It’s that time of year again: setting New Year’s resolutions. In addition to your personal resolutions, you can consider making a professional resolution to make a lasting impact on students.
Draft Inclusivity Plans for All Students, Including Those With Disabilities That Aren’t Reported
Many higher education institutions make a sincere effort to accommodate students with disabilities when they come to them and ask for help. Accommodating these needs on a one-off basis doesn’t allow for strategic budget planning. It can also result in corner-cutting measures to take care of the accommodation ASAP rather than through effective means. This reactive approach can end up costing organizations key funds, but also students themselves who don’t disclose their disabilities.
The Resolution: Plan ahead and design learning experiences to accommodate different needs ahead of time. Not only will you help students managing disabilities, but you can implement key technologies that assist in the learning process of all students with a range of different learning styles.
Be Intentional About Technology Stack Choices
Most higher education organizations utilize technology to better serve students. Organizations should be intentional about how they spread their budget across their tech stack. Consider the biggest impact you want to make in the coming year versus the products you’re already paying for. Can you identify any gaps?
The Resolution: Implement technology that helps multiple sectors of the student population. For example, captions and transcriptions can help deaf and hard of hearing students, but they also help students who simply retain information better visually or in text format. Audio books help blind students, but also those who only have time to study on the train as they commute. Aim to maximize your impact by providing open usage of technologies to all students. This approach enables students to personalize and optimize their own learning path to increase performance and reach their full potential.
Create an Inclusive Campus Culture
1 in 4 US adults lives with a disability that impacts major life activities. University leaders can do more to make these students feel welcome on campus. Higher education organizations can also hire more inclusively. Are you providing awareness training for staff and the greater student body so that they know how to better support peers, students and team members with disabilities? Are you reflecting these values in your hiring processes by employing more staff who live with a disability?
The Resolution: Add information to your school’s marketing collateral for prospective students. If you have accessibility success stories to share of students managing disabilities on campus (and these students feel comfortable sharing their experiences), consider featuring interviews with them in your materials. Then, push these out on your site and social channels. This exposure will attract students who may have not considered your school an option prior due to their individual needs. It will also create feelings of inclusivity among currently enrolled students who are navigating disabilities in classrooms. Also, consider employing software tools that help recruiters overcome unconscious bias and hire more diversely. As a result, you may see more students report their disabilities to the school.
Get Student Feedback
You’re putting in the effort to create an inclusive environment, but are you analyzing data on these efforts? Are you getting regular feedback from the student body?
The Resolution: Stay in touch with students who ask for help and ask them follow-up questions on the provided services. Take the time to learn what works and what doesn’t and act on these insights. Encourage offices that serve students to have an open door policy, but also opportunities for anonymous feedback to be submitted. Encourage professors to let students know that they can approach them with concerns without judgment. The more inclusive your campus culture becomes, the easier it will be to gain students’ trust and therefore feedback. You also shouldn’t stop there. After garnering key feedback and acting on it, reapproach those who openly provided their thoughts to get a further assessment on the instituted changes. These ongoing conversations will allow you to optimize your operations and ability to serve students managing an array of unique learning needs even more.