Disability Services hosts International Visitor Leadership Program guests

Photo taken by Jamie Bequette

UCCS Disability Services staff members hosted an international group of visitors from Kyrgyzstan in early Aug. to spread awareness about Disability Services in Higher Education and Universal Design Learning (UDL) concepts.

Ida Dilwood, Director of Disability Services & University Testing Center, and Leyna Bencomo, Assistive Technology Specialist, spent time showing the visitors accessible rooms on the UCCS campus and teaching them about disability in higher education.

The visit was coordinated by the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, a nonprofit educational organization that serves as a member of the World Affairs Councils of America and aims to increase education and engagement on world affairs, and their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Manager Jamie Bequette. IVLP helps form lasting relationships and build engagement between the U.S. and other countries by having foreign leaders visit and meet their American counterparts.

Participants in the IVLP usually visit four U.S. communities over three weeks and travel to both private and public organizations based on the project theme, along with taking part in cultural and social activities. The IVLP was established in 1940 and has had over 200,000 visitors since its initiation.

This project’s themes centered around disability awareness, with focus on private and public sector funding for quality-of-life programs, assistive technology and universal design practices, organizational influence on disability awareness and policy, and political empowerment through accessible voting. UCCS Disability Services was asked to provide an in-depth look into current trends in assistive technology, accessibility and universal design and inclusive education as well as discuss disability in Higher Education.

Dilwood ran an interactive workshop that took attendees through the process students complete in order to register with Disability Services and focused on the different student experiences, such as common problems they may face, and the best practices educators should follow when supporting students with disabilities and their accommodations.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity this program provided. Being able to share our knowledge around disability on an international level was an experience I will not forget. Our conversations and knowledge sharing around a topic everyone in attendance is passionate about was exciting,” Dilwood said.

Bencomo discussed Universal Design principles, explaining the flexible ways to present what we teach and learn, options for how we learn and express what we know in a course and then options for generating and sustaining motivation of students through elaboration on the why of learning. She ended her presentation with an interactive activity that demonstrated the limitations of teaching without Universal Design principles and the miscommunications that can arise, along with how those principles can easily be implemented into the classroom environment.

Dilwood and Bencomo also discussed the laws that govern non-discrimination practices for people with disabilities in America and answered questions the visitors had about how faculty supports students with disabilities on campus and real-life scenarios.

Disability Services

Disability Services is a Student Affairs office that supports students with disabilities, temporary injuries and students under Title IX for pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions. Students may not realize their health condition may be considered a disability. Qualified students with disabilities can request academic accommodations such as adjustments, auxiliary aids, or other services to ensure equal access to the educational opportunities. Areas where accommodations are provided include, but are not limited to, the academic environment, housing and residential life setting, student abroad programs, as well as through assistive technology. Accommodations are implemented in an effort to eliminate the impact of barriers caused by the student’s condition.

Universal Design for Inclusive Teaching

Universal design is a teaching approach that works to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners and eliminate unnecessary hurdles in the learning process. It involves creating a flexible classroom dynamic in which information is presented in multiple ways, students engage in learning in a variety of ways and students are provided options when demonstrating their learning. 

The Faculty Resource Center at UCCS currently offers a credential for faculty members who implement universal design strategies in their teaching through the Universal Design for Inclusive Teaching program. Participants in the program are paired with a Faculty Resource Center instructional designer to redesign a course for inclusive teaching. Faculty work through three modules: inclusive teaching essentials, designing courses with accessibility in mind, and inclusive teaching practices. Digital badges are awarded upon successful completion of requirements. Each badge involves a 24 to 36-hour time commitment. Learn more about Universal Design for Inclusive Teaching on the Faculty Resource Center website.