Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Light Rain Fog/Mist, 66 °F

McDavis signing

President Roderick J. McDavis signed the proclamation, accompanied by (from left to right) Cort Schneider, Jesse Neader, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and Daniel Knuckles.

Photographer: Sean Work

ADA proclamation

OHIO reaffirmed their commitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Photographer: Sean Work

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OHIO celebrates the Americans with Disabilities Act

On 20th anniversary, community honors university’s commitment to law with signing, discussion

On Wednesday evening Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis signed a proclamation of recommitment to the full implementation of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

The federal law was passed in 1990 to ensure and protect the civil rights of persons with disabilities.

"On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is fitting that we recognize the progress we have made over the last two decades, while acknowledging that we have much work left to do," said McDavis. "We take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the goals and requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act as part of our overall efforts to create and sustain a University community that is welcoming to all."

The signing was followed by a panel discussion introduced by Jesse Raney, director of the Office of Disability Services. Adrienne Isgrigg, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology who was diagnosed with a learning disability her freshman year of high school, moderated the panel. 

The group included students Daniel Knuckles, Allie Gottlieb, Jesse Neader and Cort Schneider. Faculty who sat on the panel were
Lynn Harter, associate professor in the School of Communication Studies; Carolyn Bailey Lewis, director of the WOUB Center for Public Media; and Steve Evans, professor of psychology.

Before the panel discussion, Raney emphasized that while accessibility to all at a historic campus like OHIO’s Athens campus is still a work in progress, much has been accomplished.

"There is yet work to be done, but in many ways you can see the manifestation of the ADA on campus," she said, "It is evidenced in buildings that are physically accessible to all by the existence of ramps, push button doors, elevators, etc. Students with disabilities are able to fully participate in courses with reasonable accommodations that mitigate the effects of their conditions."

The impact and necessities met by the implementation of the ADA on OHIO's campus was also discussed among the panel. Members discussed topics ranging from the irony of the Office of Disability Services existing on the second floor of a wheelchair inaccessible building, to navigating a fire alarm with limited mobility, to teacher responses to learning disabilities.

Later, Neader, a junior communications studies student, discussed the social difficulties associated with being open about having a learning disability.

"There is a lack of education here in Athens about what a learning disability is," said Neader, who is running for Student Senate president. He described his ticket's struggle with disclosing his disability. "They were afraid that people would think I was stupid. People associate a learning disability with being stupid."

But, other panel members discussed the support and openness that they experienced since arriving at Ohio University.

"It made my disability legitimate. Before a lot of people thought I was faking because you can't see it," said Gottliev, a first-year video production student who has a learning disability. 

The conversation shifted to the personal and societal acceptance in both visible and unseen disabilities.

"I have Asperger's Syndrome; it's an autism spectrum disorder," said Knuckles, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. "It was hard for me to admit that I had this disorder because it brings to mind that something is wrong or you're broken. It's a hard pill to swallow."

Though all of the participants discussed and shared their struggles as members of an often-marginalized community, they all also emphasized that the obstacles created by physical and learning disabilities are one part of their lives.

"Though an individual may have a disability, it is not the sole contributor to their identity, merely a part of it," Raney said.