Developing Inclusive Programs
This section outlines some main steps for creating inclusive postsecondary education (PSE) programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For programs already in existence, this section also provides ideas for how to become more "inclusive" in order to be eligible for federal funding. Additionally, this section highlights steps for developing inclusive programs through vignettes written by people involved in Illinois.
Be a Champion
Individuals who coordinate inclusive programs report that their program started because of the vision and dedication of a "champion". Sometimes, champions are students with disabilities that have a dream of going to college with their friends from high school. Other programs develop when champions rise up to address the needs of students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) who have already been present on campuses for decades. Other times, complaints about the "segregation" of students with disabilities gives way to champions for inclusion who are reacting to community dissatisfaction in the regular course of their jobs.
Whatever the stories of the champions involved, the point is to become a champion or identify someone who already is and offer them your support. This is often the first step in creating inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities, and is an intuitive place to start when considering the creation of more inclusive postsecondary education opportunities for students with I/DD in Illinois.
Being a Champion: A Personal Story By Nancy Cheeseman, former coordinator of the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA) at Elmhurst College
"Reconstruct the world by reconstructing your mind." Unknown
"The above quote relates to an idea I had seven years ago. Then again it was many more years than that. My son Casey, now 29 years old, did reconstruct the world in his own way. He was the first student to be included into his neighborhood school in 2nd grade, after spending the first years in a segregated system. He is the one who announced to me, one day as the big yellow bus pulled up to our street. "Where go bus?" I replied to a school called Briargate. His reply, "when I am eight I go Briargate". As I watched the neighborhood kids board their yellow bus, and then my son board his small, short bus to go to a school an hour and a half away-his comment rang in my head. This began another adventure for me as well as my son and our family. INCLUSION! YES!"
"Fast forward to the year 2000, Casey's graduation from high school and yet another dream - College. For my son this would also present many challenges. Entrance criteria, ACT/SAT exams, essays, applications etc. all very overwhelming especially for a guy with intellectual/developmental disabilities. This was his next dream, to go away to college like his peers. So, where do we find a college which would accept him? We went to Florida and Wisconsin, I searched online in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, out West to California, Arizona - still no luck. This was proving to be very disappointing to my son and at times heartbreaking for me. Until we found a school in Minnesota, not a college campus but a life college. We visited, he loved it, and he moved up there in 2001, and remains in Minnesota today, happy, with a job, friends and independent living."
"So how does this reflect on reconstruction? My thought was why did Illinois not have something to provide this same experience to our students? Finally, my thoughts turned to action. I challenged the appropriate people at Elmhurst College: what if Elmhurst had a program to serve this population of students? The idea became a proposal to present to the President and Board of Trustees, then back to the people who supported me, then back again for another presentation, and then more behind the scenes discussions. Finally, at Christmas time 2004 the concept of the Elmhurst Life Skills Academy (ELSA) became a reality. In fall of 2005, ELSA had become a reality for 12 young people, who were looking for exactly what my son had wanted: a college-like experience on a college campus."
"Fast, fast forward to 2011, I have left Elmhurst College and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (new name), with mixed emotions. I am proud of what began as a dream and the present reality of three graduating classes, wonderful, talented faculty and staff, excellent support from administration of all levels, and most of all MY WONDERFUL, DEDICATED AND ENERGETIC STUDENTS ---- ALL. You are the ones who reconstructed the thinking for those who had doubts of what could be for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities, the opportunity to attend college like their peers. You have changed higher education in Illinois. I leave this program and state knowing CASEY'S and his mother's DREAM became A REALITY. Continue to restructure your mind and the world."
"Inclusion" has become a buzz word in disability communities, and it has many definitions. By "inclusion" the national Think College center means maximizing contact between students with and without intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). From a federal funding standpoint, according to the
Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008
, "inclusion" in postsecondary education (PSE) requires students with I/DD to, "have at least one-half of their participation in the program...focus on academic components" alongside students without I/DD.
In developing inclusive programs, it is important that institutions consider definitions of inclusion such as the ones from the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) below:
Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act of 1984 (P.L.98-527)
"the acceptance and encouragement of the presence and participation of individuals with developmental disabilities, by individuals without disabilities, in social, educational, work, and community activities, that enables individuals with developmental disabilities to-