2000 Conference Proceedings

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Online Disability Information System (ODIS)

Lynn Gitlow
Center for Community Inclusion, University of Maine
103 Corbett Hall
Orono, Maine 04469
Website: http://www.ume.maine.edu
Email: lynn.gitlow@umit.maine.edu

Stimulated by the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and by the ADA in 1990, many efforts have been made on the part of institutions of higher education to promote successful recruitment and retention of students with disabilities. As a result, students with disabilities are increasing their enrollments in post-secondary programs. Recent statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics reveal that there were 14.6 million (3%) students, who identified themselves to their institution as having a disability, enrolled in 2-year and 4-year postsecondary education institutions in fall 1996. More of these students with disabilities (54%) are enrolled in public 2 year programs than in private 2 year (1%), public 4year (32%) or private 4 year (13%) colleges (Lewis & Farris, 1999). A study at the Center for Community Inclusion at the University of Maine revealed that the opportunities for adolescents with disabilities to transition to four year post-secondary education are dismal despite the findings that 90% of a study sample of those who are graduating from high school in Maine at traditional ages wish to pursue higher education (DePoy & Martzial, 1997). No data are available on non-traditional age students. However, the experience of faculty at the University of Maine reveal that a disproportionately large number of non-traditional students who enter with disabilities do not graduate (Conversation with Gail Werrbach, Director, School of Social Work). Statistics also reveal that public 2 year colleges (47 %) have developed more outreach and recruitment materials to recruit students with disabilities than private 2 year colleges (6%), public 4year (39%) or private 4 year (10%)(Lewis & Farris, 1999) Most of these recruitment (91%) efforts are developed for high school counselors and state vocational agencies (Lewis & Farris, 1999) Again no statistics are available on the recruitment efforts directed at non-traditional aged students with disabilities suggesting that older persons with disabilities are not reached by recruitment, transition or preparation strategies.

One area for development referred to in the literature as necessary to increase the recruitment and retention of students with disabilities in to 4year higher education programs is relevant and early outreach (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997; Purcell, 1993) As identified by Gordon & Keiser (1998) and Purcell (1993), secondary school teachers, guidance counselors, parents, community members and students frequently do not know about the legislated mandates for the provision of equal opportunity in higher education, and about opportunities for adults of all ages in post-secondary education. Additionally, community attitudes and inaccessible information for adults of non-traditional college age may be causes for the limited numbers of adults with disabilities being informed about or entering four-year post-secondary education. Faculty and institutional preparedness to meet the diverse needs of students with disabilities is also an issue that has been addressed in the literature. Finally, as indicated by Wehmeyer et al (1998), student success is often influenced by a sense of belonging to the campus community and the ability of students to use resources on their own behalf, to become strong advocates for themselves, and to become resources and collaborators with others. The Opportunity to Completion (OTC) project which is being piloted at the University Of Maine is comprised of three major activities which are part of a theory based model designed to recruit and retain students with disabilities in four-year higher education programs. These activities include 1. Outreach 2. Institutional Empowerment and 3. Enhancing the Campus Climate for Diversity. This paper reports on the Online Disability Information System (ODIS) which is a central campus on-line computer service to assist information seekers in navigating the multiple on-line sites both state-wide and nationally, to provide local information and news about disability in higher education. ODIS also provides on-line support for students with disabilities on the University campus in addition to serving community members who can log on and have questions answered by project staff. There are several components of ODIS. One component is an Internet accessible database with links to over 400 sites that provide information about disability in higher education. The database_s searchable categories include, computers, faculty development, financial aid/scholarships, funding & grants, general disability information, individual colleges' services links, other resources, personal stories, postsecondary, research / statistics, specific disability information and transition Another component is an Intranet based discussion folder designed to provides support for students with disabilities on campus. The final component is an Intranet folder designed to provide faculty advisors with information regarding disability in higher education. These components of ODIS are one of the activities that the OTC project has developed to improve the recruitment and retention of students with disabilities in four-year higher education programs. The findings of an on line evaluation of ODIS will also be presented along with use statistics

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DePoy, E. & Martzial, E. (1997). Adolescents in Transition. Paper presented at the Annual Program Meeting, Council on Social Work Education, Chicago, IL.

Lipsky, D. & Gartner, A. (1997). Inclusion and School Reform: Transforming America's Classrooms. Paul H. Brookes Publishing: Baltimore.

Gordon, M. & Keiser, S. (Ed) (1998) Accommodations in Higher Education under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) A no-nonsense Guide for Clinicians, Educators, Administrators, and Lawyers. The Guilford Press: New York.

Lewis, L., & Farris, E. (1999). An Institutional Perspective on Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics: Washington, DC.

Purcell, N. (1003) A transition model for personal empowerment of learning disabled young adults exiting from high school to the workforce or a post-secondary education setting. ERIC Document ED#365016

Weymeyer, M, Agran, M. & Hughes, C. (1998). Teaching Self-Determination to Students with Disabilities: Basic Skills for Successful Transition. Paul H. Brookes Publishing: Baltimore.

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