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Dr. J. Webster Smith
April 11, 2017 : Southern Campus’ Envision Access conference addresses needs of students with disabilities
Ohio University Southern hosted more than 60 participants at the inaugural “Envision Access” conference Friday. The program featured speakers who focused on various aspects of supporting students with disabilities.
Keynote speaker Dr. J. Webster Smith, currently professor of speech communication in the Ohio University School of Communication Studies, was born blind in Chicago, Illinois. Smith feels that as a blind African American, it is important to expand the term diversity and to “Incorporate every effort necessary to create an environment that encourages openness and understanding.” 
Dr. J. Webster Smith addresses participants at the inaugural Envision Access conference.

Dr. J. Webster Smith addresses participants at the inaugural Envision Access conference.

Dr. Carey Busch, assistant dean for Student Accessibility at Ohio University, lead a session about students transitioning to postsecondary education. Busch feels that the inclusion of people with disabilities is a community issue.
“The Envision Access conference provided an avenue for the community to discuss ways that we all contribute to creating access,” Busch said. “I was impressed with the number of individual connections I saw happen at the conference that will result in future actions and collaborations and I am proud of the leadership Ohio University Southern has shown regarding access and inclusion in the Tri-State area.”
Dianne Bouvier, director for Equal Opportunity and Accessibility, ADA/504 Coordinator and University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance at Ohio University believe that there is a growing focus on accessibility issues.
“Momentum is growing throughout Ohio University to work toward becoming more intentionally inclusive and accessible for persons in our community who live with disabilities, Bouvier said. “The leadership at the Southern Campus has been integral to this work and Envision Access is a concrete example of enacting that commitment.  The quality of the speakers and relevant content from this year’s program set the stage for future Envision Access conferences within the region.”
The event was hosted by the Ohio University Southern Council on Diversity and Inclusion and Accessibility Services. Robert Pleasant, diversity and inclusion coordinator, and Teresa McKenzie, campus accessibility coordinator, were the main organizers of the event.
McKenzie said that the idea for the Envision Access Conference was started over lunch with Robert Pleasant.  “We discussed what we can do for our students, community and staff— particularly our students and community members with disabilities.  Watching that idea go from discussion to reality was rewarding and more work than I suspected, McKenzie shared. “Listening to Dr. Smith and hearing feedback from the attendees reinforced my belief that this conference is needed and a good idea. In the end, I would and will do it all again.”
McKenzie added, “I really saw that people get ‘it’ – the fact that students with disabilities can go to college, can succeed in college and all they need is help making the transition.”