Student and Employee Accessibility Services (SEAS)
Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan
OVERVIEW OF SEAS OFFICE
SEAS is a direct service office that coordinates access and accommodations for Brown students, faculty, staff and visitors with disabilities, including temporary injuries. We also employ five full time staff members and typically 5 to 7 graduate students as well as 1 to 3 undergrads; we also work with a range of graduate student proctors who work as needed.
Our goal is to have the staff, structure and space to eventually function like a center as well, providing greater awareness raising and advocacy mechanisms. Currently we work with a wide array of partners across campus as well as contractors in the community to coordinate needed services and accommodation to include:
● Academic accommodations (in conjunction with faculty): Exam accommodations, note taking support, alternate format materials, interpreting services, accessible classrooms, etc.
● Dining accommodations (in conjunction with Dining Services): Access to an allergen free pantry in the Sharpe Refectory, consultation with the dietitian about safely accessing meals using MyMeals, access to a special meals program for significant allergies or intolerances where meals can be requested in advance to be allergen and cross contamination free.
● Housing accommodations (in conjunction with Residential Life and Auxiliary Housing): priority placement in single rooms, accessible rooms, quiet housing, rooms with close access to a restroom, rooms close access to a kitchen, non-basement and carpet free rooms, etc.
● Parking accommodations (in conjunction with Transportation): Accessible parking, close parking, parking in general when they have not been able to get it.
● Physical access (in conjunction with Facilities Management, Transportation, DPS, & Events): Priority access planning in conjunction with the Campus Access Advisory Committee (CAAC), use of the SEAS shuttle and evening Brown On Call system to get point to point rides within the campus, priority snow removal, priority repairs to lifts, sidewalks and automatic openers through an ADA request process, and assigning open events to accessible locations
● Support groups and mentoring: ADHD group (in conjunction with CAPS), Spectrum lunches, SEAS mentoring program, academic workshop series (in conjunction with the Academic Support Center), individual tutoring (in conjunction with Tutoring Services)
The SEAS office was formerly called Disability Support Services (DSS) and began in early 1990’s after the ADA passed. The office was part of the Office of Student Life until 2016 when SEAS became a separate office under the Division of Campus Life. Services for students with learning disabilities were provided initially through the Dean of the College office and they continued to support students with learning disabilities until 2003 when the current director started at SEAS.
The name was change from DSS to Student and Employee Accessibility Services in 2011 to focus on the work the office did as opposed to defining the population we served. Our hope was that this would make referrals to the office easier and that those who did not identify as having a disability but needed services would not experience barriers to accessing services. The name change has been particularly helpful for faculty and deans who are referring students as they can focus on the potential needs and services more easily without potentially labeling students. Faculty and staff also have reported finding it easier to access services with this current model as sometimes disability in the workplace can be equated with being unable to work.
The staffing structure of the office has evolved over time as well. From its inception until 2003, there was a single staff member within the Office of Student Life that served as a Dean and did the disability services work as part of that role with some half time support from as Administrative Assistant that also support other OSL deans. The office grew over the next few years, adding first a graduate student to assist with exam support, assistive technology, and document conversion, and then a part time Coordinator. That Coordinator became full time and the Director moved from 11 months to 12 months as the office took on supporting employees in 2005. Demand for services grew and summer programs starting expanding dramatically and in 2007 an Assistant Director was hired as well. Demand continued to grow and in 2014 a new Coordinator was added, and the Assistant Director became an Associate Director and the current Coordinator was made an Assistant Director. In 2015, the Director was named Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Accessibility Services and in 2016, became an Associate Dean.
Over time, the SEAS office has expanded in scope beyond academic year students to also work with summer/pre-college students, campers, conference attendees, online students, professional masters program students, Wintersession students, faculty, staff, and visitors; the number of people served in each of these categories has grown too. Student numbers have grown in part because we have taken an inclusive approach to providing accommodations and services, but also due to better understanding of many conditions including concussions and the expansion of the ADA to formally serve people with significant temporary conditions. We also have become known to staff as a supportive place to talk about challenges of access and inclusion in regard to not only direct needs in the workplace but also the university wide efforts to include disability in the Diversity and Inclusion Planning.
Currently there are 1792 current students active in our database of which 1166 are officially registered. This represents a little more than 20% and 13% of the student population respectively and does not necessarily adequately reflect overall numbers since some temporary students are not reflected in this, nor does it include summer/ pre-college students or campers. Those latter groups vary between 200 and 300 in number.
There are 697 employees currently active in our database. Tracking overall registration (who complete the process) numbers is currently tricky, but we have 126 registered staff since we started adding them to the database in 2016. Those before that time are included in the overall count, but we have not had time to go back and enter registration details for older files since that would require an individual analysis of each file.
Overall, the SEAS office is committed to thoroughly and accurately assessing our competencies and shortcomings in regard to all our work around access and inclusion, with a particular commitment to increasing our effectiveness in regard to the people with disabilities we serve and historically underrepresented groups both within that population as well as those that may not yet be working with us.
To this end, we will be looking for specific ways to increase accountability through a number of measure including more detailed assessment. We current survey students every two years, but will be doing more extensive and standardized ones as part of an external review we will be undergoing through the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), the premier organization in the disability services field. We will also be engaging in a structured self-assessment process as part of this external review. Efforts to adapt and improve our database connections to Banner and reporting options should enable better data collection, specifically to enable us to better assess our effectiveness with specific populations, including historically underrepresented groups. We also plan to form an advisory board to involve constituents more directly in the assessment, guidance and evolution of the SEAS office. We also plan to provide a detailed end of the year report at the end of 2017-2018 and annually thereafter.
SEAS Vision Statement
SEAS aims for Brown University to be an equitable, inclusive community that promotes self-advocacy while creating a totally accessible environment where individuals of all abilities have an opportunity to develop their full potential, at Brown and beyond.
SEAS Mission Statement
SEAS fosters access and inclusion for Brown community members with disabilities through direct service, advocacy, awareness-raising, and celebrating disability as diversity.
PROCESS OF DEVELOPING THE PLAN
The SEAS staff reviewed departmental plans as well as those of other Campus Life offices. The initial draft was started by the Director and has evolved with input from the SEAS staff, including SEAS student workers. The entire SEAS staff has been involved in the edits and evolution of the plan, reviewing, revising and brainstorming as more information about how the plan should be written has been provided. The draft has been provided to SEAS’ direct reports for feedback, including leadership in both Campus Life and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, our two reporting lines.
Student input/feedback has been collected but more is needed. We surveyed students in 2016 and have compiled that data. The draft of the DIAP was shared with SEAS student staff, and will be provided to the broader SEAS student population now that the first draft has been finalized.
A student focus group was held on 3/4/17. The focus group reflected that students were very concerned about disability in relation to diversity and that dominated the conversations. This reflects a need to make these aspects a priority within our own DIAP and to continue to press the issue of disability being included in diversity conversations. We also will plan to have another focus group in Spring 2018 with targeted questions that are less open ended to enable us to focus on the priority areas related to historically underrepresented groups.
We focused our Annual Seaman Lecture on 4/25/17 on disability as an area of diversity. Judith Heumann, an International Disability Rights Consultant, spoke on the importance of including disability in diversity efforts. She also hosted a lunch meeting for students that 17 students attended to discuss access and inclusion on the campus and their work with the SEAS office. This lunch also produced specific feedback that has guided this plan.
Another student survey will be conducted in early Spring 2018 to collect information for the external review and we plan to collect demographic data along with those responses that will enable us to better analyze data to assess how well we are serving specific populations.
We also plan to survey both faculty and staff in early Spring 2018 as part of the review, looking at both faculty and staff involvement in the work with SEAS students and with their work with SEAS as employees. We have also been systematically creating digital records of all the recent work with employees, including undergoing a large push to collect and enter email addresses for all currently working with us in an active way. This will enable us to more easily reach the employees we serve in a collective way, facilitating more regular feedback and data collection.
SEAS Advisory Board
It has also been determined that a SEAS Advisory Board should be formed comprised of students and employees with disabilities. This Advisory Board will be formed by the Fall 2018 and will begin meeting once per semester to provide input and direction to SEAS about any relevant issues and also those related to this plan.
Our work with the outside consultant should enable us to make sure we take a comprehensive approach to this work, everything from information gathering, to effectively incorporating feedback, to tracking outcomes, and reporting results.
● SEAS DIAP Staff Working Group: Catherine Axe, Stephanie Vece (until 6/1/17, Jonathan Corey, Karol Gaitan (until 3/14/17), Erin Karalekas; Sean Haggerty (as of June 2017) and Antonio Taylor (as of August 2017)
- Professional development targeted to diversity
- Bi-weekly meetings as a staff
- Meetings and consultation with other campus life staff
- Presentations and programming for other groups seeking to include disability into their DIAPS
● SEAS Office Student Staff: GRAD - Destiny Torres, Ewo Harrell, Angelica Teng, Dalma Diaz, Cameron Brown, Kelly Sanchez (Fall 2016); Spring 2017: Mary Righi and Jasmin Perez; UNDERGRAD - Emily Low, Mae Verano, Seneca Meeks, Jon Famery(RUE).
- Feedback session Spring 2017
- Professional development and training target to diversity starting Fall 2018
● Students registered/identified to SEAS - 1673
○ Analyzed survey results from Spring 2016 survey
○ Developing survey for Spring 2018
○ Focus group planned for Spring 2018
○ Targeted interviews with external reviewers/SEAS staff
● Students identified to SEAS but came only once:
○ Develop survey for Spring 2018
○ Targeted interviews
● SEAS Proctors
○ Develop survey for Fall 2018
○ Feedback session Fall 2018
● Employees Registered with SEAS
○ Develop survey for Spring 2018 (include questions about climate)
○ Feedback session Spring 2018
● Key partners that work with SEAS
○ Residential Life
○ Dining Services
○ DOC Deans
○ Health Services/BeWell
○ LGBTQ Center
○ Women’s center
○ School of Professional Studies
○ SS Deans
○ Academic Support Services
○ Writing Center
■ Develop survey for Spring 2018
CURRENT STRENGTHS RELATED TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
As we hire staff and students, we seek to employ a combined staff that reflects the diversity of the campus. We also provide work opportunities and experience for students with disabilities since they contribute in important ways to the office and our ability to get ready feedback. Since we already know their needs, we can also assist in providing experience navigating the workplace accommodation process as well as any potential barriers. We also provide training to all student workers and use that as an opportunity to focus on their understanding of how to be respectful and supportive of the people with disabilities. We have been successful in these efforts overall, both with our professional and student staffs.
We have also rewritten our position descriptions to allow us to attract and hire a broader group of candidates. We are working closely with HR to make sure positions are posted on a diverse range of jobs sites, especially targeting those where we can seek and reach historically underrepresented groups. We network with local and NE based disability services groups to try to reach candidates more directly and through referrals. Our search committees are also charged with fulfilling our commitment to diversify the SEAS staff.
Access and inclusion
Our mission involves diversity and inclusion and since we are aware of the importance of access, we are in a position to leverage these efforts to include more conscious and deliberate ways to better serve other historically underrepresented groups.
We work closely with students on a case by case basis so are often learning of intersecting identities and the challenges faced by students managing identities in addition to disability. This layering can also impact students in terms of disclosing disability related needs, especially since many disabilities are invisible and using accommodations requires disclosure.
We are currently working on including lived name reporting options (completed Fall 2017) and pronoun fields (completed Fall 2016) on registration forms and in database. We also offer support groups for students with particular disability related identities/needs: ADHD group, spectrum lunch, group for students with chronic illnesses.
In Fall 2016, we started to provide evening appointment times for graduate/medical students as well as employees. We also started the Bob and Charlie Poole mentoring program in 2015 to enable students working with SEAS to support newer students working with SEAS.
We also have specific goals for all the SEAS staff around training in working effectively with under-represented groups so we can be more welcoming, aware and effective in our work with students. Staff have been involved in Transformative Justice, Non-violence, and Social Justice trainings, both attending and delivering in the case of the latter two. We are doing targeted reading and research as well as presenting and working with other groups seeking to better serve students with disabilities.
We have also been adding support groups both in conjunction with other offices and on our own to address evolving needs. We currently have an ADHD support group (SEAS/CAPS), a concussion support group (SEAS), a spectrum group (SEAS), and are planning to have a support group for those with migraines starting in the Fall 2018 (SEAS/BeWell?). We also will continue to explore options for additional groups, factoring in feedback from the review.
We work very hard to both advocate for students and also foster their ability to effectively self-advocate. We work with a wide variety of offices and departments in delivering accommodations and respond to a wide array of access concerns. Through these processes we have developed close working relationships and partnerships across campus. We also have created both long term structures such as the Campus Access Advisory Committee (CAAC) that started in 2004 to guide campus wide efforts to address access concerns, prioritize accessibility efforts and maximize inclusion. The CAAC membership includes students, faculty and staff from key areas. Recent efforts also coordinated work with LGBTQ Center around expanding the amount of single-use, accessible, and gender inclusive restrooms, demonstrating an awareness of how efforts can have multi-dimensional impacts. We have also recently created the Digital Accessibility Working Group (DAWG) and before that had formed a team with CIS to look establish a University-wide approach to captioning.
Our Annual Seaman Lecture is an opportunity to offer programming focused on disability-related topics and we often use this as an opportunity to partner with other offices. We have co-sponsored awareness events with Centers: LGBTQ Center, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, and the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC).
We provide faculty training to specific academic departments, attending departmental meetings to present and discuss accommodations, access, and inclusion. We train managers and supervisors around creating an inclusive workplace and accommodating disabilities.
SEAS office front area posters reflect the diverse programming we have sponsored. We also make it a point to include flyers and posters for a diverse array of current campus events in front area.
We have done a large amount of programming around access and inclusion over this last academic year.
We have moved from having to invite ourselves in to speak with departments to being asked by a large number of groups to present. Some of the things we have presented include Social Justice Retreat programs, a recent Diversity summit program on Access and Inclusion, presentations at CLSS Brown Bags, a presentation to athletic coaches and trainers. We also have presented to the Engineering department, Rockefeller Library, Judaic Studies, Financial Aid, the School of Professional Studies Faculty, the Brown University Community Council, and the academic department heads group among others.
SEAS regularly reviews the locations where events are held/student groups meet and reaches out if the location is inaccessible so that groups can understand the concern, learn about accessible spaces and make different choices going forward to create a more inclusive community. We recently conducted a Brown Bag about Making Events Accessible and Inclusive; plans are now in place to offer this training to summer residential staff. We also presented a shorter version to all Student Groups in conjunction with Student Activities.
The SEAS shuttle is an effective method to make a campus with challenging topography and weather accessible to those with mobility-related impairments. The CAAC is also tasked with guiding the campus on how to best manage $100,000 of funds for ADA access related improvements outside of current major renovation or building projects. Snow removal planning is carefully coordinated with the Custodial and Facilities Management staffs. Consistent ongoing efforts have been successfully made to improve access through expanding these programs, carefully incorporating input and feedback into these efforts. Recommendations over the years have included developing a University Transition Plan focused on systematically improving physical access and to expand SEAS shuttle service to include weekends. The renovation of Wilson Hall will provide a major step forward in terms of classroom access.
Assistive technology such as Kurzweil is available for use on personal laptops for all students with need for it; Naturally Speaking is now available to the whole Brown community. SEAS keeps abreast of new technologies and ways to provide services; we participated in a pilot program with Sonocent Fall 2016 and adopted the technology for ongoing use by Spring 2017. Over the last two years we have also formed an active Digital Accessibility Working Group (DAWG) which has drafted recommendations for policies/procedures and an implementation plan (including staffing) to enable the University to effectively address this already vast and growing area. A campus wide Captioning Project over the last three years has resulted in a formalized, University funded process that enables a wide array of campus constituents access to an efficient way to caption all educational and web based materials.
Access and Inclusion in the Workplace
SEAS sponsors the federal Workforce Recruitment Program, Lime Connect, and other programs to proactively hire and provide internship opportunities to students with disabilities. SEAS staff also support employees with disabilities, providing service in tandem with HR but also through a separate process that enables faculty and staff to have an additional level of confidentiality and support in the accommodation process.
SEAS Staff Training/Professional Development
We have attended many professional development and social justice events: the Black Out, programs through OIDI including their Brown Bag lunch series, and evening events like the dinner with director and show In The Heights. We also attended/staffed a Talk Back after a recent theatre performance of Tommy.
We participate in online webinars as well as teleconferences with a focus on both disability services and working with students who are members of underrepresented groups. We attend annual conferences for our field and this year the annual AHEAD conference offered a variety of sessions with more of a social justice focus, reflecting how the disability services field is beginning to shift its focus from accommodations and services to access and inclusion, something SEAS has been working on for a number of years.
All SEAS professional and support staff participate in AHEAD webinars and conferences, NE AHEAD webinars and conferences, NE ADA center trainings, Great Lakes ADA Center trainings, CLSS Brown Bags, Unpacking Diversity and Inclusion Day as well as Campus Life Diversity & Inclusion Retreats. Our work on Disability over 250 + years at Brown as well as accessibility and inclusion has helped to highlight how disability needs to be key focus in diversity awareness efforts.
We have been attending structural racism talks. All current SEAS staff has done LGBTQ Safe Zone training, and SEAS staff have participated in diversity programming during Orientation. We also have done QPR training.
We are planning to have least one staff member to attend NCORE in next two years. All staff plan to attend at least two or three targeted awareness raising trainings or programs that focus on serving historically underrepresented groups. (Staff have already built this specific objective into personal goals for the year).
The SEAS office implemented a new database a few years ago and is continuing to adapt the database to better collect data related to diversity. We have adapted the system to include student specified pronouns and lived name, added a new feature to get student specified name and pronoun feeds. This has enabled us to provide accurate information on our accommodation letters and track information about access to the office, service use and student outcomes more effectively for specific populations.
Increasing access to the office
We have started having evening appointments until 6 pm, at least four nights per week. These appointment times have been popular with graduate students and employees, two of the three groups we had hoped to serve. Medical students still do not come in often, usually because they work directly with the Medical School arounds accommodations and services aside from the support with evaluations/coaching and use of the SEAS shuttle. We also piloted Saturday appointments in the fall and may continue to offer them in the early weeks of the semester, but they have proven to be less popular once the semester is fully underway.
AREAS FOR PROGRESS/GROWTH
The disability services field is not particularly diverse and can even lack people with disabilities. We are focusing on diversifying staffing whenever we hire, prioritizing that over specific disability services experience when we can.
Fostering student engagement with SEAS as well as access and inclusion efforts
There are currently no student groups related to the overarching disability identity; only targeted support groups and student activities. We have been working on fostering this piece, starting with our relatively new mentoring program and working with mentors who did not get mentees to work with to help them to organize a student group. We have also explored finding some space where students might congregate on their own and have continued to expand the range of support groups.
SEAS office space/functioning more like a center
Ultimately, we would like to have the space to provide an area where students could meet, hangout, study. Adequate accessible space has also been a barrier to our growth and our current space is already too small. The waiting area is inadequate to effectively serve students who use wheelchairs or who come in with injuries. We often have to step over outstretched legs in casts and move chairs to create wheelchair access. The overall lack of accessible space above the first floor also limits our use of the upstairs conference room or expansion into open spaces as well as limiting access to Campus Life staff who work up there. We need larger space to house our current staff as well so confidential spaces are available for meetings. We also want to provide student meeting space and rooms for studying or to administer exams. Ideally we would like to be an Accessibility Center that support all these current needs and has room for growth so we can adapt and continue to meet growing demands more effectively.
More accessible spaces that are well marked/easy to use are needed on the campus. Many spaces are confusing or complicated to access, requiring additional pathways and entrances to be known and unlocked when wheelchair access is needed. Getting adequate signage in place has proven very difficult. We do not have adequate time to devote to pursuing all these pieces in the way we would hope to, but recent CAAC changes have included more effective planning mechanisms that may make addressing these concerns in a systemic way more feasible.
Sharing information about financial support for evaluations and coaching
We also want to make sure students are clear about options for financial support for evaluations and coaching as we project that the need for this will continue to increase. We currently share this directly with students and have begun to have more targeted conversations with other offices that may support students who may not have been diagnosed or supported earlier and may need such services. These offices include the First Generation and Low-Income Center (FLI Center); we have already started to have conversation with Vernicia Elie. We have spoken to Maitrayee Bhattacharyya about the resources but have yet to have specific conversations about the RUE and Sidney Frank programs and reaching out more directly to those students. We have been clarifying this information in our meetings with both the academic and student support deans. Ways to communicate this information are currently being explored with a goal of having new delivery systems developed throughout the Spring and Summer 2018.
Working with graduate students/the Graduate School
We want to work more closely with the Graduate School around climate and improving access for students with disabilities. SEAS just met with the Graduate School to talk about more effective outreach to students, coordinating leaves, explaining SEAS processes to departments, referrals to SEAS, and working with programs proactively to build in greater flexibility whenever possible. Academic programs currently tend to have rigid time frames and guidelines around funding and progress toward completion which can come in direct conflict to leaves and taking more time as an accommodation. Training is currently provided to new graduate students who will be teaching or working as teaching assistants; SEAS also provides a brochure describing faculty and TA roles in the accommodation process as well as encouraging the use of Universal Design.
Working with faculty
Brown has been known for being the most disability friendly of the Ivies, but recent years have included new challenges with push back from faculty, particularly from certain departments. We have stepped up our efforts to connect with faculty, joining 3 to 4 department meetings per semester, meeting with departmental coordinators and attending a department chair meeting hosted by the Provost. We have also provided DIAP training on request for the Engineering and Judaic Studies departments. These efforts seem to be helping to some degree but have not really tipped the balance back as far as is needed. Increased demand for accommodations has also stretched faculty and SEAS resources pretty thin and this has at times contributed to the concerns. We have been refining processes to create efficient systems to support faculty, including efforts to expand the features in our database to support them. We communicate with them each system through an email sent by the Dean of the College. At times we have also sent a faculty newsletter to those working closely with us around exam accommodations. Steps for the coming semester include having faculty be part of focus groups as well as surveying them so we can better understand concerns or misconceptions that may be driving faculty resistance. We also will include faculty on our new Advisory Board. Additionally, we have hired a new SEAS staff member that has been a staff member in an academic department who can provide perspective on faculty and departmental challenges with our systems. Training and materials are provided to new faculty as they begin at Brown, but reaching ongoing and adjunct faculty can be another challenge.
Working with students with intersecting identities
Even before we have objective data, work in this area needs to be ongoing. Once we have more data, we can focus on particular areas that need specific attention, but overall efforts should include attention to how we serve students and barriers they may face in accessing SEAS services, requesting/using accommodations, and having an equitable and inclusive experience at Brown. Among the groups where targeted learning and professor development should be focused are: international students, students of color, LGBTQ students, students who do not identify on the gender binary, women students in the sciences, student veterans, RUE students, first generation students, and low income students, among others.
Feedback and data collection
We also want to work more closely with the following groups/offices to determine how well SEAS is currently serving them/their constituents and how we can work with them more effectively, especially around the intersection of their identities and needs:
○ RUE students
○ Brown Center for Students of Color
○ Women’s Center
○ First Generation/Low Income Center
○ LGBTQ Center (all SEAS staff have participated in safezone training)
○ Student Activities around accessible/inclusive event planning
○ Office of International Student Services
○ Graduate School
○ Orientation around programming for first years
We will plan to spend some time on this in Summer 2017 (planning) and Spring 2018 (getting more direct feedback from students).
Outreach to students of color and other groups will be critical and we need to determine the best mechanisms to do this. Some ways to determine this may be to work closely with the BCSC and affinity groups on campus through means of dialogue, surveys and pilot programs.
Students may not be aware of the level of confidentiality available around disability disclosure and accommodation requests, especially if they are not familiar with the US education system/ADA. This could limit access or pose barriers, especially if stigma around disability is a particular concern. Finding a method to provide more information could assist all students who might potentially work with us and further reduce barriers for those who had experiences where confidentiality was different or not possible. More discussion and exploration of options are needed.
Effectively sharing information is also a priority, both to substantiate our system and to make sure people understand what is possible. Increasing this may provide information for students who had less access to such support previously and will hopefully assist faculty in trusting that our system works in conjunction with academic standards. More discussion and exploration of options are needed.
We would like to offer more programming related to Ableism. Teaming up with offices like the BCSC to do this as part of TWTP worked in the past and it would be ideal to look for ways to expand this partnership and seek out some others. We will explore options during Spring and Summer 2018 as we work on making connections with the other offices.
We also want to offer more programming on disability-related inclusion. We have already done a number of Brown Bags for OIDI and Campus Life; we would like to do some broader session to focus on services for students with hearing disabilities and explaining for those planning events and conferences how to provide appropriate services. Planning accessible and inclusive events as well emergency evacuation planning are two topics we already have identified.
We also want to find ways to effectively promote Web accessibility. In April 2017 we presented a plan for a campus wide policy, guidelines and implementation process to the Information Technology Advisory Board. This proposal also includes a recommendation that a position be created in the Scholarly Technology Group to spearhead/oversee these efforts. Our goal is for this to be adopted and resources requested in the next budget cycle. We believe that this is a critical step for the University to take to increase our accessibility and compliance.
Accessible/inclusive events and program planning
We also want to continue to explore ways to proactively make events and programs accessible. Current guidance is largely overlooked and the process of working with all the various offices is cumbersome. Having a University-wide plan to address this more effectively would be helpful and we will direct our energy to this task as soon as we are more fully staffed and clear about when such an initiative can realistically take place. We are currently working on developing closer relationship with Student Activities/student groups and this is something we will started Fall 2017 and will be a continuing effort. We met just recently to talk about planning with the BOLT program and those efforts should result in a more proactive approach to accommodating students within that program.
Reporting Access Concerns
The SEAS office has a link on our website to report these, but we need to make this mechanism known. Also, we could add additional information to our site to direct those who run into concerns as to how they can report and track ADA concerns themselves. This may be more effective than the current processes which involved either us submitting it as an ADA request and having no efficient way to know it has been done or the reporting party puts in the request without necessarily flagging it as an access concern and that results in repairs not getting the needed priority. Developing a hybrid, more efficient process would be a good next step to explore.
We would also like to explore having mandatory disability related training for all faculty and staff similar to the Title IX training. It would be good if we could include ways to address intersectionality in this training. For example, we saw evidence that students with disabilities experience sexual assault in greater numbers than students without disabilities. Where this training should be directed is something we will need to work with offices like BeWell and others to determine effective next steps. We also want to better understand how intersectionality impacts students so we can address these pieces as well. Overall, I think that people say a fair amount of upsetting things or even discriminatory things to students, other staff and to us. This is probably the tip of the iceberg so to speak and makes it clear that more direct work is needed, especially since people that already come to voluntary events tend to be the ones already aware of and supporting inclusion efforts.
We want to do more specific diversity related training to focus on supporting students in historically underrepresented groups that also have disabilities. We will work on researching such training over the summer 2018 in hope of planning participation for the 2018-2019 academic year. Intersectionalities with disability are common and we may be able to get a sense of where to direct our efforts from the surveys we will do in Spring 2018, as well as by having more directed conversations in Fall 2018 if we can figure out how to do that in a way that is effective. Once we have more specific information, we would like to make sure that we use the information to direct training for the SEAS staff as well as trainings we hope to do for the campus. These trainings would not be likely to happen until Fall 2018 at the earliest.
Finally, we need to set up a process to identify any additional barriers to working effectively with students, faculty and staff from historically underrepresented groups and effectively create an accessible, equitable and inclusive campus.
NEXT STEPS IN THE PROCESS/SPECIFIC GOALS
Analyze data we have
We will be working with CIS to analyze data in our ClockWork Database as well as from our Spring 2016 survey to determine how well we are reaching and registering students from underrepresented groups.
Collect more data in immediate ways
We will also meet with SEAS student workers and hold targeted feedback groups with students who registered and potentially eligible students that did not. Many of these efforts will not begin until we are more fully staffed, but will start in 2017-2018.
Ask and answer important questions
Are the groups we are serving reflective of the larger population at Brown in terms gender identities, race, ethnicity, financial need, transfers, RUE, LGBTQ identities, etc. Is there any inequity in terms of who is getting assistance? Are certain groups registered but utilizing less service? Are there patterns of accommodation use by type that are significant? How satisfied are specific identity groups with working with SEAS? How satisfied are specific identity groups with using various services? What would make approaching SEAS easier? What would make using accommodations easier?
Collect graduate student data
We know anecdotally that graduate students are less likely to identify to departments if they have a disability. What would make it easier? Efforts to improve this process are likely to help all students and reduce some of the compounding concerns of managing multiple identities. We need to specifically survey graduate students about these particular challenges. We also want to get graduate student worker input to survey questions. We plan to do this in Spring 2018 since this is already a clear need and a pressing one as well. Meeting with the Graduate School to address concerns once they become clear should be helpful and will hopefully enable us to make progress and impact individual student experiences without particular students feeling more vulnerable. We also want to work with the Graduate School to make culture more inclusive, less sink or swim. Meetings with the Graduate School started Fall 2017.
Collect data from academic departments
We also plan to ask other departments and centers what their perspectives are about SEAS. What are they are hearing from students? What are staff experiences like? We plan to survey faculty in general, faculty registered with us for a disability, and those who work closely with us around exam accommodations. All three groups have potentially different perspectives since they work with us in different ways. It will be important to look at how their experiences may differ through their various intersecting identities, which may provide us insight into our effectiveness with them and how we might do things differently. This will be started in 2018-2019.
Collect data from staff/centers/departments who work with SEAS/SEAS students
We also plan to survey staff in a similar way, reaching out to overall staff, but also the subgroup of registered staff, and those who work with us around specific types of accommodations. This will be a multi-faceted process and we will need to spend some time thinking about where to start. Which staff/centers/departments do we want to approach first that assist with specific accommodations?
Survey/interview students who did not register
We also plan to survey students who did not register and to figure out why they did not register. We do know that some seek us out just to do some exploration and may decide that SEAS’ process is not an appropriate route, but there are others that we have less clarity about why they did not return or complete the process of registering. It would be helpful to know about their positive and negative experiences with us, the barriers they experience (if any) to registering, and any factors outside of SEAS that may have influenced their decisions. This is an area where survey results may not be the best way and we may want to do some one to one interviews with random (or targeted) students to confirm things we see in the more general data. This will be an important area to explore and identify whether intersecting identities may be impacting the process of working with SEAS.
Overall, it will take some time to pull together the information we gather and assess how the things we are doing are helping us to support students in achieving success academically/completing their degrees as well as having an inclusive overall experience.
Demystify registering with SEAS
We want to demystify and clarify registering with SEAS both for students and for those who may refer them. We have recently met with both the Student Support and the Academic Deans to discuss how referrals are working. We are currently developing a flow chart to clarify when to refer students to work with SEAS vs a Dean as well as when to refer students back to us. We also just assisted the Wintersession/GELT program as well as the School of Professional Studies (SPS) in refining the message they put out to program participants that may need disability related accommodations or services.
Develop and implement specific accessibility tools that can be used independently by departments and offices that want to create inclusive spaces and programs. Some specific tools that are already being developed and implemented include Guidelines for Planning for Accessible Events, Guidelines for Setting up CART or ASL for events, a Checklist for Evaluating Spaces and Programs for Accessibility, and Accessibility Guidelines for Planners. These will be shared with all departments across campus and available on our website. We need to determine best ways to communicate and support people in using this information.
Develop a toolkit for students that accounts for a wide range of student needs and experiences
What should this include? How does self-advocacy work or not work for different students? What are we assuming students know? How can we clarify roles? What will empower students? What are potential barriers, pitfalls, challenges and how can we equip students to meet them? How can we clarify when and how to seek support from SEAS or from other offices?
Consider social media options for outreach
We have not yet started using social media and seem to be behind at least the other RI schools in terms of using it. This is likely something we will start doing in the Fall 2018 as long as we have time to formulate a plan over this summer. Our ideas so far include using Instagram to announce information with pictures, to share event flyers, and to promote access improvements or changes. We have discussed possibly using Snapchat for contests, and Facebook to share accessibility related improvements (Spring 2018) and do awareness raising, though this latter method may be more likely to reach faculty and staff.
Better utilize SEAS website
How can this site be more informative, useful and up-to-date? We plan to create staff profiles that reflect our backgrounds, perspectives and areas of expertise or focus to help students identify who they might want to meet with initially.
Disability history tours
We have also thought out about designing disability history tours and working with students to see if any may be interested in giving the tours as student workers. This may be a great tool to involve alumni.
We have been talking about having a newsletter for a while, and plan to consider having one targeted to each of our constituent groups, faculty, staff and students. Having students write with us for these may be an effective method to disseminate information and raise awareness.
Identity based publications focused on disability
We also want to see if students would be interested in an identity-based publication around disability. Another idea came from the recent Ivy Plus conference. Princeton designed a series of posters with students pictured along with statements they made about how having a disability has enhanced their experience/made them who they are, etc. We will consider how we can best include first person accounts/experiences for raising awareness and effectively moving people to let go of limiting perceptions.
Once compiled, we will publish statistics to show results and how areas of concern are addressed. We will also make sure we report how effective any changes are over time. This is also information we will share with the SEAS Advisory Board and put into our Annual Reports.
Ongoing DIAP meetings
We will continue to devote time at staff meetings to discuss progress, analyze results and implement action plans that reflect these results and DIAP goals. We will assess SEAS staff existing knowledge around areas of diversity and plan internal learning opportunities as appropriate. We will review this plan after the external review is complete to lay out specific timelines for steps and develop mechanisms to track progress.
New trainings for SEAS student staff
We plan to develop trainings for student staff to support more effective inclusion, once we are clear on the areas we need to focus on.
Establish liaisons between SEAS staff, Centers and key departments
Develop allies in critical offices across campus. Creating a network of disability allies in key offices, centers and departments (at least one per office) is a step we have wanted to take for years. We can capitalize on the many relationships we already have established by formalizing those roles and build from there. We will also look to other ally models to make sure we are considering how training opportunities can be incorporated and how intersecting identities are taken into consideration.
Regularly review policies and procedures for structural inequities
As we have a clear picture of our effectiveness with various populations, we will review all policies and procedures with attention to any ways they may have unintentional impact (structural inequity). We have already adjusted our approaches to providing financial support for evaluations and coaching. We are working on communicating clearer messages about this process. We will continue to seek co-sponsors for events as well as to find ways to make sure event programming is including a broader perspective of diversity whenever possible.
We are planning to have least one staff member to attend NCORE in the next two years. All staff plan to attend at least two or three targeted awareness raising trainings or programs that focus on serving historically underrepresented groups. (Staff have already built this specific objective into personal goals for the year). We also will be focusing disability related training on social justice oriented practices.
Diversifying our staff on an ongoing basis
We will continue to diversify our staff as positions open in both professional and student staff roles.
Leverage results of AHEAD review
We hope to leverage the review of the office planned with AHEAD to understand strengths and weakness as well as plan more effectively in regard to attracting and serving a diverse constituency.
We will use a variety of methods to assess progress including creating shared Google Docs to track progress and steps. We will include DIAP results in our annual reporting and will also make sure that we are recognizing and tracking individual efforts in self assessments/performance reviews as well as collective efforts in broader reports.
We plan to build more features into our data collection process to focus on tracking these efforts. Our database is currently not setup to collect all the data we need, but this will be a focus as we work to increase our capacity to track and use relevant data.
LONG TERM GOALS
Our goal is to become an Accessibility Center and have the capacity to more effectively foster/support diversity and inclusion efforts as well as student advocacy and identity development around ability/disability.
Part of this plan would include having adequate space to support student engagement and programming.
Developing the capacity and competency of the staff around social justice work will be critical to these efforts/goals.Overall functioning like a Center will reinforce how disability is an important aspect of student identity and will support the wider University climate in embracing and celebrating disability as diversity.