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A paperless office: Disabilities Resources

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

The Office of Disabilities Resources ensures access for all students with disabilities to academic programs and other Santa Clara University programs. The entire office is run by three women who have a passion for helping others, and a passion for sustainability. In January 2013, the Office of Disabilities Resources became completely paperless.

Jan McAlister and Ann Ravenscroft co-direct the Office of Disabilities Resources while Robin Cole contributes her skills and time as the Administrative Associate. The main purpose of Disabilities Resources is to make sure students with documented disabilities are accommodated “to level the playing field,” says Jan McAlister. They are able to address this goal through academic accommodations, support services, self-advocacy skill training, and disability-related educational programming for the University community. “About 450 students--undergraduate, graduate, and law school--are registered with our office,” she adds.

One accommodation for these students is the availability of class notes, taken by peers in their classes. It is no surprise that the Office of Disabilities Resources used a lot of paper. The note-taking aspect of their operations alone amounted to large quantities of paper. In January 2013, they decided to go paperless. Motivated primarily by the environmental impacts of their paper use, they also achieved greater efficiency. McAlister says that the paper they would have used can now be put to better use elsewhere. Additionally, without paper, they have found substantial time savings. There is no longer a need to file each note-takers’ notes, or every student’s registration. Everything students and faculty need from Disabilities Resources is accessible online, via the Accessible Information Management program, more commonly known as Disabilities Resources Online Services.

Disabilities Resources Online Services allows students to login in and register as a student with disabilities, or as a note-taker. Note-takers scan and upload their notes through their own account, and students registered with Disabilities Resources are able to download them.

McAlister attributes the initiative to go paperless to Robin Cole, the Administrative Associate. “She is the backbone of the whole idea,” McAlister says. Cole did the research on how to become paperless which included investigating vendors, providing training sessions and providing scenarios to help the users become more efficient. In additions, Robin completed tutorials for student use. Ultimately, the transition from paper to paperless was quite smooth, and now makes the operations of Disabilities Resources simple and efficient.

The decision to become paperless supports the University Strategic Plan. SCU’s “commitment to sustainability, including the promotion of environmental stewardship in our campus operations” is a priority of the plan, laid out by President Michael E. Engh. This reflects the vision of Santa Clara University, which emphasizes the cultivation of “knowledge and faith to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world.”

McAlister offers some advice to other departments and offices on campus looking to become more sustainable: “I would encourage departments to look into how to streamline a process and be sustainably acceptable.” As exemplified by Disabilities Resources, sustainability and efficiency often go hand-in-hand.

Contributed by Kelsey Baker ‘14, Sustainability Intern, Communications

Tags: Profiles, Waste



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