Accessible Education

Getting students the accommodations they need.

Accessible Education

Getting students the accommodations they need.

Accessible Education

Getting students the accommodations they need.

Making a difference within our community.

introduction

Over the course of 10 weeks, in my user-centered design class we were tasked to solve a problem within our community. We chose the Disability Resources for Students (DRS) as our subject of investigation due to growing concerns about students not receiving the necessary accommodations. Our goal was to understand the issue and propose practical solutions that could be integrated by the DRS to ensure that students receive the accommodations they need.

My Role

User Research

Visual Design

Prototyping

TeaM

Hanara Nam Matthew Pedraja Casey Kelly

Maia Song

Misty Chung (Me!)

Timeframe

10 Weeks

Tools

Figma

Problem

No responses, difficult process, unmet needs.

Many have faced issues with DRS, either experiencing a lack of response or difficulties in obtaining school accommodations. This led us to investigate further due to concerns about the adequacy of provided accommodations.

Secondary Research

How does the current system work?

New applicants provide disability/diagnosis information through online portal.

An access coordinator will reach out to schedule a meeting with student.

Notifications of approved accommodations are sent to students via the myDRS system, students must activate them.

Students must submit a DRS Faculty Notification Letter to each course instructor.

Takes 1-5 weeks to receive and implement accomodations.

Students may seek reevaluation if their request is not approved.

surveys

Gathering quantitative data.

Surveys were distributed to University of Washington students and faculty through various digital platforms, covering both personal and observed experiences.

Key Survey Questions

  • Have you applied for accommodations through DRS? (yes/ no)

  • Were you applying for a temporary or permanent accommodation? 

  • How long did it take for DRS to get back to you?

  • What was the length of time between completing the application and contact from the DRS office to schedule an Access Planning Meeting?

  • Were you able to set up a meeting time for the Access Planning Meeting? If so, how soon were you able to set it up after receiving the initial email?

  • How long did it take you to complete the application (form filling and document submission)?

  • Was your request for accommodation(s) approved?

  • If your accommodations were approved, how long did it take for them to be implemented? 

  • What accommodation(s) have you received through DRS, if any?

  • The myDRS platform is intuitive, easy to navigate, informative?

  • Any additional comments?

survey takaways

The majority of students are not receiving accommodations.

66% of students did not receive a response after applying for an accomodation.

This indicates that majority of students are not receiving the necessary accommodations, and confirms that there needs to be a change in the system to get students the accommodations they need.

71% of students who did receive a response had to wait between 1-2 months to get an appointment.

Even for students who did receive a response, they had to wait an extended time to receive accommodations. those with temporary conditions like injuries may still face delays in obtaining the necessary accommodations.

interviews

Gathering qualtatative data.

Interviews were conducted with DRS staff members, faculty, and current DRS students. The interview process involved qualitative questions, emphasizing open-ended responses.

Key Interview Questions

  • What was your experience with DRS (and the application process)?

  • Are there any challenges you faced with DRS?

  • What are some changes you would like to see with DRS, if any?

  • Did DRS respond to you in a timely manner? 

  • How did DRS contact you for the Access Planning Meeting (email, phone call, etc.)?

  • If you have received any accommodations, did they meet all of your needs? 

  • Are there any types of accommodations that are not currently available at the University of Washington that you would like to see?

interview takaways

Uncovering painpoints and flaws in the system.

"The application process is too hard to understand."

A common issue that we found was how unclear the wording was for the application process on the website for both students and professors.

"I always forget to activate and submit my accommodations."

Due to the multiple platforms, and complicated process, many students forget to renew their application, send letters to all their instructors each quarter.

"There are approximately 1,000 students per Access Coordinator."

The DRS office deals with staffing and underfunding issues, employing only 6-7 Access Coordinators. Budget constraints from the University of Washington contribute to underfunding in this non-profit sector, which explains the delayed response times.

Framing our design question

How might we redesign the current DRS system to ensure students get the resources they need, when they need them?

ideation

Brainstorming solutions.

The three main solutions our team came up with are:

Canvas Integration

Since many students use Canvas for their classes our plan was to integrate myDRS into the site for an easy way to submit and send accommodations to their professors.

Online Scheduling

Instead of having Access Coordinators reach out to schedule appointments, students can book appointments which will reduce time in the application process.

MyUW Reminders

Adding DRS reminders to MyUW will help students to remember to renew their applications and to send accommodations to their professors.

Some of our sketches during our ideation session.

low fidelity Prototype + Testing

We gave UW students our prototype to test.

We observed how users they navigated through the user flow, gathered feedback from design choices in user interface, and created iterations based off initial ideation and wireframes. The main feedback we recieved was to decrease repetition in button layout and information and to clarify DRS information.

iterations

Implementing the feedback we recieved.

Adding a Profile Section

Adding a Profile Section

Upon receiving feedback that the tab's purpose was unclear, we streamlined and improved it by adding a profile section, making it clearer as the user's personalized DRS profile. This change not only enhances clarity but also allows users to make application changes directly from the portal.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

Condensing Content

Condensing Content

Addressing feedback about overwhelming button options, we opted for a more user-friendly approach by switching to a selection list. Additionally, we streamlined the user experience by placing the most crucial actions at the top, minimizing unnecessary repetition.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

Showing Status for Each Class

Showing Status for Each Class

We also improved the user experience by displaying the status of each letter for a class without requiring users to individually open each dropdown. This enhancement provides a more efficient and user-friendly way to check the status for each class.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

I became part of the team during a pivotal phase in the design system's evolution, transitioning from Sketch to Figma. My role involved not only redesigning components to utilize Figma's full potential but also enhancing existing ones.

Our Proposed solution

The new application process.

In crafting our final solution, our focus was on showcasing tangible improvements to the system, aimed at ensuring students can easily access the accommodations they require. Opting for a low to mid-fidelity prototype, we prioritized conveying the essence of our ideas without delving into a high-fidelity version, as this would take up unnecessary time and resources. As we incorporate our addition into existing platforms, we acknowledge that a higher fidelity version may be necessary post-approval. The execution of this would be contingent upon the discretion of the designers and aligned with the design system of the existing work.

Online Scheduling

After completing their application, students will now be prompted to choose a date and time for their meeting with the access coordinator. This streamlined system will automatically update both parties' schedules, eliminating the need for students to wait for an access coordinator to reach out separately for scheduling. This improvement ensures a quicker response time, providing students with the access and assistance they need more efficiently.

Canvas Integration

Upon approval of their application, students can efficiently submit all DRS Faculty Notification Letters by accessing the dedicated DRS section in their Canvas account. This consolidated approach provides students with a centralized location for their information, enhancing accessibility, while simultaneously offering professors improved visibility on the letters by having them all within the Canvas platform.

MyUW Reminders

Finally, reminders for application submissions, renewals, and notification letters will be streamlined through the myUW platform, offering all students a checklist to manage and complete their educational requirements.

reflection

Turning our class project into something real.

Challenges

The project encountered several challenges, primarily due to a restrictive timeframe of 10 weeks. This constraint limited the depth of the investigation and required efficient prioritization. Additionally, the low response rate posed a significant challenge, hinting at a potential lack of general awareness about Disability Resource Services (DRS). This could be attributed to DRS students constituting a relatively small demographic within the broader UW community. Another notable challenge was the absence of direct insight into the DRS system, as none of the group members currently utilized DRS services.

Takaways

Navigating challenges, the team learned to initiate surveys and interviews early in the project for more timely and informed data collection. We also discovered that the design process is a dynamic and adaptable framework that should be fluid, adjusting based on specific project needs. In this instance, the focus wasn't on creating high-fidelity wireframes but on gaining a deeper understanding of the process and exploring innovative solutions for the identified challenges.

Looking Forward

Looking ahead our team plans to reach out to DRS workers to gain a better understanding of the system and its nuances. We would then like to implement improvements to the system by addressing the challenges identified during the project and enhancing the overall effectiveness of DRS at UW. We advocate for the implementation of the Canvas-DRS Integration, a solution we believe will significantly benefit students on campus. Our commitment is to work towards its implementation, ensuring that all students have the tools they need for effective academic performance.

Let's build something together.

Thanks for visiting :)

Let's build something together.

Thanks for visiting :)