Rutgers‒Camden Raises Disability Awareness on Campus with Training and Empowerment Program

Rutgers–Camden campus

Rutgers University–Camden

By Jeanne Leong

Rutgers University‒Camden’s program to raise disability awareness on campus could be a model for other universities considering similar programs.

The Rutgers‒Camden process to create disability awareness initiatives on campus is detailed in the article “Disability Awareness, Training, and Empowerment: A New Paradigm for Raising Disability Awareness on a University Campus for Faculty, Staff, and Students,” which appears in the journal Social Inclusion.

Written by four members of the Rutgers‒Camden disability advisory council, the article shows how faculty and staff members were trained to help to increase the campus community’s understanding and awareness of providing accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough

“We tried to look at all parts of a student’s life so that while they are here, can they be comfortable in class, can they get to the classroom, can they enjoy events that are on campus?,” says Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a marketing professor and a member of a disability advisory council subcommittee at Rutgers–Camden, and a co-author of the article.

The training sessions covered provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and accommodations in education. Leaders of the groups provided examples of good and not-so-good practices, followed by faculty and staff examining case studies based on actual experiences on the Rutgers–Camden campus.

One case involved a student who was attending a lecture about professionalism and ethics by a distinguished professor from another university. Because of a hearing impairment, the student received captioning accommodations through the Office of Disability Services. Captioning allowed her to read from a computer screen as a stenographer captured what the speaker was saying. Seated in the front row, she had her laptop open in front of her so that she could follow along. Seeing her on her laptop, the guest lecturer animatedly gestured to her to close the laptop and pay attention to the lecture.

During the training sessions, group members participated in an open discussion to consider: “If you were the student, how would you handle the situation?” and “If you were a faculty member in the audience, how would you respond?”

Sam Rabinowitz

Sam Rabinowitz

Faculty and staff received instructions on planning for events to avoid such a problem by proactively addressing issues of access and accommodations. In the training sessions, instructors suggested that event organizers inform guest lecturers of the services the university offers, and to provide staff who can assist guests to answer their questions, as well as assist with any other accommodations that may be needed.

“A college student may have hidden or overt disabilities,” says Sam Rabinowitz, a Rutgers–Camden professor of management, a co-author of the article, and a member of the disability advisory council. “The goal here was to give three-dimensionality to the concept of dealing with individuals with disabilities, while making accommodations in classrooms or in workplace settings.”

The services Rutgers‒Camden offers to students have expanded to include accessibility to online courses – ensuring access to the necessary learning software and instructions on how to use it.

Timothy Pure of the Solebury School and Dana Roth of the University of Massachusetts, both former coordinators of disability services at Rutgers–Camden, are also co-authors of the article, which is published in the December 2018 issue of Social Inclusion.

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