Institutional Access through a Culture of Accessibility: The role of Disability Services Providers as Institutional Change Agents
There has been a fundamental shift within the field of Disability Services from a medical model of disability to a social constructivist model of dis/ability. The medical model of disability suggests that disability is an individual problem or deficit that is addressed through reactive accommodations. In contrast, from the social constructivist point of view, dis/ability is an institutional issue made manifest through the interactions of an individual mind or body and environmental barriers that hinder full access and participation within sociopolitical, historic, relational, economic, and cultural contexts (Goodley, 2017; Shallish, 2017; Waldschmidt, 2017). Given this paradigm shift, it stands to reason that Disability Service Providers (DSPs) must focus beyond individual level accommodations and direct their attentions toward proactive accessibility. In doing so, they may yield a shift in institutional culture to a culture of accessibility to better address full participation of Disabled Students. DSPs and other university partners, whom we refer to as “stakeholder-allies”, may serve as institutional change agents in this endeavor. This case study traces the relationships between and the activities of two DSPs and two stakeholder-allies at a small liberal arts college on the Western coast of the United States. We argue that the DSPs, in partnership with the two stakeholder-allies, leveraged their cultural capital as institutional change agents to establish culture of accessibility by: a) advancing proactive accessibility; b) thinking beyond physical structures; and c) shifting the narrative from compliance to humanity and care. Implications from this study inform DSP administrative efforts, including the creation of crucial campus partnerships, and areas of future research.
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