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Accessible OHIO

OHIO Accessibility Liaisons: Meet John Mollica

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 Liaisons program at Ohio University is a result of this effort. 

The Accessibility Liaison program was created in September of 2016 with the intent to increase awareness and conversation around living with a disability at Ohio University. John Mollica, an OHIO fourth year student studying industrial and system engineering, was invited to be a part of the first cohort of Liaisons. 

“I grew up with a disability, unlike many people who get hurt later in life,” explained Mollica, who became paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal cord tumor was removed when he was a one-year-old. “I have a really great support system, family, friends and my parents, who built a house that is handicap accessible. They made sure that I did not have to struggle and had a normal life growing up.” 

Mollica, an Athens native, has become an active part of the accessibility conversation at OHIO. As a first-year student in 2013, he often struggled with the topography of campus and the surrounding areas. 

“I came to Ohio University when it was not as accessible,” he explained. “I want to trailblaze a path for others so that they don’t have to go through the things that I did.” 

The Accessibility Liaison program has created an inclusive environment where students, faculty, staff who live with disabilities, and others who understand disability impact, can come together to share their experiences, while making a difference in the way others see and understand disabilities. 

An avid sled hockey player and live music lover, Mollica seeks to create sustainable change at OHIO. Mollica serves on the Universal Design - Facilities team as part of the University’s implementation efforts surrounding the Disability Strategic Plan for Inclusion and Accessibility, allowing him to directly impact the future direction of Ohio University. The team has been compiled to make recommendations to the design standards of Ohio University buildings and classrooms with accessibility as the key component. 

“We are making recommendations to these standards so that buildings are accessible for people who are in wheelchairs like myself, or have other kinds of mobility challenges, vision impairments, or are Deaf or Hard of Hearing - even able-bodied people will benefit from these recommendations,” Mollica explained.  

A person can become disabled at any point throughout their life, and disabilities can be both visible and invisible. For Mollica, making sure that Ohio University is inclusive for all has been one of the most rewarding parts of his experience with the program.

Mollica believes that through the implementation of universal design standards and a greater conversation around what it means to live with a disability, the whole community will benefit. 
“If we could have this mindset of including everyone through inclusive and universal design then I think it will benefit everyone in the community and around campus,” Mollica emphasized. 

Celebrating the diversity of others is a staple of the culture at OHIO, and students living with disabilities make lasting contributions to the community. 

“If I can make things a little bit easier for someone who is in a similar situation that I am, I am totally going to do that,” Mollica said. 

The Accessibility Liaisons attend major university events and have created a presence on campus through sharing their experiences with students, administration and the Athens community. 

To learn more information about this program and other disability strategic plan implementation efforts, visit https://www.ohio.edu/equity-civil-rights/pacdap/index.cfm