State Press Play: How the Disability Resource Center used student feedback to change its name

The office will now be called Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services to increase inclusivity on campus

ASU's Disability Resource Center recently changed its name to Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services. The name was changed to align with the center’s role on campus and to make students feel more comfortable seeking its services. The change was initially sparked by feedback from students. According to a student worker for the center, Emily Bowe, the “disability” label was stigmatizing.

“It can be a little bit intimidating for students to come and ask for accommodations and that it can be stigmatizing to feel like they have a disability and they have to go to the disability center … I feel like changing the name to Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services has a lot of potential to make more students feel more welcome,” Bowe said.

Podcast reporter, Madison Young, spoke with the Director of SAILS, Chad Price, to uncover the motivation behind renaming the center. Price said that the name change is a step in the right direction for the University and is an important change to increase inclusivity on campus.

“I am definitely seeing what I would call a culture shift in the way that people are thinking about disability and the importance of being inclusive,” Price said.


Madison Young:

ASU’s Disability Resource Center or DRC, works to ensure accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities on all four campuses. With this mission in mind, the DRC recently changed their name to the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services or SAILS in order to welcome more students to receive necessary and helpful services.

The name change came after the DRC received feedback from some students who were wanting their experience at ASU to be no different than any other student on campus. Some felt that the word disability categorized them to be seen and treated differently, and they wanted a change. 

The DRC responded to student feedback by changing their name to appropriately align with the center’s values and to make students feel more comfortable.

I spoke with the president of SAILS, Chad Price, who talked about the student feedback the center received, and the motivation behind the recent name change.

Chad Price:

The feedback we got from students was like, “Well I didn’t want to be identified as someone with a disability. I just wanted to blend in. I just wanted to be a student.” And so as a part of that, was a big reason we wanted to consider looking at a different name that could focus on more of the things that we did.

Madison Young:

I also spoke with ASU Sophomore, Conor Mcgill who is registered with SAILS about his response to the name change. Mcgill was not initially aware that the DRC name change was underway, but was pleasantly surprised when he saw the new title.

Conor Mcgill:

Actually I went to the ASU DRC website one day and I was just going to check to see if I got any notifications from the people at the DRC. I saw that they did change the name and it’s a good thing for everyone that is a part of DRC at ASU.

Madison Young:

McGill agreed with the reasoning behind the DRC name change and spoke about his perspective with labeling.

Conor Mcgill:

I have an auditory processing problem. When someone labels you as a person with a disability like sometimes it can really like hurt. So for them to take out the word "disability" in this and maybe put in some word such as inclusive, it really means a lot because you take out the hurtfulness. 

Madison Young:

Price said that adding the word inclusivity to the new name helped explain the center’s mission and was a more accurate representation of what SAILS is all about.

Chad Price

That inclusive aspect of the name was intended to be just that, as to say everything that we do is to help increase the inclusivity of students with disabilities that may have barriers or limitations that would prevent them to fully be engaged and involved in a class.

Madison Young:

Emily Bowe, a student worker for SAILS spoke about how the center’s name, prior to the change, could discourage some students from seeking their services. 

Emily Bowe:

I know that it can be a little bit intimidating for students to come and ask for accommodations and that it can be stigmatizing to feel like they have a disability and they need to go to the Disability Resource Center. So I feel like changing the name to Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services has a lot of potential to have a lot of students feel more welcome.  

Madison Young:

According to Price, the name change had been something that the DRC considered for a while.

Chad Price:

Probably one of the biggest reasons for that as we have seen an increase in the number of students who have a diagnosed disability that is a hidden disability. And so in many cases, not just for them, but a lot of individuals who have some type of a diagnosis they have felt like the term "disability" is not necessarily something that they would find some type of affinity for or that they don’t necessarily identify as someone with a disability. 

Madison Young:

When thinking about disabilities, many think of people who are in wheelchairs or use a cane but often overlook mental health conditions or learning disabilities, which are sometimes known as hidden disabilities.

Regardless of who a student is, if they identify as a member of the disability community or don’t, SAILS staff hope that this new name makes students feel more comfortable to reach out for their services.

I spoke with the Manager of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at ASU, Lori Johnson, who talked about her experience with students in the past and how she sees the new name as a positive change for the DRC and ASU students alike.

Lori Johnson:

I always feel badly when I hear someone has waited until the professor noticed they didn’t do well and then they contact us. We don’t want to have any barriers to reaching out and getting that support and I think this new name change is a big step in removing that barrier.

Madison Young:

Johnson is not alone by thinking of this name change as a step in the right direction for ASU. Mcgill touched on his experience as a student with a disability and how he thinks the name change is a positive step forward. 

Conor Mcgill:

A big thing nowadays is being labeled, and it was an important thing and it was a big step. For myself, I don’t like talking about my disability because it's, unfortunately I am like working on, I don’t know, like being like proud of it. But also I feel like that if people like know that I have a disability that they’ll treat me differently.

Madison Young:

Considering students like McGill and others who may feel uncomfortable talking about their disability, Price said that the new name was targeted towards those students to help make the center and its services more inviting.

Chad Price:

We felt like that kind of a name would be more welcoming, create an opportunity for students to feel comfortable in coming to engage with our office to find out what kind of accommodations and services that we might be able to help ensure that they have the access that they need.

Madison Young:

Johnson also agreed that the new name is increasingly inclusive for students

Lori Johnson:

It opens up the door to people who didn’t want to be labeled disabled, who feel like, "Yeah I need some support but I don’t want people to see me as a disabled person."

Madison Young:

For many, removing the word "disability" from the DRC and changing the name all together was a positive change for the center and the students it works with. Price mentioned however that for those who do identify as having a disability, SAILS still uses the term when talking about the services that they provide.

Chad Price:

When we talk about the services we provide, we still utilize that same language. We also want to be mindful, and have wanted to be mindful, of those students who may feel like there may be a stigma that comes along with registering with our office.

Madison Young:

Overall, the new title of the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services was created to best serve the students who are registered with the center. 

Both Price and Johnson have been employed at ASU for over 20 years, and over time Price has noticed a shift in the way disabilities are perceived and treated and spoke about how this shift has increased in recent years.

Chad Price:

I’ve seen a lot of them work really hard to ask the questions about like, "What can I do? What can I do differently? Where, where are the barriers? How do we remove those barriers?" And so the conversations continue to be increased.

Madison Young:

Johnson also touched on her excitement about the center’s new name and how it has impacted her in her career.

Lori Johnson:

You know my 25 years, it’s like one of those moments, like yes! Makes me very happy and I’m going to be bragging on this name change, you can bet on it.

Madison Young:

Price urged students to continue learning about how to increase inclusivity and about the importance of accessibility, as both are vital for a healthy campus environment.

Chad Price:

We all can play a part, we can all do something. I would encourage people to educate themselves. Find ways to learn more about what accessibility means, how they can be more inclusive of all students; and specifically as we are talking about students who have a diagnosed disability, what they can do to reduce those barriers.

Madison Young:

As many stated, the newly named Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services will be a positive change for all students. This has been Madison Young reporting for The State Press.


Reach the reporter at mjyoung9@asu.edu or follow @madison_young on Twitter. 

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