Disability Resource Center working to reframe disability

Provided by Dr. Anthony DeSantis and Beth Roland

This past year, the Disability Resource Center took proactive steps to reframe disability at the University of Florida. To begin this process, the staff revisited its mission statement to include utilizing knowledge and expertise in the fields of disability and higher education, creating an inclusive environment by:

  • Acting as a resource for students with physical, learning, sensory or psychological disabilities
  • Facilitating and providing support for reasonable accommodations for students in order to afford equal access to academic courses, programs and activities
  • Providing services to address the impact of disabilities on student performance and success in and out of the classroom
  • Empowering students to articulate their strengths and advocate for their accommodations
  • Creating opportunities to educate the campus community on disability laws, trends, universal design, programs and services

Secondly, the staff developed strategic partnerships with Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, the Comprehensive Support for STEM Students with Learning Disability Grant, Career Resource Center, College of Education, Distance and Continuing Education, UF instructional designers, SG Disability Cabinet, RecSports, Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, and GatorWell to provide workshops, programs, and services that focused on reframing disability. These efforts enable staff to engage students and staff in a social/interactional model, rather than a medical/deficit model, in order to value disability as part of the rich diversity at the University of Florida.

Thirdly, the Disability Resource Center provided over 95 outreach events and presentations this year that focused on universal design, creating accessible content, understanding your role in providing reasonable accommodations, and developing inclusive environments. These events and presentations enabled faculty, staff and students to better comprehend the social/interactional model of disability that focuses on creating accessible products and environments for all instead individual barriers.

These initiatives and changes lead to a record high 933 intakes and 2,328 students being registered this year. The Disability Resource Center would greatly appreciate the opportunity to partner with other departments to offer trainings or presentations related to universal design, disability as part of diversity or other disability-related topics. If your department is interested, please contact the Disability Resource Center by emailing accessuf@dso.ufl.edu or requesting a presentation online at https://www.dso.ufl.edu/drc/faculty/request-a-presentation.