation requests has been a huge time-saver for the office. “Time is really important to me,” Elisabeth says. “Having so many students and a limited staff, it's essential that we are as productive as possible, and Accommodate allows us to do that.” Furthermore, students benefit from the increased efficiency, as their requests are being processed much faster.
“Clear communication among all the staff members has certainly increased, and students are getting better services because the message is clear and consistent and we each know where they are in the accommodation process."