Disability Services renamed Accessibility Resource Center
The Accessibility Resource Center is charged with the mission of ensuring all programs, services, and activities at Minneapolis Community and Technical College are accessible.
We do this important work by:
- Recognizing that disabilities are socially and culturally constructed and that individuals with disabilities are a vital element to our diverse campus community.
- Striving to empower students to be as independent as possible by facilitating an interactive process of creating a universally accessible campus.
- Believing equal access is the shared responsibility of everyone: faculty, staff, and students alike.
Why did we change our name?
During the 2015-2016 academic year, the Disability Services office experienced significant staff turnover, including new leadership. This created a unique opportunity for the department to really look at its core mission, vision, values, and how we collectively achieve departmental goals with fresh eyes. As part of this process, we engaged with the campus community in a variety of ways.
From Marginalization to Inclusion
The primary focus of the Disability Services (DS) office was to identify and remove barriers for students with disabilities while ensuring equal access. Additionally, the office was a resource for all students, faculty, and staff in that it offered everyone access-related information and resources. Our new director dedicated significant time in professional development towards addressing the intersection of disabilities and culture, and it came to their attention that the current name of the office is, itself, a barrier to the office mission. Therefore, from July through December 2015 the entire DS team utilized multiple avenues to solicit suggestions and input from the campus community on our current office name. We talked one on one with anyone willing to listen, held six listening sessions open to the public, talked with special education teachers and their classes within Minneapolis Public Schools, and invited the campus to submit suggestions via two different online surveys or through the suggestion box at our front desk. These efforts resulted in a wide array of opinions and suggestions. With thoughtful consideration the DS team strongly felt that one particular suggestion encompassed our vision of the office and formally proposed that the name of the office be changed from Disability Services to the Accessibility Resource Center.
MCTC is one of the most culturally diverse colleges in the state. Many of the cultures that make up our student body do not recognize the word “disability” in the same way that White/Western culture defines it. Several cultures on our campus do not validate a disability that does not have physical implications or require medication prescribed by a doctor. In many cultures, people with an invisible disability (like a learning disability or mental illness) are viewed as less than human or a “substitute” human. Due to this negative social/cultural impact, students often refuse to be tested and labeled with a disability. It is important to acknowledge this cultural consideration because the vast majority of students registered with this office do have documented disabilities that are invisible.
The former name of this office, Disability Services, had an underlying implication that the services we provide to students with disabilities were a charity and marginalizing. This can be construed as a micro-aggression towards the students that work with this office. The former name sent many negative messages, such as: students with disabilities require a separate office focused on their needs in order to achieve success; they are a costly problem to the institution; they are unable to achieve without professional assistance, and that the student’s success is only because of the services they receive and not because of their own efforts.
The new name, Accessibility Resource Center, addresses and mitigates many of the problems named above. In addition, it creates a more positive and welcoming atmosphere around disability at MCTC. Since the primary purpose of this office is to ensure equal access, which is a social justice approach, it is only fitting that we demonstrate that philosophy outwardly by changing the office name to one that is more appropriate. Not only are the words Accessibility and Resource more positive, respectful, and relevant in today’s society; they clearly state the focus of the office and help to remove the stigma. The new name reflects empowerment and opportunity instead of charity and oppression. Finally, we believe the new name will also encourage faculty and staff to utilize the office more often as a resource for accessibility and disability-related information.
Visit the Accessibility Resource Center page for more details about the services the center offers.