Doing more with less: how Disability Services can succeed with minimal resources

Many Disability Services departments are battling to serve their students within the confines of limited resources. To find out how to overcome this, we spoke to Jeremy Martin and Megan Simmons at the University of North Alabama to explore how they work with a tight budget.

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 14 Feb 2024
Author Jacob Goodwin
Doing more with less: how Disability Services can succeed with minimal resources


Many Disability Services departments are battling with the dilemma of how to best serve their student populations within the confines of limited resources and tight budgets.

To spark some ideas around how Disability Services departments can do more with less, we hosted a session with Jeremy Martin M. Ed., Director of Disability Support Services, and Megan Simmons LMSW, Assistant Director of Disability Support Services, at the University of North Alabama.

With over 30 years of combined experience in the industry, Jeremy and Megan delivered an insightful session covering everything from building partnerships across campus to utilizing resources to benefit your budget.

Here’s what they had to say…

Engaging your students

The Disability Service department at the University of North Alabama has to be strategic in their approach to serving the 500 plus students registered with their office.

This has allowed them to positively and directly engage with students on a one to one basis, alongside broader focus groups, to ascertain exactly what it is their student body requires support with. 

Recently this has encompassed advocating for accommodations in an internship or the workplace, resulting in the creation of an advocacy workshop on this exact topic.

It is only through engaging with the students themselves, that the department can create the most relevant resources, thereby increasing attendance at the events they are able to run.

Understanding campus culture

As well as understanding the students, Jeremy and Megan also emphasised the importance of understanding your campus culture.

Things such as - what does your campus prioritize, who are the campus champions and what are the buzzwords that people engage with.

Whilst appreciating these will shift over time, tapping into the campus trends can help you position your department to better take advantage of support when and where it is available.

Equally, there will be some offices that have historically given you a difficult time. Being mindful of that, and securing champions within those spaces helps to mitigate pushback from certain professors or majors that would otherwise prove an impediment to the accommodations you’re looking to provide.

This also has a knock on effect on securing both funding and buy-in.

By leveraging the budgets of rising offices over those that may be trending downward, alongside identifying trends at local, state and regional levels, can allow departments to alter the offered services accordingly.

Likewise, by asking “who, how, when, why” you can begin to build out a wider network of invested parties, ranging beyond students into the upper administration. In the case of the University of North Alabama, they have achieved this by doing a lot of educational events, getting into the classroom, organizing freshman orientation preview days as well as departmental fairs so that they're very visible on campus.

As a result, Jeremy and Megan have built solid relationships with faculty members across campus by educating them on the importance of their support.

Supporting the transition to higher education

Extending the reach of the office beyond the institution itself has also helped Jeremy and Megan to best utilize the resources at their disposal.

A great deal of work has been done to reach out to the wider education community, allowing them to streamline their process for accommodations by letting students who are in transition programs look at their accommodation options between high school and college.

This has involved a number of site visits to local high schools, including supporting mock interviews, as well as interacting with the “Jobs For Alabama Graduates” program, allowing the department to understand how they can advocate for students moving into both college and the workplace.

Directly speaking to parents also helps make their department more efficient as they’re able to outline ahead of time the process of requesting and securing accommodations, allaying any concerns they may have around the transition.

At the University of North Alabama specifically, they have also created a self advocacy cheat sheet to help new students get the support they need across the campus, knowing they have the Disability Services department at their back if needed.

Building successful partnerships

Last of all, and as alluded to beforehand, successful partnerships are foundational for doing more with less as a Disability Services department.

They can allow tight budgets to be overcome by tapping into the funding of departments such as Athletics, Mitchell West Center for Social Inclusion Academic Affairs or TRIO.

For Jeremy and Megan, two of their students account for 60% of their budget. Therefore, financial support is vital for the wider disabled community at the institution, and their investment in solid relationships helps them overcome these challenges.

This can be done with any and all offices, both within and without the campus, to stretch the available resources as far as possible. At the University of North Alabama, the local community and financial services department has been especially helpful when it comes to supporting their on campus pantry and food vouchers, for those students who would otherwise struggle to eat.

And whilst this could be seen as going above and beyond, there is a trade off between offices to ensure that when students require support in particular areas, Jeremy and Megan are then on hand to make that happen.


Evidently, Jeremy and Megan are a fantastic example of how you can do more with less and succeed as a Disability Services department with minimal resources.

To find out more about how you can make the most of your budget, Glean have created a downloadable guide on building a business case for accommodations. To access your free copy, click the link below.

Download our guide
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