Disabilities Task Force
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Recommendations to New York State for strategies to increase access
3. Capacity of all campus personnel and students to work with and teach students with disabilities
Faculty, staff and students play a key role in creating an environment, not only in the classroom, but campus-wide, that allows students with disabilities to succeed. Stronger efforts on the part of colleges and universities to educate faculty and staff would significantly enhance the likelihood of academic success of students with disabilities. Unfortunately, faculty and staff development programs are chronically underfunded and frequently do not represent comprehensive planning. Consequently, disability awareness programs tend to be fragmented. A survey by Stebnicki, et al., published in the Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, summer 1998, indicates that nationally only about one-quarter of all disability service office program coordinators have special budget allocations to promote disability awareness on their campuses.
With a handful of notable exceptions, little priority is given to building the capacity of faculty and staff at institutions of postsecondary education to teach students with disabilities in New York State. There is not enough attention devoted to teaming up students without disabilities to work with students with disabilities as a way to enrich the educational and campus experience for both. Faculty, staff and college students without disabilities are frequently not equipped to offer students with disabilities full access to the most rigorous coursework possible. In addition, training on how to accommodate disabilities is not available at every postsecondary education institution. Faculty, staff and the general student body do not have regular or easy access to the technical assistance and training that they might need on an ad hoc basis, and the assistance to customize specific coursework for the student and disability in question. Access to episodic training and access to technical assistance are two of the key elements in creating an overall educational environment that encourages a close working relationship between students with disabilities and campus personnel.