From the Desk of William Stackman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs

It’s simultaneously inspiring and humbling to see how the Mizzou community has come together during this time. One example is how faculty and staff are cooperating to ensure that remote learning doesn’t present unnecessary barriers to students with disabilities.

Picture of Ashley Brickley, director of the Disability Center
Ashley Brickley, director of the Disability Center

This work is ongoing and happens on a daily basis at the Disability Center, which of course has moved their services online along with the rest of the university to finish the spring semester. The transition to remote learning has presented a variety of obstacles for many students, especially those with disabilities.

Ashley Brickley is the director of the Disability Center. She and her staff have been working directly with many students with disabilities to help the adjust to the new learning conditions.

“Some of this has included brainstorming ways that they can find a quiet place to study or take exams,” Brickley said. “We’ve worked with other students to modify their accommodation plans to better meet their needs in the remote learning environment.”

Instructors have been proactive in asking the Disability Center for advice.

Picture of a student using a computer in a residential hall

Anthony Lupo teaches in atmospheric science in the School of Natural Resources, where some students need accommodations for various reasons. For a blind student this semester, he worked with the Disability Center to make sure the student had note taking assistance and exams in Braille.

Picture of Anthony Lupo
Anthony Lupo teaches atmospheric science. He says accommodations for teaching students with disabilities can improve learning for all students.

Lupo found that making learning more accessible help all students, not just those with disabilities. For example, in addition to a map, students received written descriptions of the information on the map.

“So, for example, they can just tell me the latitude or geographic location,” Lupo said. “This helped our blind student, of course, but also helped the other students quite a bit.”

Earlier this month the Southeastern Conference announced that Lupo won the SEC’s 2020 Faculty Achievement Award, a recognition given to one faculty member from each school. Congrats Dr. Lupo!

Mizzou’s commitment to providing equitable education expands beyond the Disability Center and digital classrooms. There is work happening throughout the university to ensure that every student can succeed here. This includes the ACT Center which works collaboratively with the Disability Center to identify the best digital format to meet students’ needs.

“The ACT Center has been helping in reviewing digital accessibility of programs and looking at ways we can enhance knowledge of assistive technology that can help students during this time,” Brickley said. “This includes raising awareness of the free software available to all MU students that can help with accessing digital materials.”

Additionally, we have some great colleagues with eLearning that have helped to develop resources for faculty on the Keep Learning site on how to implement accommodations in the online learning environment.

Working together, we can make sure that every student has equal access to educational opportunities at Mizzou.