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State of Accessibility at MU

University leaders announce digital accessibility initiative during Celebrate Ability Week

Published Oct. 17, 2016
Updated Oct. 18, 2016

Story by Sarah Sabatke

Barb Hammer gestures toward Jason Rollins and Abbie O'Sullivan, who stand on a stage in Stotler Lounge

From left, Abbie O'Sullivan associate director of information technology, Jason Rollins, associate director of digital communications, and Barb Hammer, director of the Disability Center, speak at the State of Accessibility address Oct. 11 in Stotler Lounge, Memorial Union. Photo by Ashley Brickley.

MU held its inaugural State of Accessibility keynote Oct. 11, 2016, to address accessibility standards and improvements on MU’s campus. MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley opened the keynote with a story about paralympians that he had seen on TV. He noted that the story wasn't about disability. “It was about ability and what [the athletes] could do,” Foley said.

John Bowders, chair of the Committee for Persons with Disabilities and professor of civil and environmental engineering, referenced MU’s four core values; respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence.

“It’s not just talking about them but about meaning it and living it,” Bowders said.

Bowders noted that the existence of a campus accessibility policy indicates the institution values diversity and equal opportunity for all people.

“It’s one thing to have policies but it’s another to … treat each other with kindness,” Bowders said.

Recent adjustments to campus in order to improve accessibility have included curb cutouts, push-button doors and wider aisles in lecture halls. Despite the steps that MU has taken to improve accessibility on campus, Bowders acknowledges that there is still a long way to go.

“We don’t have it all right yet, I know that. But we’ll get it,” Bowders said. “If we move in this direction, then it benefits everyone.”

One of MU’s projects to improve accessibility is called the Digital Accessibility Initiative, which aims to make online classes and learning materials accessible for everyone.

“Ensuring access is as important to our digital campus as it is to our physical campus,” said Jason Rollins, associate director of digital communications for Mizzou Creative.

The Digital Accessibility Initiative is a collaborative effort led by the Disability CenterAdaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center, ADA compliance manager and Mizzou Creative, said Disabilty Center Director Barb Hammer, in an interview after the address.

The initiative will be broken into several sections, including adoption of a digital accessibility policy, a digital accessibility advisory board and a working group. The digital accessibility initiative will have its own website by the end of the year where students and staff can find trainings and extensive resources.

“It’s websites, it’s learning technologies, it’s media, it’s digital documents … I mean, it runs the gamut,” Hammer said.

The advisory board and working group will focus on training and resources to assist departments in adopting the accessibility policy. "We already have the standards in place," Hammer said.

The Disability Center is also planning for a new accommodated testing center. “We have a serious shortage of space for the thousands of accommodated exams we administer each year,” Hammer said.

“[Accessibility is] not going to happen overnight,” Hammer said. “It’s something that’s going to have to happen over time.”

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Last updated: Aug. 7, 2017