Colorado State’s Occupational Therapy Department Receives $745,000 to Improve Instruction for Students with Disabilities

Colorado State University’s Department of Occupational Therapy has received a three-year, $745,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. The grant will provide technical assistance and professional development for university faculty, assisting them as they teach courses in ways that are accessible to a diverse student body, including international students, students with atypical learning needs and students who have disabilities.   

The project, ACCESS to Postsecondary Education through Universal Design for Learning, will provide university educators with the skills, information and technical assistance they need to provide their course content in a manner that is usable by all students, regardless of learning style, predominant language or learning challenges. The grant will develop a training program and universal design guidelines for Colorado State University, Front Range Community College, Colorado State University-Pueblo and cooperative extension field offices.

"Results from this project will provide tools, resources and a more knowledgeable faculty and staff to offer courses in a universally accessible manner that is conducive to learning for all students," said Cathy Schelly, director of the Center for Community Partnerships in Colorado State’s Department of Occupational Therapy and project director.  "We will be ensuring that everyone who comes to this institution to learn will have a fair and accessible opportunity to do so. This is good news for all college students."

As the ACCESS project is implemented, information, training and professional development opportunities will be provided to faculty on how to develop and deliver educational information so that all students are able to easily access the materials in multiple formats, including accessible Web content and digital format for texts, assignments and course information. Web modules that provide the basics of universal design for learning will be made available to all instructors. The concepts of universal design for learning – the design of educational materials to be accessible and usable by all students regardless of learning style or learning needs – and the delivery of those materials in a variety of formats will become a focus across campus.

In addition, materials and guidelines will be developed for students on study skills, organizational strategies, time management and resources and supports available on campus that promote success in college. Through this project, by anticipating the needs of students with all types of learning needs, Colorado State will ensure that all college students have access to educational information, increasing the likelihood of their success in college.  

Working on the ACCESS project along with Schelly are Marla Roll, director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center in the Department of Occupational Therapy; Pat Burns, associate vice president for Information and Instructional Technology; and Craig Spooner, Cath Kilcommons, Julia Kothe and Patti Davies.