The location of the office, both organizationally and physically, sends a message about how disability access is prioritized and who is responsible for access. Disability resource professionals often post questions to discussion lists asking colleagues where their offices are located.
What is the current practice?
Disability offices are positioned in a variety of places in the organization of the college or university. Most common is within student services—sometimes within other offices such as counseling or academic support. Some offices are located in less than desirable and sometimes even inaccessible spaces.
What are the implicit messages?
- Only students are the recipients of services of the office.
- Disability services is a “program” provided to students with disabilities.
- Disability access is a low priority.
- Accommodations are a type of academic support or counseling.
How could this be different?
When the disability office is positioned in student services, it could stand alone. Other options for positioning the office are in academic affairs or the office of diversity and equity. Professionals advocate for a physical location that is visible, accessible, and provides adequate space for operating the office.
What is the potential impact of this change?
- The institution sends a clear message that it is committed to providing access and dedicated adequate resources to do so.
- Disabled students and the work of the disability resource office and are valued.
- The responsibility for access belongs to the institution as a whole, not only to the disability service office.
- Disability is seen as an aspect of diversity.
- The role of the office or the disability resource professional is clear and not confused with academic support or counseling services.