17 Jul 2018 Verbit Editorial
3min read

Looking ahead to AHEAD: 5 themes to watch at the conference

Taking place this week, the annual AHEAD conference brings together disability professionals in higher education to make valuable connections and gain new insights. This year’s 41st edition in Albuquerque, New Mexico promises to present different perspectives on many relevant topics, and of course, give attendees the chance to catch up with colleagues and build new relationships.

The Verbit team can be found showcasing their platform at booth #305 in the Exhibit Hall, alongside other innovative technologies solving industry challenges. Attendees will have an opportunity to see Verbit’s education-tailored solution in action, and learn how transcription and captioning makes audiovisual course content accessible to all students.

All conference-goers are invited to Verbit’s Lunch and Learn Session Wednesday July 18th at 12:45 PM, to discover how Brigham Young University-Idaho leveraged the platform to help students succeed academically. Coordinator of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Valerie Strum, will discuss the challenges that remain, and positive steps schools can take to achieve a campus environment that supports all students, regardless of ability or disability.

Here are 5 themes to keep an eye out for at this year’s event:

1. Students with Disabilities in the Health Sciences

As changes come to the way courses are taught, the necessary accommodations transform as well. Virtual materials and in-class activities must be designed with diversity and accessibility in mind. But, creating and implementing lasting changes requires strong working relationships between the school’s disability office and the health science program. AHEAD will offer participants an opportunity to develop strategies for building bridges to anticipate and overcome barriers.

2. Autism awareness

The number of students with autism attending college has consistently grown in recent years, presenting new challenges on how best to support these students. Practical strategies are needed to institute an open-door admission policy, plan for adapted programming, and establish a social support network for those on the autism spectrum. Attendees will engage in enriching talks about neurodiversity, providing resources and developing tools to educate and broaden social acceptance on campus.

3. Leadership

For disability service providers focused on access, it can be difficult to balance top priorities while managing the day-to-day concerns involved in running a department. AHEAD will offer strategies on how to mobilize others to work towards the goal of achieving an inclusive campus. Participants will hone their skills in building alliances with other campus entities, articulating key requirements, and influencing change at all levels of organizational hierarchy.

4. The ADA Coordinator role

The ADA and Rehabilitation Act are both long-standing legal precedents, and the latest decisions related to these laws have major implications for campus life. AHEAD will feature sessions specifically targeted to those who carry this title and bear responsibilities for access and compliance. Content will be focused on identifying best practices and developing resources and skills for proactive planning to minimize surprises and enhance efficiency.

5. Social justice

Disability is typically thought of as being primarily compliance-based in higher education. Shifting this mindset to viewing disability as a matter of social justice is particularly helpful in understanding and overcoming bias and discrimination. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore disability within this larger framework and develop specific action items to build awareness in all areas of campus life.

This year’s AHEAD conference is sure to offer helpful and engaging content, and inspire curiosity and creativity for those committed to equity and inclusion in higher education. See you in Albuquerque!