Sessions

Conference Convened- 7:30am

Sign-in and breakfast – 7:30am to 9:00am

Presentation Session I – 9:15am to 10:15am

IA – Digital Accessibility in City Government
Presenter: Walei Sabry

As the world becomes more digital, institutions of higher education are increasingly moving towards adopting newer technologies. Electronic documents, e-books, online learning platforms, discussion forums, online class registrations and websites are being used more and more in classrooms. If these technologies are not universally designed or adhere to existing accessibility standards, transitions of students with disabilities are not equal to their peers. This presentation will highlight the importance of digital accessibility as well as the efforts that the City of New York has taken to address this issue. The long-term strategy for implementing accessibility into over 280 websites operated by over 50 City agencies will be shared. Topics include, developing an accessibility culture within organizations, implementing a system of accreditation to insure accessibility of all content before it goes live and solutions for complex digital features such as interactive maps.

IB – Invisible Disabilities, Stigma, and Student Veterans: Contextualizing the Transition to Higher Education
Presenter: Patrick Flint

As military veterans transition back into civilian life, the transition process is often filled with challenges. Some veterans leave military service having developed a service-related disability such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. These invisible disabilities can further complicate the transition from military to civilian life. As military veterans with invisible disabilities begin the transition back into society, many enroll in college to retrain or start new careers. While many military veterans experience difficulties transitioning into civilian life, their invisible disabilities, and the often stigmatization that comes with such disabilities, can make integrating into college as a student a uniquely challenging transition in their new lives.

IC – Making Accessibility a Priority in Your Organization
Presenter: CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD)

The CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) Presents: Where We Were, Where We Are, and Where We Are GoingA Breakdown of the Past, Present, and Future of Assistive Technology Support for College Students.

How long ago were academic technologies implemented? How far have they come? How much further will they adapt to better serve students with disabilities? CCSD will explore these ideas and reflect on Assistive Technology’s growing positive impact on student success.

ID – Facilitating Successful Transitions to Online Teaching & Learning
Presenter: Christopher Leydon and Antonia Levy

Transitioning from taking courses in traditional face-to-face classroom environment to attending an online degree program presents a particular set of challenges for students with disabilities, for the faculty who teach them, and for the university staff members who work to support their academic success. In this presentation, we will discuss a three-pronged approach toward providing a smooth transition for students entering the asynchronous distance learning environment: Direct support for students by disability services staff on the front end (assistive technology and the human element); Direct support for faculty on the back end (training in UDL and best practices); and Remediation of inaccessible course content and course sites as a last resort. The emphasis or proportion of the three-pronged solution may differ according to particular situations, for example when considering students with learning disabilities, sensory disabilities, or psychiatric disabilities. We will also consider the ways in which fostering a community-wide culture of access and inclusion supports the success of students with disabilities. The presentation will include an interactive element, allowing for discussion of particular scenarios and comparisons between supporting student transition issues in an online or face-to-face learning environment.

Welcome, Key Note – 10:30am to 12:00pm

Presentation Session II – 12:15pm to 1:15pm

IIA – College and Beyond: Helping Students on the Autism Spectrum Transition
Presenter: Dylan Emmons

The goal of this presentation is to give faculty, staff and professionals an insider’s perspective regarding the unique and not always obvious challenges that students on the Autism Spectrum and with related disorders experience when transitioning into college life. Social issues relating to unspoken norms and rules, shifting support groups and relationships have the potential to de-rail students in this population who, due in part to increased reliance on routine, can experience more hardship than their neuro-normative peers with transitions. In addition, students may still be developing strategies to allow them to cope with environmental and other stressors that are a result of sensory dysfunction. These may not be easy for students to express or for educators or professionals to meaningfully respond to. A secondary goal of the presentation will be to discuss strategies for communicating more effectively with students on the spectrum, as well as a few keys for ensuring that incoming college students on the autism spectrum have the best chance of success possible in shaping and realizing their professional goals. The presentation will conclude with some thoughts regarding possible programs, workshops, and courses of action that could be considered for implementation in the future.

IIB – Using Universal Design for Learning to Promote Success among Transitioning and Current College Students with Disabilities: Project REACH and CUNY Unlimited
Presenter: Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

Although students with disabilities are often deeply motivated to succeed in college, they face challenges transitioning from high school to college, including a pronounced reduction in supports available in college. There are few specialized programs for college students with autism and/or intellectual disabilities nationwide; the programs that do exist are often expensive and not systematically evaluated (Barnhill, 2014; Grigal et al., 2011). College students with disabilities are also confronted with the challenge of self-advocating to request needed accommodations, which they were not required to do to obtain services in high school. Consistent with its mission to make higher education accessible for all, CUNY has been at the forefront of initiatives to help students with disabilities transition into and succeed in college. The proposed panel presentation will share insights from two initiatives to support college students with autism and/or intellectual disabilities, disabilities that have historically been particularly underrepresented in the college environment (Shattuck et al., 2012): Project REACH (for autistic college students) and CUNY Unlimited (for students with intellectual disabilities). Project REACH is a participatory mentorship program in which neurodiverse students play leadership roles in developing, delivering, and evaluating curriculum. Although Project REACH was initially designed to support just autistic students, we immediately broadened inclusion criteria to include students with a range of disabilities in response to feedback from autistic students that it could be stigmatizing to enroll in a program just for autistic people and feedback from students with other disabilities that they also wished to participate in programming. Participation in our mentorship program has been associated with a number of benefits, including increased academic self-efficacy, self-advocacy and social support (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017). Through a participatory collaboration with incoming and current autistic students in the year-round program, we developed, implemented, and evaluated two intensive week-long summer programs to help autistic students transition into and succeed in college. This process included: 1) developing an initial summer transition curriculum guided by recommendations from autistic students in our ongoing program, 2) an initial feasibility assessment of the curriculum (Summer Transition Program 1), 3) revising our curriculum, guided by feedback from autistic students, to develop a curriculum manual, and 4) pilot-testing the manualized curriculum through a quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test assessment of a second summer program. This research provides preliminary support for the feasibility and utility of a participatory approach in which neurodiverse students are integral to the development and implementation of programming to help less experienced students develop the skills they will need to succeed in college. A central insight derived from our work is that Universal Design for Learning (UDL), or planning one’s instruction to promote acceptance of diversity and multiple ways of engaging with, representing and demonstrating mastery of one’s learning, is essential for promoting the success of diverse learners. In our panel presentation, faculty and students with and without disabilities will share their perspectives on UDL from multiple vantage points in light of two model programs that use the principles of UDL to promote the success of neurodiverse learners.

IIC – Technology Workshops for Students with Disabilities
Presenters: Ashleigh Thompson, Nadia Griffith Allen, Carlos Herrera

In collaboration with the CUNY Central Office of Academic Affairs, and with funding from the CUNY IT Steering Committee’s Strategic Technology Initiative, the Queensborough Community College and John Jay college of Criminal Justice offices of Services for Students with Disabilities organized and presented a workshop series for new students with disabilities. The workshop was developed to provide students with information and training on the various technology tools developed by CUNY and other vendors that students use as part of their experience as CUNY students. These tools included CUNYFirst, Blackboard, CUNY portal services and Microsoft Office. In addition, students were exposed to a variety of assistive technology tools, including reading and writing software suites, voice dictation and recognition software and other more specific tools including Zoom Text and JAWS. An overview of the services and processes of obtaining accommodations in college was discussed and reviewed. The workshop included staff presenters from the Services for Students with Disabilities office, the College Library digital services and the CUNY Assistive Technology Services Project. (CATS).
IID – University wide Licensing of Assistive Technology – A National Model
Presenter: CUNY Assistive Technology Services

Through the use of various assistive technologies (AT), including screen readers (JAWS), optical character recognition (Open Book), screen enlargers (Zoom Text Fusion) and reading and writing software suites (Wynn), students with disabilities can be accommodated and given tools to access CUNY’s educational program and services. These same AT tools can bring benefits to many others in the CUNY community, where the opportunities for extending those benefits across CUNY programs are not targeted towards SWD. i.e.: CUNY Start, Libraries, Continuing Education, etc.

Lunch and Vendor Session – 1:30pm to 2:30pm

Presentation Session III – 2:45pm to 3:45pm

IIIA- Neurodiversity Among Students of Color: Supporting African American and Latino Students with Learning Disabilities
Presenter: Crystal Vazquez

Students with disabilities and students of color, particularly African American and Latino students, represent two rapidly growing, but traditionally underachieving groups in higher education institutions. This session will focus on neurodiverse African American and Latino students, or those who present with disabilities that affect learning, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. It will define and examine neurodiversity, and its prevalence and manifestation in African American and Latino students in higher education, as well as discuss additional supports beyond academic accommodations. Session Description: Full description and format of the session 1. Overview of the definition and origins of the concept of neurodiversity, including a presentation of the social model of disability 2. Presentation of current research and statistics surrounding the study of African American and Latino students with learning disabilities 3. Discussion of the significant barriers African American and Latino students face in higher education and how they affect members of these populations who have diagnosed learning disabilities 4. Currently identified best practices when working with this population, including an overview of specific programs and practices that promote student engagement and diversity at Guttman Community College (support staff, experiential learning, community days, internships within majors, common hour programming, LEAP Academy, peer mentor meet-ups, faculty professional development, Women of GRIT, Black Male Initiative, etc.) 5. Identification and discussion of future areas of research needed for higher education professionals to be able to successfully serve this population.

IIIB- Changes and Challenges: Designing for All at LaGuardia and Beyond
Presenter: Designing for All Project Team

To design learning environments that truly all our students is a challenge. It means that faculty must learn more about students’ actual situations and needs, and that institutional support must be readily available. Theoretically, providing a barrier-free learning environment for all learners is the heart of every educational institution’s mission, yet in practical terms this objective presents a series of challenges and requires systemic change.

What types of transitions are experienced by students, faculty, staff, and administrators when an institution commits to providing access to learning for all? How can Assistive Services and pedagogical practices be connected most effectively to serve our students? Community colleges are uniquely positioned to help students transition from high school to college. LaGuardia Community College’s Designing for All (DfA) pilot project recognizes multiple types of transitions, including those of students coming into a new and different learning environment. LaGuardia’s DfA pilot also acknowledges the potential changes faced by faculty, staff, and administrators who are learning as professionals and practitioners.

DfA is composed of a highly collaborative team that includes students, faculty, Assistive Services, IT, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Library. We are also working to build a CUNY-wide network of practitioners committed to inclusive design for learning and student-centered, anti-ableist educational practices.

Using concepts based in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the DfA project at LaGuardia aims to increase the practice of inclusive learning design, regardless of the types of barriers students are facing.

As part of our commitment to basing our work in students’ actual experiences, in 2018 we will implement a college-wide survey – designed by our student participants for their fellow LaGuardia students – that will enumerate the actual obstacles students face as learners at the college. We will use this information to inform our work going forward.

This session will explore the student-centered learning implications of designing courses, classrooms, and policies in direct response to feedback and innovation from students with dis/abilities; students who learned other languages before they learned English; and, generally, students who have been historically marginalized by educational systems and course design.

We will invite participants into the ongoing conversation that the DfA team is having at LaGuardia, elaborating on insights we’ve gained so far and the areas in which we still have much to learn, and providing an opportunity for those from other campuses who wish to share relevant practices or their own ideas for building an inclusive learning design support network at CUNY.

IIIC- Millennials in Transition: Bridging the Employment Gap of Young Adults with Disabilities
Presenter: Bethany LaLonde

This presentation will address the growing needs of millennial youth with disabilities as they transition from programs in higher education to the workforce. As the number of young adults with disabilities increasingly embark on college and the workforce, the focus on more individualized and age-appropriate transition approaches and preparation are needed.

Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the emphasis of services and supports for youth with disabilities is increasingly placed on transition activities from secondary school settings to employment, vocational supports, technical education, independent living, and post-secondary opportunities. For those students who choose to attend college after high school, the focus invariably shifts to academic work with less emphasis on how to enter the workforce after college. For students with disabilities, taking the leap from academia to the workforce is often stressful and unfamiliar. The achievement of earning a college degree combined with just the traditional job search strategies are less effective for young adults with disabilities who want to seek meaningful and competitive employment. There is a real need for extra support, especially for this younger cohort, to successfully navigate this transition.

Regards to promoting social skills, networking opportunities, self-advocacy skills, and managing individual expectations and frustrations throughout the job search process. We will also address the struggles that millennials with disabilities face when disclosing to employers and colleagues, as well as the impact of the stigma of disability disclosure in the workplace.

By highlighting the successes of CUNY students who have navigated the leap from education to employment, we will recognize the efforts that have worked among this population. We will also identify areas where higher education professionals and employers can best meet the needs of their diverse and inclusive workforce. This presentation will encourage young people and employers to speak openly about their experiences and strengths, utilize the techniques of universal design for employment, and seek out meaningful accommodations and natural supports in the workplace.

Conference adjourned – 4:00pm

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