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Episode 43

On-Campus Inclusivity: Can Students Be the New Enablers of Change?

Brief description of the episode

This podcast episode features Kathleen Sestak and Greg Hannah, Director of Disability Services at Villanova University. They discuss the role of technology in fostering inclusivity and supporting students with disabilities during the pandemic-induced shift to online learning. Greg shares Villanova’s initiatives for students with disabilities and the evolving landscape of student-driven assistive tech and urges collaboration between educators and students for equitable tech advancements.

Key Takeaways:

  • To strike this balance, it’s crucial to collaborate closely with various campus partners, such as residence life offices, dining services, and transportation, to ensure that accommodations meet the student’s needs without compromising other aspects of the university experience.
  • The university must also focus on supporting faculty and staff in the academic realm while considering how these accommodations might impact them.
  • Positive relationships and partnerships within the institution are vital to address tensions and ensure a supportive and comfortable environment for both students and faculty.
  • Institutions aim to uphold their values and traditions, which guide their approach to going beyond mere reasonableness in support of students.
  • Striking the balance is seen as a fine line, where decisions must be made to ensure reasonable accommodations while providing the best hospitable outcome for students.
  • The balance between equitable and reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities is achieved through collaboration, positive relationships, and a commitment to upholding institutional values, all while considering the impact on both students and faculty.
  • Accommodation strategies must be tailored to individual students with disabilities, recognizing that each student’s needs and abilities are unique.
  • Educational institutions must be adaptable and ready to pivot to provide effective accommodations. Past successful experiences may inform future strategies, but adjustments are often necessary.
  • When returning to in-person instruction, some students who thrived in the online environment faced challenges. It highlighted the need to continue supporting electronic connections for students.
  • The use of tech platforms to upload lectures, class recordings, and content enables students, including those with disabilities, to access materials and stay up to speed even when not physically present in the classroom.
  • The integration of technology not only accommodates students with disabilities but also improves the overall classroom environment. Students, teachers, and peers can connect more effectively, ultimately supporting the mission and goals of the class.
  • Building Career Opportunities: Places a strong emphasis on preparing students with disabilities for the workforce by providing them with exposure and experience through events, job shadowing, and internships.
  • Creating Inclusive Career Events: Partner with your career center to organize accessible and inclusive career events where students can network with employers. These events offer a more manageable setting for students and feature roundtable discussions with employers, focusing on career-related topics and workplace accommodations.
  • Addressing Employment Challenges: Greg acknowledged that securing employment post-graduation can be challenging for students with disabilities, and universities must actively explore entrepreneurial opportunities and connections to help students navigate the career space. This includes promoting the success stories of individuals like Eric LeGrand, who became a successful entrepreneur, as an inspiration for students who may be facing similar challenges in traditional employment. Villanova is not only addressing the challenges but also encouraging students to explore entrepreneurial paths.

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