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The University of Illinois Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) has entered a new era as it partners its Beckwith Residential Support Services program with University Housing. Our vision for this new partnership is to maintain what is best about Beckwith, and to expand and broaden the opportunities and experiences of Beckwith supported residents within a larger university context. In essence, we are looking for a balance between continuity and change, with the hope that both will provide a wonderful future for current and future University of Illinois students with severe physical disabilities.
Beckwith Hall was established at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a transitional residence hall for students that require assistance with their activities of daily living. It was assumed that residents would naturally learn the skills necessary to be more independent and responsible. However, it became obvious that acquiring the skills for independence does not spontaneously result from mere residence in Beckwith Hall. There was a clear need to provide educational resources for students to gain skills necessary to succeed in every facet of their lives. Thus, in addition to immediate residential support services, Beckwith supported resident benefit from a Transitional Disability Management Program (TDMP) that helps prepare them for the greatest possible independence upon graduation from the University of Illinois.
The mission of such a TDMP is to go beyond meeting the residential needs of students with disabilities while developing the skills they need to achieve maximal independence. Students receive an individualized program designed to assist them during a variety of post-secondary education transitional phases. First-year Beckwith supported residents meet with professional staff weekly to guide them through the multitude of transitional issues they face, from time management to how to work with non-family members for personal care. Other areas that residents focus on within their TDMP may include self-advocacy, moving into an apartment, internship or study abroad, accessing University resources, etc.
It is through the development of these skills that residents are able to embrace our motto “Making Important Choices...Leading Empowered Lives.”
The TDMP is a formal educational program designed to improve the disability management knowledge and skills of the residents supported by Beckwith. Good disability management results in students achieving their highest level of independence in every aspect of their lives. It involves them taking responsibility for themselves and acquiring the knowledge to find the resources they need and to make good life choices. Good disability management skills provide the student with confidence to successfully make the transition to the life they envision beyond college.
Enrollment: Students are encouraged to enroll in the TDMP, but they are not required to do so. Those students who do participate in the program and meet their determined goals will receive scholarship/award money at the end of each semester for the first two semesters of involvement. Those residents who actively participate in the TDMP are given priority for residency should there be a waiting list to receive Beckwith Residential Support Services the following academic year. If the resident does not actively participate in a given year, he/she is put on a waiting list and afforded residency on the first floor of Nugent Hall only after all new residents and returning residents involved in the TDMP have been assigned a room. For those not involved in the TDMP process there is no guarantee of a room assignment for the upcoming academic year.
During each semester of their residency, students will be given the opportunity to participate in the program. Students will work with the Disability Specialist, one-on-one, in small groups or through participation in focused workshops to determine the areas in which they would like to work on to increase their skills. The student and the Disability Specialist together will define the individual goals for each of the following target areas:
- Improved knowledge of disability laws and disability resources
- Improved skill in advocating for access and reasonable accommodation
- Improved physical and/or functional capacity
- Improved social integration
- Maximal independence in the performance of activity of daily living
- Acquisition of the knowledge, and skills necessary to allow the student to benefit maximally from the use of available assistive technology
- Acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary for independent personal assistant management
- Successful transition to internships and/or permanent employment upon graduation
- Accessible living
Initially students meet with the Disability Specialist to discuss their overall goals. This includes their hopes for their college career (i.e., what career path they are pursuing, how long they plan on being in college and at Beckwith) and for their lives after graduation. Participating students then determine the frequency of their meetings and attend as scheduled to accomplish desired goals. At the beginning of each semester, students reevaluate their goals and objectives and their individualized plan is modified as necessary. Frequency of meetings fluctuates with the individual student based on their desired goals, they might be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Students leave the meeting with an understanding of what needs to be accomplished prior to the next session. Students are not judged based on success or failure in their target areas, but on effort to work towards their goals. A rubric is utilized for the first year residents to assess if their effort warrants receiving the scholarship/award money as well as with returning students to ascertain compliance with TDMP for future housing assignments.
The student's emphasis is on the following goals and objectives. Students are permitted to add goals of their choosing.
- Student will improve their knowledge of disability laws and disability resources.
Laws affect the lives of every individual, and persons with disabilities are no exception. The objectives are to provide the student with a general understanding of the laws that exist to protect and serve persons with disabilities and that define their responsibilities. Gaining an understanding of these laws can only enhance their lives and provide them with the freedom to live as they please. People with disabilities must understand the constraints of each law and what it does and does not require universities, public agencies, businesses, and employers to do. Students learn what reasonable accommodations are in regards to the following laws, the ADA, Air Carrier Act, Section 504, and the Fair Housing Act.
In addition to comprehending the laws affecting disability, students must also know how best to identify disability resources that are available in their communities. Being able to identify these resources will help the student gain what they want when they need it.
- Student will improve their skill in advocating for access and reasonable accommodation.
Knowing what laws provide access to academic accommodations in post-secondary education, employment, housing, and public accommodations to persons with disabilities is the first step towards advocating for appropriate services and accommodations. The student also needs to understand the best strategies for generating willing compliance with the law on behalf of those serving them in all settings of their lives. Students will learn and implement best practices shown to lead efficiently to lawful and beneficial service and accommodations towards disability.
- Student will work to improve physical and/or functional capacity.
Physical exercise and recreation may seem unimportant and unattainable for persons with severe physical disabilities, but they are critically important for a healthy life in the long term. Beckwith supported residents need to learn and produce the health benefits that result from a wide range of activities from daily stretching, working out, or participation in some type of recreational sport. The goal of this target area is for Beckwith supported students to improve their physical and functional capacity while also realizing the social benefits of participation.
- Student will work to improve their social integration within the campus and community.
An often-expressed criticism of Beckwith has been its isolation from campus life and other students. While this may or may not be the feeling of the residents, it is often true that residents are not taking advantage of all that the University has to offer. This goal is designed to expand the extra-curricular opportunities for students with disabilities to ensure full social integration into the campus community. Involvement in extracurricular activities, where students meet people they don`t live with and try things they may never have thought possible, can only improve their functioning, potentially decrease the dependence on others, and increase their quality of life. Additionally, active participation can provide networking opportunities which can lead to potential internships or employment; as well as maintain a competitive edge with students without a disability competing for the same positions.
After discussion of personal interests and aptitudes with the Disability Specialist, the Beckwith supported resident will identify at least one extra-curricular activity or student organization with which to affiliate, and develop a plan for beginning and maintaining involvement.
- Student will gain maximal independence in the performance of their activities of daily living.
Too often students come to Beckwith Residential Support Services without personal experience managing the plethora of resources designed to provide increased independence in the activities of daily living (ADL). Understanding, assessing, selecting, and using appropriate assistive devices and products that are currently available may enable Beckwith supported students to perform some of their activities independent of a personal assistant (PA). Students must also learn to manage the process of integrating their fixed schedules with those of their PAs, Beckwith staff, and many others in the university community. Efficiency and timeliness in this area is critical to success as a university student. Beckwith supported students must learn how to manage their schedules. Students will benefit from successfully acquiring the skills needed for independent performance of ADL and thereby reducing their needs for personal assistance.
Beckwith students in conjunction with the Disability Specialist/Associate Director will survey devices and processes designed to reduce the time devoted to ADL and to acquire time management skills required for success in their academic pursuits.
- Student will acquire the knowledge, and skills necessary to allow them to benefit maximally from the use of available assistive technology.
Assistive technology for people with disabilities is increasing so fast that it is hard to keep up with all that is available. Student`s potential in careers and their academic and personal life may be greatly enhanced by selected assistive devices, as they become available. Such assistive technology is often under-utilized because of the lack of knowledge of the products and of the resources to find these products. The goal will be for the students to learn how to identify assistive technology products and to assess the benefits such technology may have on their lives.
- Student will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to manage their personal assistants (PAs) independently.
Having good skills to manage PAs is imperative to leading an independent life. When there are problems with PAs, all other areas of their lives will suffer. Learning how to successfully manage their PAs will be an ongoing objective. Students will learn recruitment, interviewing, training, hiring and disciplining skills, conflict resolution, and day-to-day management of PAs. They will learn how to communicate their needs rather than expecting that others will know what, when and how they want assistance delivered. They will learn the problem-solving skills needed to compensate for failures in their arrangements. Further, they will learn to differentiate between the intimate relationship with their friends or significant others and the intimate aspects of the tasks that their employees are performing for them.
- Student will work to make a successful transition to internships and/or permanent employment upon graduation.
Despite having the educational background to succeed in full time employment, many students do not possess the skills needed to search successfully for employment after graduation. Students, in concert with the Disability Specialist, DRES Resource Facilitator (RF), and the Career Development Center, will refine their career goals, learn resume preparation, job searching skills, application procedures, interview skills, and how to advocate for needed accommodations. Students will be strongly encouraged to develop and implement an internship experience as part of their academic program.
- Student will learn how to research housing options to locate accessible options to fulfill post-graduation needs.
Additionally, students need to learn how to identify housing options as they are cognizant of the laws of what should be available. Gaining the understanding of what to look for to meet each individuals needs, minimally, adequately or optimally; ascertaining if it is affordable and the other logistics of hiring independently will be determined. Finally, how to read a lease and items to look for which may be biased. Discussion of reasonable wear and tear and how to advocate for those things.