New software is being implemented to overhaul the manual system previously in place for Disability Support Services.
“Accommodations vary based on the needs of the student,” said Linda Fiacco, the administrative assistant to the DSS office.
Activation of these services and the way professors are notified is changing. Most frequently, registered students opt to test in a quiet room or get help with their notes, Fiacco said.
Students with classroom accommodations for their disabilities, such as having a designated notetaker or audio formatted textbooks, will no longer hand-deliver letters of accommodation to their professors to notify them of their requirements.
A new campus-wide program called Accommodate is rolling out this semester. The digital platform allows students and faculty to log onto a dashboard through the MyCLU portal to see updates, reducing the need for emails or office hour visits for students with activated services.
In the new system, approved accommodations are listed and students can check off which ones they need for each course they are enrolled in. If a student needs to record his or her history class but not a math class, they may select to activate the accommodation only for the necessary course.
Wendy Jimenez, assistant director of academic services for DSS, explained that the new system has better privacy settings for students.
“If we have DSS students who are in a class but don’t need accommodation services for that course, they can choose not to activate [their services], which gives them more control over who has the information,” Jimenez said.
Encryption of the data in the Accommodate software also ensures that student disability information is less susceptible to data breaches than previous email methods.
“It’s more organized for me so I can see when my accommodations are approved,” said junior Talya Camras who utilizes Disability Support Services. “However, it feels a little more impersonal.”
Before the update, students had to meet with their professors to make them aware of their accommodations. Now, students are able to activate accommodations from their dashboard and aren’t required to make that face-to-face connection.
“I feel like it helps to go up to your professor or at least send an email,” Camras said. “That way they know you’re working with them.”
Professors can see which students have activated accommodations by logging into their Accommodate account and searching by course at any time, but are not notified when a new student enrolls with DSS. This is the main stumbling block causing hesitation among Cal Lutheran faculty, Jimenez explained.
Without an instant notification, it means professors will need to take more initiative to check their Accommodate dashboard.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve received any pushback, but professors are hesitant about that,” Jimenez said. “Professors want to help, but they are worried they’ll forget an accommodation if they don’t get a notification.”
Jimenez is hopeful any hesitation will be resolved as the transition takes place and new procedures are implemented. She also still strongly recommends students meet with their professors to ensure everyone is on the same page about accommodations.
“We’re starting in the middle of the school year, which can be a little rough… there are a lot of kinks, just like with any new system, and we’re trying to work out the bugs,” Jimenez said. “There is that extra step for professors to take, but there has always been and will always be responsibility on the student to communicate their needs.”
Additional features for Accommodate will be rolled out later on. There will be a page for note-takers to upload their documents, upload forms for doctors’ notes and a scheduling page for those with testing accommodations. Until then, students and faculty are challenged to figure out the new system changes together.