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Darrell Purdy is new employee accommodation go-to

Last month, Institutional Equity gained a new colleague who brings personal and professional commitment to employee accessibility with the addition of Darrell Purdy, assistant director for employee accommodation and campus accessibility.

Purdy has lived and worked attempting to personify a favorite quote of his first spoken by anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

In pursuit of that, he has obtained a Master's of Higher Education Administration and has been a speaker on disability issues on a local, regional and national level for more than 27 years.

Laura Myers, executive director of Institutional Equity and ADA/504 coordinator, said that creation of Darrell'ssition and the search committee’s successful recruitment of a strong pool of applicants for the position is a sign the Ohio University is making progress towards fulfilling its commitment to inclusiveness.

"We are fortunate to have recruited a person with the knowledge and skill sets that Darrell brings to the job," she said. "Darrell comes to us with a strong background in higher education and promoting accessibility. I’m proud to call him a colleague."

In addition to his daily role of coordinating employee accommodations, Purdy will be taking a leadership role in assisting the Presidential Advisory Council for Disability and Accessibility Planning with creation of a strategic plan for improving campus accessibility.

Institutional Equity is Ohio University’s civil rights compliance office. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, among other laws, requires institutions such as OHIO to provide equal access to educational and employment opportunities.

As part of an ongoing series that highlights the Office for Institutional Equity's commitment to accessibility, Compass sat down with Purdy to learn more about his job, goals and motivation for his work.

Compass: What first interested you in Institutional Equity?
Purdy: It's my opinion that higher education is our greatest hope where all are not only welcomed, but are also wanted and needed. But, to realize that potential, there has to be a real desire to want to do it.

When I came out for my interview, I met a variety of people who talked about what they hoped would be possible through this newly created position. I was asked to give a brief presentation on 'What Makes a Campus an Accessible Workplace?' I offered a few practical thoughts, but one of the most critical components that support an accessible workplace is 'desire.' At the end of my day, I knew that there was a group of people with that desire. That, for me, was a difference maker.  

What are your primary duties?
Personally, I work hard to serve and honor the University in making sure that those living with disabilities experience themselves to be welcomed, wanted and needed.

But, formally, my duty is to provide consultation to all Ohio University campuses about achieving and maintaining employment practices that are in compliance with federal and state disability law and University policies. I coordinate the processes and procedures for determining and delivering reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with disabilities. I also provide information to the leadership and outreach and education to employee and student groups in academic, architectural, physical and Internet accessibility to Ohio University facilities and programs.

What about your personal experience makes you passionate about your job?
My life's work is to honor myself and those around me with disabilities. I was born with some significant disabilities that affect my function and appearance. It is what it is, and it’s the cards I was dealt. The important thing is to play your hand well.

During my graduate work, I was an intern at a support system for people with disabilities. I met many wonderful people, but a couple stood out. There was a man, Bill, with profound mobility and communication challenges.

His dream was to teach and to make a difference in the world. Those things weren't possible then, but he was always looking toward the future. My passion is to go out and find a path for the Bills of the world so they can embrace their dreams and wishes.

This is the first time that Ohio University has had someone working solely on employee accommodations and campus accessibility. What do you want the University to know about your position?
My role is to be an advocate for accessibility and equal opportunity for employees with disabilities at Ohio University so that every member of the University community is able to make the kind of meaningful contribution that brought them to the University. I also serve as a resource to the larger university as it relates to general accessibility issues.

If a faculty of staff member is unsure if their concern falls under my purview, I encourage them to come to me with it. I may not have the answer, but I can help them find the people and resources that do.