What is current practice?
Typical job titles and descriptions for disability service positions include components that focus on:
- Compliance with legal mandates
- Determination of eligibility
- Ability to interpret documentation
- Knowledge of conditions and their implications
- Provision of individual services and accommodations
Sample 1: Job Titles
- Adaptive Technology Specialist
- Learning Specialist
- Deaf Specialist
- LD Specialist
- Support Services Coordinator
- Disability Advisor or Case Manaager
Sample 2: Job Description for Disability Specialist
General Statement of Duties: Under the general supervision of the Director of Disability Services, the Disability Specialist established student disability status and eligibility for accommodations. Reviews disability documentation, establishes accommodation plan, coordinates services, and provides advice, advocacy, and referrals to students. ensures best practice with legal mandates and University policies while minimizing the University’s exposure to risk.
- Serves as a resource to the campus community regarding compliance with current disability legislation (i.e. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended)
- Determines eligibility for services by evaluating documentation
- Recommends and facilitates accommodations to eligible students
- Provides adjustment, personal, academic, and career counseling
- Makes recommendations to faculty regarding classroom access
- Coordinates with testing specialist to assure appropriate alternate testing accommodations
- Conducts in-service and outreach workshops, training, and presentations
- Acts as a liaison to campus departments regarding campus access including adaptive technology
- Contributes to policy and office literature development
- Participates in office projects and maintains records
- Master’s degree or Bachelor’s degree and 3 years of relevant experience (preferably in special education, rehabilitation counseling, social work or counseling)
- Demonstrated experience working with individuals with disabilities
- Specialized knowledge to interpret diagnostic assessments, identify functional limitations and determine appropriate accommodations
- Knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), and other relevant federal, state, and local legislation; an understanding of how legislation is applied to the higher education setting
- Knowledge of the characteristics and accommodation requirements of people with disabilities, with a focus on social, workplace, and educational experiences
- Ability to work in a team
- Good written and verbal communication
What are the implicit messages?
- Disability is special and abnormal. When professional positions stress legal expertise and knowledge of the characteristics of conditions, the problem is located with the individual rather than in institutional structures and systems.
- Access issues for student are evaluated on the basis of perceived legal consequences.
- Students are not the expert and their experiences are suspect until verified by the disability service office.
- Disability resource personnel must be experts on all disabling conditions and all legal requirements. Their work is endless, demanding and specialized but must be accomplished to protect the institution and ensure student access.
- Access is only possible because of the expertise of the professional—students, instructors and other campus personnel cannot find solutions without the intervention of the disability service expert.
How might this be different?
Job title and descriptions represent disability as an aspect of diversity, social justice, and equity. They focus on facilitating access, collaborating with the campus community, promoting inclusive design, and assessing service delivery efficacy.
Sample 1: Job Titles
- Technology Access Consultant
- Learning Strategist
- Physical Access Coordinator
- Access Consultant
- Access Associate
Sample 2: Job Description for Access Consultant
The Access Consultant is responsible for facilitating access to courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities for students with disabilities. The Consultant works in collaboration to develop and implement best practices in promoting inclusive design, determining and providing reasonable accommodations, and assessing service efficacy. Applying independent judgment and expertise, the Access Consultant works with students, faculty and administrators to improve the accessibility of campus through the delivery of programs and services that reframe disability and promote inclusive design.
- Meets with students to identify barriers to full participation in the curricular and co-curricular environments and determine appropriate accommodations, reviewing additional sources of information as needed
- Coordinates the provision of reasonable accommodations in consultation with students, faculty and staff
- Provides consultation, information, resources and referral to disabled students and University faculty, staff and administrators
- Maintains appropriate records by documenting communication with and regarding students and recording recommended courses of action or accommodations
- Participates actively in the continuing development of services, programs and activities
- Participates in environmental access work to improve the design of curricular, information, physical and co-curricular environments
- Provides consultation throughout the University on universal design, social construction of disability, and intersections of disability with campus environments
- May participate on University committees, task forces, and networks and serve a liaison role with other departments
Professional Activity (research, instruction, supervision, development)
- Maintains membership with relevant professional organizations
- Stays abreast of national, state, and local disability-related issues
- Participates in professional development activities through presentation, publications, attendance at conferences and/or related activities
- Maintains appropriate confidentiality in verbal and written communications
- Master’s in a human service related field or disability studies
- Two years experience working in higher education
Knowledge and Skills Requires
- Knowledge of models of disability and inclusive educational design and their application in higher education
- Knowledge of the application of federal and state laws that provide for an accessible higher education experience for disabled students
- Strong written and interpersonal communication skills
- Skill at developing and delivering professional presentations and workshops
- Working knowledge of common computer applications (e.g. word processing, PowerPoint, databases)
- Demonstrated knowledge of campus and community resources
What is the potential impact of this change?
- The job titles and descriptions emphasize the primary role of collaboration and consultant to facilitate designs and practices that reduce the need for individual accommodations.
- The problem and the solution belong to the entire campus community, not solely disability resource staff.
- The office is seen as having a leadership role in promoting inclusive environments that expect and appreciate disabled individuals.
- Disabled students’ experiences are valued in determining access solutions.
- The campus commitment is not simply a reaction to legal requirements but a part of a larger institutional commitment to diversity, social justice, and equity.
Guzman, A and Balcazar, F. (2010). Disability Service’s Standards and the Worldviews Guiding their Implementation. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability. Association on Higher Education and Disability: 23 (1), 50- 64