The college announced in a statement on Feb. 7 that Director of Accessibility Services Jodi Foley will become the first director of accessibility strategy and resources beginning Feb. 24. The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) will begin searching for a permanent replacement in the near future for Foley’s current role, which will be left temporarily vacant.
Last year, the college conducted two accessibility reviews in partnership with outside consultant groups, which produced a series of recommendations on how to improve accessibility on campus, including the establishment of a new role with “high-level oversight with respect to all disability-related matters campus-wide.” Following the review, a search committee was formed, which eventually chose Foley for the position.
According to the statement on the college’s website, there are a number of key differences between the director of accessibility services role and the director of accessibility strategy and resources role. Whereas the accessibility services position focuses more on direct interaction with students’ accommodation requests, the accessibility strategy and resources position will involve “day-to-day advising” on accessibility issues that arise in the college’s general operations, “project management” in helping initiatives to make the college more accessible and “promoting disability awareness … and a culture of accessibility.” The accessibility strategy and resources position is housed in the Office of General Counsel, while the accessibility services role falls under the jurisdiction of the OSA.
Foley expressed enthusiasm with the change and noted that she was looking forward to learning from her new role. “Initially, my most important goal is to listen and gather information,” said Foley. “I want to have conversations with constituents from across the college to understand how accessibility currently influences or impacts their work and how it may be enhanced.”
In the meantime, Chief Student Affairs Officer Karu Kozuma and Foley have developed a transition plan to minimize impact on accessibility services while the OSA searches for a new director of accessibility services. The Association of Amherst Students is currently recruiting for two students to assist in the search.
“Precious Parham, our accessibility services specialist, will continue to work with students regarding their needs while Matthew Smith, our testing coordinator, will continue to work with students regarding exams and tests,” Kozuma wrote in an email interview. “I will be working with both of them more directly until a new director is hired; we will engage in a search this semester in hopes of having someone in place in the summer.”
Foley doesn’t plan on fully leaving her duties in accessibility services behind, however. In her new role, she will “continue the work I started within accessibility services by bringing my knowledge and passion to a broader, college-wide level,” Foley said. “The relationships I’ve made with the students who are registered with accessibility services are incredibly important to me, as is student input in general. I will absolutely find ways to integrate student voices, ideas and concerns into my work going forward.”
“I am inspired by the commitment of people across campus to prioritize accessibility and build upon the great work that so many students, faculty and staff have already started,” she added. “I’m excited that this role will give me the opportunity to hear what people have to say and help them think about how to achieve those goals and execute plans on a level that is much broader than in my current role.”