Sept. 11, 2023
If you’re a student, faculty member or staff member at the University of Missouri and you have a disability, you can rely on a network of professionals to ensure you have access to everything campus has to offer.
Mizzou is unique among institutions of higher education in that the needs of students and employees with disabilities are met by three separate offices: The Disability Center, the Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center and the Office of Accessibility and ADA.
“Even much bigger universities are jealous that we have these three units that function so well together,” said Ashley Brickley, director of the Disability Center.
The Disability Center provides accommodations to students, offers educational programming and provides consultation to the university community.
“We believe every Mizzou student deserves access to education,” Brickley said. “Students with accommodations are still held to the same academic standards. The resources simply remove obstacles in their way.”
Resources provided by the Disability Center include exam accommodations and note-taking assistance.
The Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center helps with accommodation implementation using assistive technology such as speech-to-text or digital book conversion. The center can also convert course materials to Braille — not only texts but also maps, formulas and graphs.
ACT Center staff also ensure software and web pages meet digital accessibility standards.
“We check all software and web applications that go through procurement to ensure our campus is moving in the right direction,” said Abbie O’Sullivan, director of enterprise architecture.
In addition to adaptive technology, the ACT Center also provides ergonomics assessments.
“Ergonomic assessments help eliminate injuries in the workplace, so really we are working to prevent disabilities,” O’Sullivan said. “We try to be proactive and build accessibility into everything we do all the time everywhere."
The Office of Accessibility and ADA serves university employees with disabilities and addresses campus issues related to accessibility. One major task of Accessibility and ADA is campus renovations.
“Every renovation or change we make is an opportunity to make the campus more accessible,” said Amber Cheek, director of accessibility and ADA coordinator. “Campus Facilities really goes above and beyond. We couldn't ask for a better partner for making things accessible.”
Accessibility and ADA also helps provide accommodations to university employees with disabilities.
“It depends on the nature of their job, where they work and how their disability interacts with their circumstances,” Cheek said. “Two people in the same job could end up having completely different accommodations even if they have the same disability.”
In recent years, the three units have worked together on creating a digital accessibility policy, which was approved by the Board of Curators in April.
“We stay in constant touch and keep one another in the loop,” Brickley said. “It's not just the offices but also the strong relationships that we've built among our areas that make things work.”
“It's so much easier for us to get things done,” O’Sullivan said. “We can collaborate, but also work within our separate areas to push things forward.”