Amber Cheek is as Southern as Southern can be. Cheek, MU’s new director of accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) education since June 2014, hails from Blairsville, Georgia.
You might even expect her to sound a bit like Scarlett O’Hara.
“Law school beat the accent out of me,” jokes Cheek, JD ’12, who admits her Appalachian elocution is closer to Ellie Mae Clampett's. “I grew up on the Georgia-North Carolina border on the side of a mountain, hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
Surprising to some, Cheek traversed those trails on a prosthetic foot she has had since shortly after birth, due to a blood clot in her right leg. So when she’s teaching others about the ADA, or helping facilitate accommodations for Mizzou faculty and staff with disabilities, she often speaks from experience.
“We’re head-and-shoulders above other schools, especially big state schools,” says Cheek about Mizzou’s overall accessibility level. “We have a lot of old buildings, and one of the questions is: How do we make those old buildings more accessible as time goes on?”
Not to be confused with the MU Disability Center, which handles academic accommodations for students with disabilities, Cheek’s office manages workplace accommodations for employees and oversees the physical accessibility of campus. She also handles public complaints about accessibility and all MU policies that might involve the ADA.
Keeping it Simple
Cheek’s primary message, however, is about simplicity.
“The ADA isn’t this big, complicated thing,” she says. “The important thing is to understand the underlying principles of the law: Give people an equal opportunity, don’t make assumptions about what someone can do based on their disability, and ensure equal access to your physical facilities and your programs.”