From Dream to Reality: How Salem State University Adopted Accommodate

Just north of Boston in Salem, Ma. is Salem State University (SSU). Enrolling roughly 6,000 students each year, SSU is a small, public university with a vibrant campus life and a supportive environment for its students. SSU supports about 800 students annually who need disability accommodations, and that number only continues to grow. With an emphasis on retention, supporting these students is critical to SSU’s longevity, by ensuring these students are fully supported throughout their time at the university.

So, in the fall of 2023, SSU launched Symplicity Accommodate to manage disability services end-to-end. By leveraging Accommodate, the university has successfully addressed operational challenges and improved support for students with disabilities.

The Case for Accommodate

For many years, Jennifer McDowell, SSU's Assistant Director in the Disability Services Office, and her colleagues wanted a platform that could help them automate and streamline their processes. Previously, there was frustration with outdated methods, such as sending fillable PDFs and printing/scanning documents, which were not easy and caused a burden on both the staff and the students. The impact of the pandemic further highlighted the need for a more efficient and secure way of accessing files and information digitally, ultimately leading to the push for a new platform. “We essentially had eight different spreadsheets and were manually counting appointments on Outlook to see how many students any given adviser was meeting with… With Accommodate there were so many things we could see streamlining our processes,” McDowell said. “We were sending PDFs and emails around, then scanning documents to add to the homegrown system. It just wasn’t cutting it, nor was it secure, and I thought, ‘There has to be an easier way to do this,’” said McDowell.

“We were sending PDFs and emails around, then scanning documents to add to the homegrown system. It just wasn’t cutting it, nor was it secure, and I thought, ‘There has to be an easier way to do this.'"


Jennifer McDowell

Assistant Director, Alternative Text Specialist, Salem State University

In 2013, she began searching for a comprehensive platform to cut down on the manual process to get accommodation letters approved, get testing accommodations approved, and track which students the office was actually supporting. “We knew the data wasn’t perfect because we were so dependent on manually doing everything,” McDowell remarked.

In order to be accessible to the students the office is supporting, McDowell continued to emphasize the importance of accessibility to justify the need for investment in a new platform, despite initial resistance from IT because there were not enough staff to help with the implementation. There were also budget concerns. Ultimately, the office’s persistence paid off, and they were able to secure approval for the necessary upgrades in 2022.

Launching Accommodate

Once SSU decided to adopt Accommodate on campus, then came the implementation. McDowell and her team knew they wanted to launch by the fall of 2023, therefore they would have a full academic year to get the system ready. “We were excited to be getting this thing we had wanted for so long. I think everyone was very motivated to get this working,” McDowell said. The implementation processed lasted a summer plus a full academic year with regular meetings between SSU and their implementation manager, who came from higher education and was “someone who could speak our language and get it.”

Throughout implementation, McDowell and her team started to identify what pain points their office had in delivering student services. Each Accommodate platform is unique to an institution, and that was no different with SSU. Each module and process was setup to work with how the office communicates to their students, faculty, staff, and each other. The staff worked from the ground up to relearn and assess their processes to design a system that met the needs of the office.

Troubleshooting with their implementation and client manager, SSU was supported along the way to build more efficiencies and automation. With email automation, auto approvals, test room booking module, email templates, and more, SSU successfully launched Accommodate. “We are so happy with how it all came together, and I definitely think we changed some of our own processes for the better,” McDowell said.


Since launching Accommodate in 2023, SSU has been using a variety of features within Accommodate to support its students with disabilities. Using Accommodate has “taken away some of the barriers” that would delay students from getting their requested accommodations. While SSU still meets one-on-one with each student requesting an accommodation, other parts of the process have been streamlined to empower students and staff to work together more efficiently.

Today, once someone on McDowell’s team meets with a student, everything is recorded in Accommodate, removing additional steps a student may have to take. “Once they have a testing accommodation, they just go and schedule the time, and then when we approve it, that's when professors are notified that we need exam information from them…. It’s given us back so much time,” McDowell said.

Long gone are the days of individually sending out emails to students, staff, and faculty, instead using the email templates, test room booking module, and housing everything in one place. “It’s just easier having it all kind of live in Accommodate. It makes it easier to keep track of how we are engaging with our students.”

In addition, working with the Symplicity support team, who come from higher education, has made SSU’s launch of Accommodate a success.

“We’ve loved every Symplicity success rep that we've worked with and we're so thankful that we are here. Getting Accommodate was a pipe dream for many years. Sometimes it's still like we have to pinch ourselves, that we really have this system that does all the things. From implementation to going live, it was a such a smooth process."


Jennifer McDowell

Assistant Director, Alternative Text Specialist, Salem State University

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