Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges: Purchase College
Symplicity asked Lauren Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Disability Resources at Purchase College, about the impact of COVID-19 on disability services and about the use of Symplicity Accommodate during this time. Purchase College first implemented Accommodate almost six years and found the disability services management transition from in-person to remote was made easy because of the system. Rodriguez shared her thoughts about how Accommodate has helped Purchase College overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19.
How has COVID-19 impacted how you and your staff manage disability services at your institution?
It’s interesting because I’m on some of the NY listservs and I’ve seen people in disability services discuss all the changes they’re making for this shift but none of our processes have changed since our campus closed. With Accommodate, we’re able to work from home and do our jobs the same way we would if our office was open. The system itself allows for us to continue delivering accommodations to students without interruption so our management of disability services really hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19.
How have you been communicating with students that need accommodations during this time and have you noticed any changes in communication with students?
We manage all communication with students using Accommodate so COVID-19 hasn’t affected how we communicate with students. The only change has been altering our communication regarding the end of the semester policies such as returning technology that students have borrowed. The nice thing about Accommodate is that I have all of these policy emails saved so I can reuse them every semester so all I have to do is change the language a little bit. Then I can send out mass emails, targeted to different students, about the policy changes and the whole communication process takes no time at all.
Has Accommodate been beneficial in making sure students aren’t facing additional barriers as they adjust to remote learning?
When our institution shifted from in-person to online, we were proactive in communicating with our students. We sent out an email to students letting them know things were changing and that, if they were experiencing any barriers with the online format, to submit a supplemental accommodation request. We also included instructions in this email on how to submit a supplemental accommodation request and we made sure there was a campus-wide announcement about this so even students who weren’t familiar with Accommodate or may not be in the Accommodate system knew what they needed to do to get help.
From a faculty member’s perspective, how has Accommodate ensured that students have access to the accommodations they need while they experience remote learning? How has using Accommodate been beneficial to your university’s transition from in-person to online?
We made a point to drive faculty members into Accommodate so they can have a full view of which students needed accommodations and instructions to deliver those accommodations remotely. Usually faculty members who run online classes receive their accommodation request emails from our office at the beginning of the semester, but this was different because it was the middle of the semester and all faculty members were shifting online at the same time. What we did was that we sent a campus-wide email to faculty telling them to log onto Accommodate, look at their class roster, and see which of their students needed accommodations. We also included instructions on how to administer the accommodations via Moodle which was helpful.
What’s important to consider when thinking about remotely managing disability services?
No matter what system you’re using, whether you’re remote or in-person, I think it really comes down to the student. You should consider the policies and procedures in place and make sure they’re not burdensome to the student. Think about why those processes are in place and is there a way to make them more streamlined? I always try to think about it from the student’s perspective so that I can modify the process to remove barriers. With so many different office policies and procedures across campus, I feel like they can be a lot to navigate for students, so I’m glad we have Accommodate because it’s a platform that lends itself to the student. With Accommodate, we can anticipate the needs of the student without altering our processes since our campus closed, and we aren’t at risk of confusing our students or letting those students fall through the cracks.
What makes Accommodate an ideal solutions for managing disability services during a pandemic?
I would say Accommodate is an ideal solution because I’m able to get a full view of what’s being managed within the system. From the staff perspective, I can remotely supervise my staff and see who is working with which student. It also helps us save time because we don’t need to email or call other staff members with updates on who is managing what since everyone is using the system and has access to the full view as well. When a new student signs up, they’re assigned to a staff member and then a workflow is triggered for processing the student. The whole process is streamlined which makes Accommodate extremely valuable—before, during, or after a pandemic.