Friday, Aug 23, 2019

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Accessible OHIO

OHIO welcomes the Accessibility Liaisons as a vehicle of change

Through on-campus events, intentional inquiry and open, honest discussion, Ohio University is changing the way the OHIO community thinks about disabilities. However, the journey towards inclusion is ongoing and the University continues to identify areas for improvement. The new Accessibility Liaison program at Ohio University is a result of this effort. 

The Accessibility Liaison program was created in 2016 with the intent to increase awareness and conversation around living with a disability at Ohio University. The group consists of OHIO students, faculty and staff, as well as community members, who understand disability impact. The Liaisons serve an internal resource for OHIO and external partner with the Athens City Commission on Disabilities. Internally, the team seeks to engage in fruitful conversation with administration and the community members shift the dialogue on what it means to have a disability at OHIO.

Gathering the student, faculty, staff and community perspective has become a core part of the mission of the Office of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC). After noticing an increase in University departments contacting them for perspectives around various disabilities, they decided to act.

“A primary goal in forming the Accessibility Liaisons program was to bring together the expertise of people who know what living with a disability is like and the people who have functional responsibilities to address these issues,” expressed Dianne Bouvier, director for equal opportunity and accessibility and ADA coordinator in ECRC. 

The Accessibility Liaisons shed light on the variety of disabilities a person may face and the various considerations administrative departments should make when deciding on classroom and building features and access. 

“We have designed it so that they can act as a focus group for administrative departments. They have met with the departments such as University Libraries in Alden Library to find out what services and technologies are available. The group then gave feedback on what their library experience was and what could make it better,” Bouvier recalled.

The Accessibility Liaisons also serve as members of sub committees that address topics such as universal design in facilities and communication. The Liaisons give a real world perspective to discussions that may not have fully considered their point-of-view in the past.

“What we find is that when we listen to people who have different stories it helps us ‘make it real.’ We need to make sure when we design a classroom space we think not only about someone who is mobility challenged, but also where would an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter stand or whether the lighting is sufficient for someone who has limited vision,” Bouvier explained. 

Bouvier reflected that the Liaisons are a “linchpin” in helping the overall goals around accessibility come to fruition at OHIO. In order to minimize the barriers these individuals may face, OHIO is taking a direct and intentional effort to include them along the way in its decision-making. 

“How do we want our community to be? We want our neighbor with a disability to be able to attend something with us, or our parent or friend or colleague or student – we want persons living with disabilities to feel just like anyone else who is a part of our community,” Bouvier explained.