Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT FOR FACULTY
In order to ensure a fully accessible campus, institutions must also address the attitudes and knowledge of the people on that campus. It is important that students with disabilities are knowledgeable and proactive about their needs and options but it is equally important for faculty to possess the necessary information and attitude to offer meaningful guidance and assistance in accommodating students with disabilities.
Many institutions report that educating faculty members about disability issues and accommodation practices can be difficult due to heavy workloads, time constraints, attitudinal barriers and a general lack of awareness regarding responsibilities and available resources. However, faculty members play a vital role in supporting students with disabilities in their studies and implementing accommodations and accessible learning. It is therefore important that they receive information about disability issues.
The following are some of the ways PSE institutions are providing effective training and development for faculty.
- Provide short training/information seminars on disability issues specifically for faculty members; the seminars should cover only the most pertinent information and then provide resources with more in-depth information. Also provide contact information for those who may have additional questions or require assistance.
- Training/information seminars must include knowledgeable speakers from disability services as well as students with disabilities and provide opportunities for faculty to ask questions.
- Make seminars available to all faculty members and make them mandatory for new faculty members.
- Videotape seminars and make them available online as it may allow people who cannot attend to view the material and provides permanent resources for those who wish to review the information in the future.
- Offer training through the office which facilitates other faculty instructional development courses so the training is framed as a general teaching support.
- Ensure that faculty members have specific disability service staff to work with. Propose that disability advisors check in on faculty members once a term to remind them of available services or provide updates. Ensure that advisors are available if faculty members have questions or concerns.
- Provide one-on-one consultations with faculty in order to provide information and answer questions. This can be done informally via email or telephone, or a more structured in-person meeting.
- Develop a guide specifically for faculty members which addresses many of their main concerns in relation to students with disabilities and ensure it is available in a variety of locations and a variety of formats.
- Develop a newsletter or become a regular feature in an already existing faculty newsletter.
- Develop checklists that outline steps for a variety of disability related processes such as accommodation requests, the use of universal design to ensure accessible lectures, the creation of accessible materials, or the use and acquisition of assistive technologies. Make these checklists available on-line.
- Provide online resources tailored to faculty members and updated regularly. To ensure faculty members are aware that these resources exist, send out email reminders at the beginning of each term.
- If students with disabilities are having difficulties with particular faculty members, disability services should first encourage the student to resolve the issue on their own. If they are unable to do so, request a meeting with the faculty member and a representative from disability services to discuss the issue.
- Get on the agenda at regular staff meetings so that key disability issues can be addressed, updates provided and resources highlighted.
- In order to assist with uptake on disability related training and information, get support from the Dean’s Office or associated academic head and have all the resources sent to faculty members through these channels.
- Designate a “champion” within the faculty who is willing to be a contact for other faculty members and who can facilitate colleague-to-colleague discussions on, for example, accessibility issues.
- Whenever possible, involve the students with disabilities and provide opportunities for people with disabilities to meet staff and faculty.
Wherever and however one chooses to educate faculty, the following are some key topics that PSE institutions feel should be addressed:
- Faculty members may not be knowledgeable about different disabilities and suitable accommodations. It may be necessary to assure faculty that disability accommodations are meant to “level the playing field” and not provide an unfair advantage to students with disabilities. It may also be useful to provide information on different types of disabilities, particularly “invisible disabilities” such as mental health and learning disabilities as these are more likely to be misunderstood. Common accommodations should also be discussed.
- Faculty members might be concerned about being overburdened with having to implement accommodations and accessible teaching methods. Provide faculty with practical and straightforward ways they can implement accessible design into their courses and educate faculty about the benefits of universal design for all students.
- Faculty members might be unsure of their roles and responsibilities regarding students with disabilities and how disability issues are applicable to them. Provide relevant legal information as well as the school’s policies regarding students with disabilities and accommodation. Clearly outline the different roles that faculty must play and how that role interacts with other key players such as students, disability staff and the institution.
- Faculty members might be hesitant or unsure about how to speak to students with disabilities. To address this, present faculty with communication strategies that includes respectful wording and addresses confidentiality.
- Faculty might be unaware of how the accommodation process works and what actions need to be taken by the student, the faculty and the disability office. Provide information on what resources are available for students with disabilities and how they would access these supports. The process for accommodation requests, including exam accommodations, should be clearly outlined. It is also important to educate faculty about the low-cost of most accommodations and the different funding sources available as this will help faculty members better assist students with disabilities and direct them to the appropriate resources.
- As no two situations are exactly alike, provide faculty with a variety of resources where they can go to find information or ask questions as situations arise.