In Fall 2020, the newly-formed Accessibility Committee was charged with developing a multi-year plan to begin to holistically address barriers to access encountered by individuals on the Vassar campus. The Committee ultimately adopted four Guiding Principles for this plan:
- Identify and address immediate & long-term accessibility needs of the Vassar community
- Recognize that all constituencies of the College reflect a neurodiverse spectrum of individuals
- Prioritize inclusivity and accessibility for the entire campus community
- Center principles of equity and social justice
Throughout the Spring 2021 semester, a meaningful feedback process gathered the needs and perceptions of the campus community on issues of disability, access, and inclusion. This feedback, combined with detailed conversations with specific departments and stakeholders, ultimately led to the following plan. A summary of recommendations follows.
Plans and Policies
- Conduct a deep audit of campus accessibility barriers to aid in prioritizing campus accessibility improvements
- Develop Accessible Building Guidelines which will apply to all new construction and major renovation projects moving forward
- Prioritize snow removal for building ramps, add new bike parking, and enforce existing bike policies to decrease blockage of accessible building entrances
Outreach, Education, and Digital Accessibility
- Integrate a suite of accessibility tools for Moodle and provide resources for faculty to make their online content more accessible for all learners
- Add new accessibility resources to the Vassar App and enhance accessibility of existing web resources
- Create voluntary accessibility training modules on a variety of relevant topics for staff, faculty, administrators, and students
Facility Improvements and Upkeep
- Retrofit the doors at the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences to use push-button paddle openers
- Add a gender-neutral locker room/changing facility at Walker/AFC
- Add reservable private rooms for students with teledoc, teletherapy, or related needs
- Add hearing loops to 2-3 classroom/lecture spaces
- Launch a formalized pilot program for an ongoing campus shuttle service
- Develop standardized signage and wayfinding guidelines for campus and upgrade signage in 2-3 buildings to reflect the new guidelines
All the above recommendations have a two-year timeline for implementation. Beginning in the fall of 2023, the development process for the 2025-2027 Accessibility Plan will begin.
A Note on Terminology
The terminology used by the Accessibility Committee in drafting this plan is informed by both current best practices as noted below as well as the lived experience of the diverse composition of the Committee itself.
Survey questions and terminology related to disability status were primarily informed by the practices of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics, a United Nations Statistical Commission City Group charged with creating “common definitions, concepts, standards and methodologies in statistics about persons with disability.”
Survey questions and terminology related to other demographic data were informed by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Research Practices Tip Sheet for Inclusive Demographic Data Collection.
The Vassar Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity were also deeply involved in the development of the terminology contained within this document to ensure the finished product is as inclusive as possible.
As the terms and best practices used to describe disability types, gender identity, race, and other demographic characteristics continue to evolve, we will make every effort to adjust our language accordingly.