University News

New Name, Vision for Disability Resources at WIU

December 10, 2010

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MACOMB, IL – Beginning January 2011, Disability Support Services (DSS) will become the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at Western Illinois University, according to Director Tara Miller.

"We are embracing a paradigm shift in disability services, and this new name better reflects our vision," Miller said.

Millar's participation in a grant-funded program reinforced the need for a change in how the University addressed access and inclusion of students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education grant program, Project ShIFT (Shaping Inclusion through Foundational Transformation), has a twofold goal: to transition from a medical model of service to a social justice model of service, and to affect a climate change on campus.

"The social justice model of service delivery is one that reinforces that the disability is neutral, and that accommodations are a retroactive solution. The emphasis for intervention is on Universal Design, the inclusive design of the physical setting and learning environment, as well as policies and procedures," Miller said.

"Because real and lasting change occurs through a combination of efforts, we are starting slowly, first by examining our own attitudes about disability and the campus environment, and looking at what kind of message we are sending," said Gretchen Steil Weiss, a learning specialist in the Disability Resource Center. "We changed our literature to reflect our new commitment, and then developed our new approach to the Fall 2010 Disability Awareness Day event. Displays and literature presented were intended to give insight into how people with disabilities conceptualize their circumstances and to change the way dominant groups have historically imagined the disability experience.

"We recognize that this is a process, and we can't expect everything to change at once; but we are working to ensure that we model the kind of progress we want to see all over campus," Steil Weiss added.

In addition to its new name and new vision, the Disability Resource Center will have a new location in Spring 2011. The center is scheduled to move from its present location in 117 Seal Hall to 143 Memorial Hall in mid- to late-January 2011.

The Disability Resource Center's website ( includes information for prospective and current students, as well as faculty, families and diagnosticians, scholarship information, forms and publications.

For more information, visit, phone (309) 298-2512 or e-mail

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Office of University Relations