Essential Standards for Institutional Self-Evaluation of The Americans with Disabilities Act

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to identify standards related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that are desirable for colleges conducting a self-study regarding program accessibility. A Delphi technique was used to determine standards and reach agreement among a panel of professionals concerning criteria to evaluate implementation of the ADA during a self-study or during an accreditation process. The panel's standards were compared to information from a focus group of university students with disabilities.

The panel of experts consisted of 30 professionals representing three areas: (a) agencies involved in the implementation and enforcement of the ADA, (b) postsecondary service providers recognized as leaders in their field by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), and (c) legal professionals specializing in the ADA. Students with various disabilities comprised a focus group to provide different voices of the stakeholders' perspective.

The panel generated standards from an open questionnaire in the first round of the Delphi. The results were compiled and organized into questionnaire form for phase II. The questionnaire was structured with a four point Likert-type scale allowing the panel to react positively or negatively to including each standard in the evaluation criteria. The scale consisted of: (4) critical, (3) valuable, (2) minimal, and (1) unnecessary. The panel was able to add or change standards in Phase II. In Phase III the standards were listed, and the mean from the ratings in Phase II were reported along with a reminder of the individual's rating in Phase II. The panel could change their ratings to agree with the mean, or they could provide their argument for keeping their original ranking if not matching the mean.

The mean was recalculated after Phase III, and data from this round was used to establish the acceptable standards. All standards receiving a total of two-thirds of the responding panel members' votes in the critical and valuable categories were included in the proposed evaluation model. This information was then compared to information collected in the student focus group.

The results of both the student focus group and the Delphi technique indicated a difference in perspectives of the stakeholders and experts. The research study revealed that the students were more concerned about services for high-schoolers prior to entering college. In contrast, the experts focused more on policy and administrative responsibilities. The Delphi panel and student focus group agreed on several issues important to program access. Both groups saw financial assistance, including support of assistive technology, as critical. They also agreed on the importance of training faculty, administrators and students about accommodations, as well as legal rights and responsibilities under the ADA. Students and panelists acknowledged a shared responsibility between the college and agencies such as the Department of Rehabilitative Services. However, the panelists did not agree with the students on the areas of outreach and collaboration. Although students valued strengthened transition services and training sessions in secondary schools, the Delphi panel did not mention these as areas for an ADA self-evaluation.

It was recommended that the accepted standards be shared with AHEAD, the National Association of ADA Coordinators (NAADAC) and the Council for the Advancement of Standards for Student Services/Development Programs (CAS). AHEAD and NAADAC can use the standards as guidelines for self-evaluation and as a resource for training. It was also recommended that CAS and other accreditation agencies use the developed standards to add more guidance regarding accessibility to the accreditation and self-study process.

disability, evaluation, postsecondary, ADA