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Community invited to comment on disability, accessibility strategic plan at OHIO

Feedback collected through May 30

The Presidential Advisory Council on Disability and Accessibility Planning (PADCAP) is seeking input from the Ohio University community about a proposed 10-year strategic plan designed to address accessibility improvements.

PACDAP was charged by President Roderick J. McDavis in 2012 to create a strategic plan to comply with not just state and federal disability laws, but to create and identify transformative steps to remove barriers for people living with disabilities and enhance the OHIO experience in both educational and employment settings.

“The goal is to create and sustain a University community that is welcoming and inviting to all, so the purpose and scope of PACDAP is to provide input for continuous improvement,” explained Carolyn Bailey Lewis, an instructor in the Scripps College of Communication and co-chair of PACDAP, during an public forum in Baker University Center on May 13.

People with disabilities are the least represented group in the United States, noted Darrell Purdy, assistant director for employee accommodations and campus accessibility, as well as founder and president of the non-profit group LifeDream International Foundation, a 501c3 organization.

“In terms of unemployment, the rate of folks with disabilities who want to work and can work but don’t work is 75 percent,” he said. “Their level of engagement in higher education also is significantly marginalized. Things are not going particularly well for people with disabilities, and we need to start thinking about what it is we’re doing that’s not working so we can move forward with new approaches.”

A draft of the strategic plan and feedback form is available here and comments from the community will be collected through May 30. Revisions to the plan based on the community’s input will be made in June with the goal of submitting the final report to President McDavis on June 30.

“Disability is now put on notice,” Purdy said. “No longer will disabilities be running us who live with disabilities, or those who are working with those living with disabilities. We will instead be running them (the disabilities).”

The strategic plan presents a vision for the University and a framework to move forward, explained Dianne Bouvier, interim executive director in the Office for Institution Equity and PACDAP co-chair. The plan, she noted, does not offer metrics and timelines for achieving specific goals, but gives direction about how Ohio University can focus its efforts on inclusion and accessibility over the next decade.

“We are creating a way for the institution to think about meeting not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law,” Bouvier said. “The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are minimal standards for institutions to meet the requirements of the law. The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, and provides guidance on accessible physical structures. Section 504 addresses access to education, programming and services. As a University, we want to create a climate where we intentionally think about disability in every aspect of the work we do on our campuses, so that people of all abilities are fully included in all we do.”

The strategic plan consists of a series of core values and beliefs, including having a commitment to a discrimination-free campus, affirmation of people living with disabilities who have the same privileges and inclusion in the Ohio University community, an unshakeable commitment to respect, value and celebrate the differences people with disabilities have as an essential part of the campus community, and assurance that the work of inclusion and accessibility enables equal opportunity for all abilities.

“We need to make sure we’re being responsive and proactive to potential barriers that are architectural, programmatic or attitudinal in nature which might limit inclusion and accessibility,” said Carey Busch, assistant dean for Student Accessibility Services. “These really are foundational, and while it’s easy to put them in black and white, I think it challenges our culture here at Ohio University and how we do things. These are really critical to keep in mind as we move forward and see how the plan might be implemented in the future.”

To view the plan and provide feedback, visit http://www.ohio.edu//equity/pacdap/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=2342620. To view a webcast from the May 13 event, visit http://www.ohio.edu/media/?videoid=A0584A0A5056A81E8D9D0CB71E6C4A5A.

The strategic initiative priorities outlined in the 2014-2024 plan include the following:

1. Leadership: To develop sufficient leadership within Ohio University that is inspirational in its practice, collaborative in its approach and resolute in its commitment to create pathways for those living with disabilities to experience themselves as welcomed, wanted and needed members of the Ohio University community.

2. Assessment: To develop a comprehensive assessment strategy, including the identification and utilization of the criteria in the measurement and review of progress, towards the realization of Ohio University’s vision of inclusion and accessibility through its goal-planning process.

3. Inclusion: To create a national and international recruitment and retention program specifically focused on reaching those living with disabilities who desire to be students and those living with disabilities who choose to be employees of Ohio University.

4. Communication: Develop and implement an ongoing communication strategy that encourages, engages, educates and empowers all Ohio University community members to embrace the emerging paradigm for the work of inclusion and accessibility.

5. Universal Design and Assistive Technology: To incorporate universal design principles and assistive technology resources as fundamental components of all planning and delivery aspects associated with the operations of Ohio University so that the University experience is qualitatively seamless for persons of all abilities.

6. Funding and Resources: To develop and sustain a funding stream that meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of students, faculty and staff, enabling all to have the opportunity to fully participate in the Ohio University experience.