The following are the winning nominations for the RDS Outstanding Effort Award for the category of Department.
This department has made many changes over the last year in their reorganization and remodeling. One of the most outstanding decisions they made was to incorporate the needs of students with disabilities into all these changes. From deciding to buy expensive equipment so that students had access to "print" material to designing their office space to accommodate students in wheelchairs, the focus of this office has been to include disabled students rather than to simply accommodate their needs. Not only did they decide to incorporate this population as they incorporate other groups, but this office did it without prompting from an outside entity. They are a model for not only what can be done but what should be done - as a matter of course.
The Libraries Coordinator for Services to Disabled Students, Jean Winkler, has worked with a team of highly motivated library staff to integrate adaptive technologies into library service and provide one-on-one assistance to students to facilitate their use of the Libraries. The Adaptive Technology Room in the Libraries boasts an array of sophisticated tools designed to make printed text more accessible. The Arkenstone reader, donated to the Morgan Library by the Committee for Disabled Students Accessibiliy (CDSA), is the heart of the system. In spring 1995, the CDSA continued their generous support of the library by donating a new Macintosh-based assistive technology workstation, and two large-screen monitors for use at the OPAC terminals. This strong partnership with CDSA is important to the Libraries and is reflective of the importance of the Libraries to the CDSA. Trained library staff are available to assist students; special services include assistance with adaptive technology, paging from the stacks on request, electronic request system for requesting personal delivery of materials, and one-on-one training for doing library research and for assistance with electronic resources. Library staff work closely with Resources for Disabled Students and the Assistive Technology Resource Center to maximize opportunities for students at Colorado State University. Based on mutually agreed priorities, needs of disabled students have been consciously planned into the new library building. Services will be main streamed, with a new enlarged Adaptive Technology Room positioned near the front of the Interactive Information Center, the heart of the Libraries provision of electronic information. This area has been positioned to provide privacy and also be adjacent to a service area staffed all the hours that the library is open.
Pingree Park, CSU's mountain campus, was devastated by a forest fire in 1994. Many of the buildings were completely destroyed and necessitated a major reconstruction effort to restore the campus to its original rustic function. Because many of the original buildings were old, they were also not very accessible to people with disabilities. One of the major goals of the reconstruction plans was to not only rebuild but to redesign the cabins and other buildings to be accessible and usable by individuals using wheelchairs. While this goal seems ordinary enough, one of the primary obstacles to accomplishing it was the attitude of the insurance company that was to finance the cost of the rebuilding. The insurance company's perspective was to simply replace the destroyed buildings, including some accessibility improvements but without making significant design changes to the buildings. This would have resulted in basically the same level of accessibility since it would have included reconstructing a two story cabin used for student and other groups. However, due to the efforts of Bill Bertschy, director of Pingree Park, and Grant Sherwood, director of Housing and Food Services, more extensive design changes were proposed that then required considerable negotiations, discussions, and arguments before the insurance company would approve them. Furthermore, Housing and Food Services had to contribute additional funds in order to ensure such improvements could be made completely as the designs costed much more than the original cost estimates of replacing the buildings. At the rededication of Pingree Park this past year, the efforts of both Bill and Grant were clearly realized. Not only are resident cabins accessible, and one story, but employee cabins were redesigned to include accessible features, making the campus now one of the more accessible areas to be found in the mountains that are, by natural design, very inaccessible to people using wheelchairs. While others may have felt that this natural inaccessibility should not be tampered with, both Bill and Grant have demonstrated that even natural surroundings can be enhanced to allow all participants to enjoy and function in a given environment.
The School of Veterinary Medicine has consistently given students with disabilities support both in and out of the class room. With such a unique and demanding curriculum, students with disabilities have required at times unusual and challenging accommodations. Without the support of the entire department, many of these accommodations would not be possible to achieve. On many occasions and for many students, the Veterinary Medicine program has worked closely with our office to determine and provide the most beneficial accommodation for a student within the unusual conditions inherent in the program. This close association and collaboration is critical in the formula of success for students who have a variety of needs. From having students take exams outside the classroom to providing note takers and tutors to supporting interpreters and transcribers, the program as a whole has been able and willing to make the required adjustments. As a result, students with a variety of disabilities have been able to successfully compete on their own merits and to the best of their ability. Without the support and cooperation of the entire program, the dreams these students have of becoming veterinarians would be much more difficult to attempt. The approach this program has taken in accommodating students is an example to other professional programs that strive to be inclusive of students with disabilities without compromising the integrity and demands of the curriculum.
The efforts of Recreational Sports to accommodate students with disabilities has been evident over several years. Due to the nature of Recreational Sports activities, they have encountered all aspects of the student population. Some of the assistance to students with disabilities has been no more than any department would do to accommodate students while other accommodations have reached out to make use of the facility more comfortable. For example, the Student Recreation Center was built to be as accessible as possible. The director, in the planning stages, worked with a group of students with disabilities to insure that the Center would be fully accessible, before the Americans With Disabilities Act became law. Even since completion, modifications have been made including installation of seats and low shower heads in each locker room and installation of hair dryers at a lower level. And, what was missed last time is being incorporated into the new addition. Another example of accessibility is evident in what is inside such as weight equipment that is fully adjustable to accommodate a variety of disabilities. The efforts of Recreational Sports goes beyond the physical building. Staff have accommodated students in a variety of ways such as providing lockers that are more useable, and allowing assistance dogs on the pool deck while their owners swim. These dogs eventually become known as Center "mascots." In working with the community, the Center has also hired individuals with disabilities through the Center for Community Participation and the Recreational Sports Advisory board made an exception to personnel policies in order to retain one of these employees who did not fit the description of "student employee." In the area of programming, the Saturday Night Activity Program (SNAP) often includes a component highlighting activities which people with disabilities can enjoy. Some examples have included Quad Rugby, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair aerobics. Through the Lifestyle Class program, a very popular sign language class has been taught for several semesters. Due to the demand, a sign language level 2 class was instituted and was taught by two students who are deaf. The SWEAT (Student Wellness Exercise Assessment and Testing) program has also made arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities. Overall, the goal of Recreational Sports is to exhibit a warm and caring attitude that makes students want to spend time in the Center and participate in the various programs offered regardless of their ability or disability.
The staff at Admissions has been open to new ideas and proactive in seeking information that might help them better understand disabled students. They have been quick to contact our office with puzzling questions and have been receptive to our support of specific disabled students needs. Ever mindful of the need to inform students early in the process, the Admissions staff have generated names of students who have requested information concerning disabilities that they have passed on to RDS. These students have been able to receive information about support services at CSU prior to enrolling. Their most recent proactive activity has been through the creation of a new brochure that will inform all newly admitted students of the opportunities and resources available at CSU. The brochure only include a small number of programs. However, RDS was one of those invited to be part of this new publication as a means to notify students early as to what is available on campus. Hopefully, it will increase the awareness of support for students with disabilities in a more timely manner and invite them to contact RDS through a postcard return system. As the first contact students have with CSU, the Admissions team has done well in representing all students, including those with disabilities.
One of the major accommodations needed for students with disabilities is alternative text. While many textbooks have been and continue to be recorded on tape by Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, it is impossible for us to get all books needed by students through this organization. As a result, RDS supplements this service through a volunteer reader/taper pool and our Alternative Text Services. In order to be successful with this service, however, copies of textbooks are needed. Books are also needed for the sign language interpreters to become familiar with course material. Since these are short time uses for these books, it is ineffective for RDS to actually purchase all these books and then have them accumulate unused. The CSU Bookstore works cooperative with RDS to ensure we have access to copies of textbooks without causing undue hardship financially on our meager budget. They also have the added advantage of reselling a book once we are finished with it. This alone would be sufficient to recognize their efforts but it doesn't stop there. To have such a system and process work, it requires not only cooperative and friendly policies but cooperative and friendly staff. And RDS has been blessed with a great working relationship between our respective staffs. Currently, Fran Wilson is the liaison between the bookstore and RDS. She, like those in the past, regularly go the extra mile in making sure we have the books we need. For example, last year Fran initiated a new and simpler system to implement our arrangements with the bookstore and Margaret Parks has been instrumental in making sure we have booklists so students could check their books at RDS. Without the support of the bookstore and its personnel like Fran and Margaret and those before them, providing the needed accommodation of alternative text would be next to impossible. These are efforts that truly are "outstanding" as well as greatly appreciated.
Although the primary focus of this College is with majors that work with people as a matter of course, it is important to note that many of the efforts of individual departments directly benefit individuals with disabilities. Examples of the broad range of activities include the multitude of grants generated from the Education department to enhance the early educational experience of students with disabilities, the work of the Center for Community Participation aimed at employment and natural community supports and the research activities of the Exercise and Health Sciences department on heart conditioning and strength. All these illustrate the inclusiveness granted to the needs of individuals with disabilities throughout the life span. The College's commitment to enhancing societal elements is further demonstrated in its continued support of a course that educates students about the disability experience. Rather than view the phenomenon of disability through the traditional medical perspective, this course takes a socio-political perspective, interweaving elements that cross race, ethnicity, gender, and age differences. This perspective helps students see disability not as deviant but as part of the normal human condition. The course is taught through the Occupational Therapy Department but is open to all majors and the Social Work Department has regularly recommended this course to its students, especially those in the gerontology program. Activities are not limited, however, to a global impact for those with disabilities. Efforts are also evident here on campus. Although many students with disabilities seem to be drawn to both occupational therapy and social work, all departments within the College have been "home" to a variety of students with disabilities who have successfully graduated. By joining the ranks, these graduates can bring a more inclusive perspective to their respective fields. Illustrative of the influence these graduates can have is shown by the OT department's pursuit of a grant to implement a new mentoring program for freshmen with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder. The idea was a graduate proposal from a disabled student with a learning disability and has the potential of providing not only support for students with disabilities but practical experience for a variety of upper class students in the helping professions as they would be the mentors. The College is also home to the Assistive Technology Resource Center which has been the driving force to ensure our developing electronic environment is at least as accessible as the physical environment. In the same mode, the Department of Design and Merchandising not only incorporates the theory of universal design in its courses, it co-sponsors a Universal Design Contest annually that challenges students in Interior Design to use universal design features actively for a specific project. The results are juried and winners receive cash awards giving added incentive as well as practical application. These are only a few examples that illustrate the inclusiveness of this College towards disability. It is still a unique perspective in society to see that disability is not considered a special aspect of being human but merely one of the many characteristics that influence a person's life experience. The abundance of activities that illustrate such a matter-of-fact approach to this area of human life is what makes this College so deserving of recognition for outstanding effort on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
The two Intra University computer labs are part of the many services provided by the Help/ Success Center. From the time these labs were established a few years ago, the student staff felt it would be important to have assistive technology available in the labs for general student use, in addition to simple basic physical accessibility. Under the direction of Ross Morgan, the staff has remain committed to this idea. They have been consistent in acquiring the necessary upgrades and with providing training and support so the equipment is maintained for users. The labs are a wonderful example of what a student lab can do if the staff sees the importance of providing computer access for everyone at CSU - including students with disabilities. They really do deserve a pat on the back for continuing their efforts in support of assistive technology and for their effort in responding to all students in an integrated manner.
For many years the Morgan Library has made efforts to not only improve the services to students but especially students with disabilities. One recent service has been near and dear to RDS, that of unbinding and rebinding books to allow for easier scanning for conversion to alternative text. CSU is one of the few campuses in Colorado that supports disabled students in this way. In addition to helping to provide students with access to print material, this service has saved hundreds of dollars for the university. But the efforts do not stop there. From acquiring material on the issue of disabilities to purchasing assistive technology, the Library is to be commended for truly making itself a valuable resource for students with disabilities as they pursue their academic endeavors. A very short list of the activities that have made the Library outstanding in its efforts include: a high degree of physical accessibility when adding on to, and remodeling, the building; providing assistance in gathering resources; providing one-on-one assistance through reference librarians, and the establishment of separate study rooms equipped with assistive technology to accommodate a variety of student needs. In fact, the Library staff have been especially devoted to ensuring that the evolution to the world of electronic format does not exclude those with disabilities from access. Collaborating with the Assistive Technology Resource Center, the Library, through the work of Lindsey Wess and others, continues to stay up to date on the most useful of assistive technology. All of these activities, and many more, provide an environment in which students with disabilities are able to participate as all other students in research and study as well as function as independently as possible. As a past recipient of this award, the fact that the Library is another winner attests to it continuing effort to improve service and facilities to be one of the best student libraries around for students with disabilities.
The Office of the Provost/Academic Vice President has consistently demonstrated support for the individual needs of students with disabilities. The various vice-presidents in this office who have overseen academic policies have been able to see those policies not so much as strict rules to follow but as guidelines in which the university fulfills its mission. With that perspective comes flexibility and that has made the difference for many successful students. Students with disabilities often bring with them unique circumstances that may require specific adjustments or modifications in order for them to pursue their academic goals. The flexibility of substitutions, as well as waivers, when appropriate, for classes that are non-essential for majors has allowed many students the opportunity to graduate and still maintain the overall objective of a well-rounded education. While the educational system may be designed for the majority of typical students, the Provost's office has illustrated it recognizes the diversity of learners and has tried to make the system work as well as possible to accommodate that diversity. For example, in just the past year or so, as the Vice Provost for Academic Studies, Dr. Kevin Oltjenbruns was instrumental in helping to create alternative methods for disabled students to complete their mathematics requirement for graduation. She was also helpful in providing monies in support of a sign language course this past semester. In further support, she also helped to facilitate a discussion with Assistant Deans to clarify the responsibility of faculty in working with disabled students. As the unit on campus responsible for some of the diversity efforts on campus, the Provost's office has also supported disability as part of its diversity initiatives. At other institutions, diversity is often defined much more narrowly. Inclusion of this human characteristic, often left out of the diversity dialogue, demonstrates to students with disabilities that they matter and belong as much as any other student. Working with disabled students who challenge the system as well as individuals is a formidable task. Yet, the Provost staff have consistently provided fair and equitable consideration of complaints rather than simple reaction to a student's frustrated behavior. Time and again, the staff have been able to reasonably deal with those situations so that some satisfactory resolution is achieved. Not everyone perhaps receives exactly what they want but they do tend to all get some satisfaction out of the process. The student-focus atmosphere of the Provost's office has proven invaluable for those who work with them as well as for students. To feel one can call and know that someone will listen and respond with consideration to the unique qualities of a situation makes it easier to work through some very tough decisions. For this and many other reasons, the Provost's office is well deserving of recognition of its outstanding efforts on behalf of students with disabilities.
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