Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 61

Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
through the RD role. The resident directors worked with students in ways that led to
both a broader understanding of what constitutes disability and specific appreciation for
the unique ways that disability may appear or be experienced by individual students.
Addressing Disability Reactively
While the RDs expressed a desire to be more proactive in their support of students
with disabilities, they overwhelmingly described their disability-related work as reactive;
most of their work with students with disabilities involved responding to student
concerns and referring students to their disability services (DS) office. Many expressed
a desire for increased collaboration with this office, simultaneously indicating that opportunities
for collaboration would need to be set by departmental leadership since
RDs were limited in their abilities to create such opportunities themselves.
In contrast to a reactive approach to accommodations, the RDs discussed more
proactive ways of thinking about disability when they considered it through the lens of
inclusion. They spoke about inclusion particularly in terms of the supervisory support
they provided to RAs regarding community programming. Kevin elaborated on how
he calls upon his RAs to be mindful in their program planning.
For my traditional hall we do a Halloween themed carnival game type thing. But none
of the carnival games are very easily accessible. So this year we made sure we had things
like coloring and cookie decorating and other things that people could sit down and
engage with that weren't so physical.
Other RDs shared similar examples of working with RAs to make sure that movie
nights included captions, that guest speakers used microphones, and that events were
held in accessible buildings. These types of proactive measures reflected a focus on
inclusion, but many participants described their responses to individual student needs
as often still reactive and considered through an accommodations-focused lens.
The limited resources and agency that the directors described help contextualize
certain aspects of what appeared to be their reactive approaches to their work related
to disability. They expressed desires to function proactively in what they provided students
but were unable to do so when the things they were providing, such as a single
room or one with a roll-in shower, were in short supply. Isa articulated this frustration.
While we're within ADA compliance-I would never say we're not ADA compliant-there's
a difference between being compliant and being affirming. Does that make sense? And
I kind of wish we could get to this place where we're not just in compliance, but where
we're going above and beyond, and our buildings are all incredibly accessible. But, I'm
not on our operations planning committees.
The resident directors worked with students in ways that led to both
a broader understanding of what constitutes disability
and specific appreciation for the unique ways that disability
may appear or be experienced by individual students.
58 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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