New Accessibility Support Center director seeks new ways to support disabled students
Formerly known as Disability Services, University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Accessibility Support Center is moving forward with a new name and a new director. J’Naudia Hunter-Phillips says she’s looking forward to working closely with faculty and staff to find better ways to help students with disabilities, and finding new and innovative ways to serve students especially during this time of pandemic.
“Some feel there’s a stigma associated with the term ‘disability,’ so in order to make it more equitable and to be more inviting to people who might need our services, we changed our name to Accessibility Support Center,” she said. “I’m hoping to establish the ASC in a way that will allow fluid conversations about how students learn and how they can improve academically from the standpoint of accessibility.”
She said that if there is an established way we teach across the board, there won’t be a need for accommodations. “We should be offering all students the exact same thing, and begin to transform our learning environment so that all students have equal access,” she said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to break old teaching habits, but I’d like to introduce faculty and staff to news ways of doing things in the classroom, where they’re still serving students with specific needs but we are still meeting the needs of faculty.”
Hunter-Phillips has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, attributing her interest in helping people with disabilities to her mother. “All my life, my mother has worked with persons with mental and physical health issues and concerns, and she is the reason why I am where I am in my career,” she said. “When I first graduated with that degree, I went to work for the Rehabilitation Services Administration in Washington, D.C. Their primary responsibility was to make sure people with disabilities went to work with support, and then stayed on their job for 60 days.”
But once the support was removed, she said, many of those people were no longer able to function in their jobs. “Because of that, I felt it was an unfair game, and I didn’t like that,” she said. “I wanted to help people with differing abilities for the long term. After that, I became a disabilities counselor at a community college in Virginia, and I have not turned back since.”
Hunter-Phillips has worked in similar capacities at Baylor University, Tarrant County College and San Jacinto College. She’s currently working toward her doctorate in higher education administration from Texas Southern University.
Learn more about UHCL’s Accessibility Support Center online.