Campus: Sonoma State University -- September 28, 2005

$1.1 Million Grant to SSU Will Tackle Barriers to Higher Ed for Students with Disabilities

How students with disabilities can have better access to higher education is the focus of a $1,005,155 grant awarded to Sonoma State University education professor Emiliano Ayala from the U.S. Department of Education.

Because of multiple barriers, students with disabilities are often kept from participating fully in higher education and frequently experience lowered expectations, inaccessible environments, and limiting course policies and practices, says Ayala.

"Where physical barriers once kept students with physical disabilities from accessing buildings, we want to eliminate barriers in the curriculum so everyone has access to the richest possible higher education learning experience," Ayala says about the grant's focus.

Specifically, the grant will provide faculty with opportunities to understand and implement the Universal Design for Learning, a model instructional approach for designing and adapting course materials, content, instruction and assessment to benefit all students.

Another aim of the grant includes expanding resources at the University, as well as developing multimedia demonstration projects, to address specific instructional issues though the use of current and emerging technologies.

Over the next three years, Sonoma State University will serve as the primary institution carrying out the grant activities. During the first year, California State University Humboldt and CSU Chico will participate as partners. In the two subsequent years of the funded project, eight CSU campuses will become directly involved.

Ayala is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Sonoma State University. Currently, he serves as an instructor and faculty advisor for the Professional Level II Education Specialist Credential Program in Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe Disabilities.

Ayala also serves as a consultant for a variety of state and federal projects and agencies within the areas of early childhood special education and serving culturally and linguistically diverse children and families in special education. Recently, he has expanded his professional interests to include post- secondary students with disabilities.

Ayala is serving as principal investigator of the grant in collaboration with Brett Christie, Coordinator of Professional Development, and James Fouche, who will serve as Coordinator of Instructional Technology.

For further information, contact professor Emiliano C. Ayala, (707) 664-3490.

Further information about the federal office awarding the grant can be located at

Media contact: Jean Wasp, Media Relations Coordinator, (707) 664-2057

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