Over the summer, Wheaton students received an email announcing the departure of Wheaton’s Assistant Dean of Accessibility and Assistive Technology, Abigail Cohen. As the community has returned to campus for the fall semester, students requesting accommodations have taken notice of delays in the accommodation approval process: many students have yet to receive their academic accommodation letters as of the third week of classes. An email confirming that Accessibility Services has received student accommodation requests was sent on September 11th by Dean of Advising and Academic Success, Steven Viveiros, who is overseeing Accessibility Services’ current transition period.
Accessibility Services has hired two part-time staff members who are currently working to process student accommodations, and Dean Viveiros states that although there have been initial delays in adjusting to Wheaton’s accommodation processing system, the major cause of the current delay in issuing students’ academic accommodation letters is ensuring that all student records and documentation are in order. However, he believes that Accessibility Services is in “a fairly good place,” and that students should expect to begin receiving academic accommodation letters as they enter the fourth week of classes.
Dean Viveiros acknowledges the difficulties accompanying this transition and explains that the decision to move forward with a short-term transition plan—hiring two part-time Accessibility Services staff members for the start of the semester—was made to provide full-time coverage as the college ensures student, faculty, and staff involvement in the hiring process for a new long-term staff member. With input from the Student Advisory Board for Accessibility Services and the WheAccess executive board, Accessibility Services has found two finalists for the Assistant Dean of Accessibility and Assistive Technology position and are preparing an offer for one of the finalists at this time.
Once the position is filled, Accessibility Services will enter a long-term transition plan, which will include a few “updates” to its current model. Little change is expected in how students access accommodations. There will still be a formal intake process, student documentation will be in order, and students will continue to re-apply for accommodations each semester. What may change is the addition of new Student Success Organizers, who are trained in supporting students in accessing Accessibility Services resources, including navigating the accommodations request process. The new Student Success Organizers are expected to arrive later this semester, and students will have the option of either working with these advisors or continuing to work solely with Accessibility Services.
Student feedback has been “tremendously helpful” in suggesting changes, particularly for Accessibility Services’ communication and advising models. Student proposals include an auto-respond function that will inform students that their online accommodation requests have been received via their Wheaton e-mail, for students currently receive no confirmation that accommodation requests have been received, as well as the option for students to request support from Student Success Organizers during accommodation advising meetings.
Communication remains a top priority, and Accessibility Services will continue to email updates as needed while ensuring that students receive accurate and appropriate information. The best resource for students, faculty, and staff to contact Accessibility Services is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who prefer a personal contact should email Dean Viveiros directly at email@example.com, and are welcome to schedule an in-person meeting to discuss questions or individual accommodation needs.