Lori Lewis, instructor at the Lancaster campus, presents on her experiences as a person who is deaf.

Photographer: Stephanie Morrison


Participants branched into groups to work together on topics that interested them.

Photographer: Stephanie Morrison


Jenny Hall-Jones, assistant dean of student affairs, and Lewis participate in a forum discussion.

Photographer: Stephanie Morrison

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Open forum addresses accessibility at OHIO

Faculty, staff, students and community members met on Tuesday in Baker University Center to work together to make Ohio University more accessible to people with disabilities.

The Presidential Advisory Council on Disability and Accessibility Planning (PACDAP) hosted an open forum "Access to Education for Persons with Disabilities at Ohio University." PACDAP requested public comment to assist the council in creating a well-rounded picture of the current and possible future state of accessibility at OHIO.

Council members will use comments and suggestions from the forum in the coming months to create a comprehensive Accessibility Plan for OHIO.

In her opening remarks, Laura Myers, executive director of the Office for Institutional Equity and council co-chair, welcomed the participants and let them know their input was important.

She said she was glad people had attended "to give us information that will help us in our ongoing planning."

Myers then welcomed Lori Woods, instructor in the Deaf Studies and Interpreting Program at the Lancaster campus, to the podium.

Woods, who is deaf, addressed the audience with the assistance of an American Sign Language interpreter who voiced Wood’s remarks.

Woods told her story of growing up deaf in rural Ohio, and the great lengths her parents went to to ensure she could reach her full potential. She shared her first encounter with an office of disability services during her time at Columbus State Community College.

"They asked me, 'Do you need an interpreter?' and I marked no," said Woods. "I thought that an interpreter was only for foreign languages like Spanish. Unbeknownst to me, the woman behind the counter changed it to yes."

When Woods arrived to her first class, and American Sign Language interpreter was waiting to assist her with communication in the classroom.

Her experience with an interpreter in class and with an engaged office of disability services opened up a world of possibilities to Woods. It is a world she is committed to opening for others through training qualified American Sign Language interpreters and advocating for services for the deaf in the classroom that allow them to be more independent.

"We need more qualified interpreters in these rural areas," said Woods.

After Woods, Myers introduced Harry Wyatt, associate vice president for facilities and facilities management and council co-chair. Wyatt shared PACDAP's timeline for the creation of the Accessibility Plan.
"This is an aggressive timeline," said Wyatt.

PACDAP plans to have a comprehensive plan drafted by May 2012 and then vet the plan in summer and fall of that year. The targeted completion date is January 2013. Prior to the adoption of the completed plan, PACDAP will hold another open forum for public comment.

Wyatt shared some of the language that will be used in the draft plan, but assured attendees, "Tonight is freeform input. That's what we want tonight."

First-year graduate student Jessica Garten then took the podium and spoke about obstacles she had faced at her undergraduate institution.

"College is a time of challenges, but as a disabled student those challenges increase tenfold," said Garten, who has cerebral palsy and is a teaching assistant in the History Department.

She told how, on coming to Ohio University to study history, the helpful and accommodating atmosphere struck her. She commended the entire community for making her experience a positive one – from her residential coordinator moving her mailbox down so she could reach it, to her students offering help when needed, to thanking Facilities for ensuring that automatic doors are operational.

"I appreciate being treated as a valued employee," said Garten.
After a short break, participants broke into four groups to discuss different topics. Discussions were led by PACDAP members who took notes. Those groups were:

  • Academic access

  • Architectural access

  • Campus climate

  • Program and web access.

Participants collaborated passionately to find ways OHIO could improve its accessibility.

Members of the program and web access group suggested including individuals with disabilities in the groups that test websites' usability. The academic access group discussed the importance of having fire alarms that utilized sound and light for deaf students.