Building our Future Through Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities

As the Training Director at the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University, Mark brings a fierce commitment to training leaders who look like the world they are preparing to lead. The UCEDD and LEND programs in Georgia benefit from an extremely diverse community from which they draw committed, talented trainees and fellows. Mark works to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are fully included in the tapestry of that diversity. Mark believes that we cannot build a movement that truly includes all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unless we work to prepare disability advocates and self-advocates to lead together with the support of all of our colleagues in the AUCD Network.

The past year has shown this in two ways. Mark, along with a group of faculty and trainees, has committed to work towards a universally designed LEND curriculum. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that provides a research-based set of principles that guide the development of learning environments that are accessible to all. “We began our LEND program’s journey with UDL believing that we would create better access for learners with disabilities. We have come to see that every learner has benefitted from accessing content in a way that is most congruent with their learning style.”

The process of implementing UDL has been highly collaborative. Georgia LEND has engaged faculty, trainees with and without disabilities, and consultants from CAST, a center whose mission is to promote the implementation of inclusive learning. The process has assisted the Georgia LEND in focusing on the learning goals and objectives of each part of the program to an even greater extent, determining how best to facilitate learning for all learners along the way.

During the summer of 2016, the Georgia LEND team set out to make the program more accessible to trainees in diverse regions of the state, and purchased two tele-presence robots. This year the program has welcomed trainees from locations in north and east Georgia that were previously difficult for the program to reach. Mark and the Georgia LEND team believe that the cohort model and the connections it allows trainees to build with one another are a critical part of the program’s success. Because of this, they were reluctant to expand to a purely online training model. By using tele-presence robots, the program can now engage trainees technologically and beyond the geographic boundaries previously reached by the program while preserving the critical relationships built within the cohort model. The prospect of the tele-presence robots also allows the Georgia LEND program to live out its commitment to training disability advocates who may face a variety of barriers preventing them from physically being in a classroom in Atlanta.

From its inception, the Georgia LEND has made the commitment to be a program that embraces the gifts, skills, and experiences of people with disabilities. The introduction of UDL and tele-presence technology have continued that commitment. Georgia LEND is working constantly to make leadership education even more accessible to trainees and fellows with and without disabilities so that those leaders can help to shape inclusive communities for children, adults, and families impacted by disability throughout Georgia. Mark and the Georgia LEND faculty are committed to listening and learning to continue to build a more diverse, inclusive world.

Mark Crenshaw, MTS

Training Director
Center for Leadership in Disability
Georgia State University