Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT FOR STAFF
Those who work in disability services often possess specialized training and experiences that prepare them to assist students with disabilities; however, this is not always the case and even those with specialized training should be given the opportunity to expand and improve their knowledge.
In addition, students with disabilities will undoubtedly interact with staff members in other offices within the college/university who may not be familiar with disability issues. Providing comprehensive and ongoing training for staff will help maintain knowledgeable, efficient and effective services for students with disabilities.
The following are recommendations derived from PSE institutions across Canada regarding training and development for college/university staff.
- Provide disability services staff with on-going opportunities for professional development (e.g., conferences, credit courses, and membership in professional organizations.).
- Host professional development opportunities at the college/university. For example, become a training centre for courses such as Mental Health First Aid or host a conference on disability accommodations and invite speakers from across Canada.
- Make training mandatory for new staff at the disability office, administrative staff within the registrar office, and staff in the library or other offices which are likely to be points of contact for students with disabilities.
- Have disability services staff get involved in advisory committees across all departments and services. It is important to be involved in decision making forums and ensure disability issues are considered and addressed.
- Maintain consistency between policy, practice and the law by ensuring all staff members are knowledgeable in all three areas. This extends to staff outside of disability services such as library and office staff who may receive requests from students with disabilities. They need to know and understand their responsibilities.
- Consider having an independent individual, committee or office that is directly responsible for ensuring the policies of the institution are enforced and that accessibility standards are met. They could coordinate awareness, advocacy, and provide expertise on social, physical, legal and policy matters to all staff, faculty and students.
- While disability staff are understandably busy responding to accommodation requests, try and instill the ideology that disability staff and students are working together to ensure inclusion in all aspects of student life. Disability staff members are more than just paper filers and should be encouraged to promote, advocate and work to improve disability issues whenever possible.