Access All Areas: Creating a voice for underrepresented students

A Q&A with Heather Dibblee from Anoka-Ramsey Community College who wants to raise the voices of those who are not seen or heard and tackle stigmas around accommodations and disabilities.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 3 Apr 2024
Author Chileshe Jackson
Access All Areas: Creating a voice for underrepresented students

We recently caught up with Disability & Accessibility Specialist, Heather Dibblee from Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Heather has been working in access offices for over 3 years.

Working in accessibility is something Heather is passionate about, as she utilized accommodations throughout her educational career and understands the importance they play in a student’s academic goals.


The opportunity for an equitable education is life-changing. It is an incredible part of my career to watch students excel in their educational goals by having those barriers/challenges addressed by our access office.


Creating an environment for students to be seen and heard 

Like most of us, Heather faces both thrills and challenges in her job. A highlight for Heather is “making sure students feel heard and seen.”

This is especially important as college can be an extremely difficult time whether you’re a first-year student or returning to complete a degree.

A voice for underrepresented students

Within Heather’s role, she can act as an advocate for students. She has the opportunity to speak and share information about underrepresented students to ensure that all students have access to the equitable education they deserve.

This role provides the opportunity to break down stigmas and stereotypes for more universal learning. 


“I want to make sure there is room at the table for all who want to be a part of the change.” 


Providing the right level of support can be challenging

The most common challenge faced in accessibility is to continue the office's work while providing the necessary support for students and staff to feel empowered amid ongoing change. 

This involves making space for everyone who desires change and ensuring that as many voices as possible are heard, while still fulfilling the responsibilities of a larger campus. 


Diminish the stereotypes that accommodations are an advantage for students with disabilities


When it comes to improving accessibility, Heather believes making changes within the courses will enable students to learn in ways that best suit their learning styles. This can be done by introducing more Universal Design for Learning (UDL) within the courses. 

Accessibility is for everyone  

The goal is for accessibility to become second nature and not a daunting task that must be completed. It's important to dispel the notion that accessibility/accommodations provide an unfair advantage for students with disabilities when in reality, they serve to level the playing field. 

Accessibility benefits everyone, not just those who directly use the resources. For instance, curb cuts in sidewalks not only assist people with disabilities but also benefit the entire community by helping with tasks such as pushing shopping carts and strollers.

Is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) the transformation we're looking for?

There is a common theme that UDL is key to making a change within accessibility. We have heard from Missouri State University and Northwestern University about the importance of UDL. So, what is everyone doing about it and how does it come into play?

We would be interested to hear your thoughts. Get in touch if you have a story to share or if you agree.

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