Will Flowers has helped the Community College of Aurora become more accessible for students with disabilities for the past five years. Now Flowers will be an influence on disability services for institutions of higher education throughout Colorado with his new appointed role.
Flowers, who is the director of CCA’s Office of Disability and Equity, was appointed to Colorado’s Disability Services in Higher Education Advisory Committee in September of 2022. The committee is responsible for advising higher education leaders and policymakers on necessary services and practices that should be implemented to improve the educational experiences of students who have a disability.
The role of this committee is to get “institutions of higher education to start tracking and reporting on the number of students with disabilities” and have “a statewide advisory committee of experts looks at this data, and prepares reports to the state legislature of recommendations on the basis of this data,” said Flowers.
The appointment comes after years of work, much of it led by students. Initially, student activists got into contact with Carl Einhaus, Senior Director of Student Success with the Colorado Department of Higher Education. In 2018, Einhaus invited Flowers and John Meister, then the Director of Disability Services at the University of Colorado Boulder, to present how their respective offices provide services to students who have unique needs.
The presentation landed Flowers a seat with the state’s special interest group focusing on higher education disability services. The work of this group, along with those student activists, helped lead to the landmark legislation that created the Disability Services in Higher Education Advisory Committee.
For Flowers, students who identify with disabilities bring unique perspectives to CCA.
“CCA’s the most diverse institution in the state,” Flowers said. “Disability is an integral factor in the diversity we have. It’s an essential part of identity and an essential part of the diversity of our student’s experiences.”
While CCA continues to strive to provide excellent services to students of all needs, Flowers said there is much more the state can do to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education become more accessible for students who identify with having disabilities. Flowers is confident that disability services in higher education will continue to improve, and that CCA has built a solid foundation so far.
“Oftentimes, whenever I’m talking to my peers who work at other institutions and they say how do you all handle this problem at your institution, I tell them how I work with the faculty here at my institution and what we’ve done to problem solve an issue,” Flowers said. And they’ve said I wish I had your faculty and so I would say CCA is doing a really good job because our hearts and our minds are in the right place.”