Council for Disability Concerns Strategic Plan

Executive Summary

Development of the Council for Disability Concerns Strategic Plan was initiated in January of 2003, and was informed by two goals. First, surveying Council stakeholders as to the issues and challenges facing people with disabilities in the University of Michigan community would help clarify the most pressing problems facing people with disabilities. Second, developing a systematic approach to overcoming these challenges would help to focus Council efforts, giving the Council the chance to have the greatest impact using the limited resources at its disposal. Identifying specific actions that would lead in a stepwise fashion to overcoming identified problems could then enhance Council success.

A group of graduate students undertook to survey Council members and other stakeholders in the disability community, including staff and students. In addition to identifying broader areas of concern and the perceived role of the Council, survey respondents gave a wealth of information that led to the generation of a Council vision statement. Broad areas?

Council members then articulated the core problems facing people with disabilities, as well as some of the causes of those core problems, in order to clarify the barriers holding the University back from promoting accessibility. The core problems include:

  • General lack of awareness in the University community and among leadership of disability issues—stemming in part from limited Council visibility and resources, and
  • Inconsistent enforcement of ambiguous policies promoting accommodations and accessibility.

It was also recognized that these core problems were exacerbated by diminished attention to the accessibility needs of University staff, and that these challenges precluded produced a climate that was not consistently welcoming of—and often inhospitable to—people with disabilities.

These core problems then served to prioritize the many issues and Council objectives that surfaced from stakeholder survey responses. The two broad Council objectives are:

  • Increase awareness and education through:
    • Increasing general awareness among the general University community,
    • Increasing specific knowledge among University leadership,
    • Substantiating disability issues, and
    • Mobilizing resources to support the Council’s work
  • Promote consistent University disability policy interpretation.

These core problems and prioritized Council objectives were then matched with potential action steps that the Council could undertake over the next few years, given current resource constraints. Finally, several Council members met to refine and clarify core problems, Council objectives, and possible actions. These were further reviewed and explored by a variety of area experts to ensure action steps were aligned with and complemented other disability advocacy activities occurring in the University.

CORE PROBLEM: Limited education and awareness of disability issues in the community. Concerns persist of service providers and service consumers. Council for Disability Concerns’ effectiveness is hampered by limited visibility.

CFDC OBJECTIVE #1: Increase Awareness and Education

1. Increasing general awareness about disability, and accessibility through education of various populations CFDC ROLE:

Make the Council more known as a resource, where Council members serve as ambassadors, acting as a source of information and a gateway for advice and feedback on disability issues.

Get disability on people’s agendas. Enhance awareness and education on campus and in the community throughout the year about disability issues and concerns.

  • Action: Create brochure for all employees of the University, faculty, and staff, as well as all students—for entire University community
  • Action: Provide and disseminate syllabus language for use by faculty
  • Action: Promote the idea that every letter of admission includes language about disability and accommodations.
  • Action: Partner with groups who are responsible for promoting full accessibility to disseminate information/resources, policies, and ideas about low-cost solutions for accommodations for all staff and students at all levels—e.g., use the Michigan Daily and the website for dissemination of ideas. These groups could include: HR, OSCH, UMHS, MWorks, OTs, and SSD.
  • Action: Partner with UMInDS in establishing and promoting a Disability Studies Program at the university.
  • Action: Partner with groups and programs currently promoting diversity, inclusion and multi-culturalism, such as LGBTA, IGR, CRLT, diversity dialogues, and work-based diversity committees, to assist these in achieving and maintaining competence in the area of disability awareness.
  • Action: (Year 1) Identify training needs of Council members interested in promoting targeted education and awareness; generate resources to support such capacity building among Council membership; identify target audiences for proactive education efforts.
  • Action: (Year 2) Implement targeted education efforts.

2. Increasing specific information about disability among leadership, including:

A. University leadership

Enlightening University leaders, and increasing Council access to leaders through intentional linkages: CFDC ROLE:

To advocate and promote access for full and equal participation for all persons in all University activities, the Council will educate and advise University leaders, through closer linkage with top administrators, keeping administration informed about Council concerns and disability issues.

  • Action: Prioritize University leadership that the Council will approach; articulate limited number (top three) key Council concerns and disability issues to be presented.
  • Action: Communicate with/write position paper to the President, Deans.
  • Action: Meet with President
  • Action: Meet annually with Deans
  • Action: Institute regular reporting relationship with University Diversity Council or APADG (Asst Provost Asst. Deans Group) and ASB (Academic Services Board), and all VPs.
  • Action: Promote the creation of Office of Vice Provost for Disability Concerns, with the Council becoming an advisory body to this office.

B. University Facilities leadership

Increasing Accessibility of University facilities:

Encourage change to building structures on campus so they will be truly accessible and not merely “up to code.”

Become proactive in establishing links, e.g., with the UM facilities operation and achieve more collaboration with managers of facilities and other departments—those individuals who have the authority to make changes.

Promote universal accessibility of all University web sites and adaptive computing technology.

  • Action: Advocate for a full-time, permanent position to serve as a liaison with campus construction projects to ensure that new and renovated facilities are fully accessible and that all projects include plans for accessibility during the construction phase.
  • Action: Promote recognized standards of web site accessibility on all official University websites.
  • Action: Provide feedback to and advise the Software Usability/Accessibility Specialist in work related to University web site accessibility

3. Substantiating issues related to disability and accessibility

The Council will give a voice to our constituents, helping define the needs among staff and students, evaluating current services, and assessing current policies and their implementation and enforcement.

  • Action: Collect info/suggestions from students and staff via forums, interviews, visits to CFDC meetings.
  • Action: Officially request a Task Force, sponsored by the Vice President of Student Affairs or the Provost, to look into the satisfaction level of current students with disabilities and to create a comprehensive plan to address concerns.
  • Action: Research surveys and data—write reports that get endorsed as a mandate. (Administrative Connections and strategies

4. Mobilizing Resources
Generate resources to enable Council’s pursuit of its mission and accomplishment of its objectives.

Identify areas of weakness and obtain and maintain resources (money) to remedy Work toward obtaining an annual budget and push for centralized finding for needed accommodations for faculty and staff at all levels.

Keep ATCS up to date. Employ a full time adaptive technologist at university. University should help secure loans for use of adaptive technology for students and staff.

  • Action: Identify peer institutions and survey them with specific questions concerning funding for accessibility. How do other institutions budget for accessibility?
  • Action: Find other mechanisms of funding CFDC—check with others who represent other constituents
  • Action: Obtain an ongoing budget for Council, either through central funding or development
  • Action: Bring quality speakers.
  • Action: Obtain funding

CORE PROBLEM: New policies addressing nondiscrimination for staff and faculty gives University administrators much more latitude than past policies to decide what constitutes reasonable accommodations.

CFDC OBJECTIVE #2: Promote Consistent University Disability Policy Interpretation

Increasing consistency in baseline interpretation of University policies related to non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation of faculty and staff with disabilities.

  • Education and increased awareness
  • Action: Define disability: “This is what we’re talking about.’ Frame disability in terms commonly found in the “diversity’ discourse.
  • Action: Review and reference previous policies and procedures used in departments as guides to interpreting new policies
  • Develop Executive Officer-level credibility (President, VPs, Regents).
  • Action: Advise Executive Office levels regarding policy development, interpretation and consistent application.
  • Liaison with each school, college and area.
  • Action: Serve to problem-solve, and share/disseminate information