I'm Katherine MacCary and I am
the Chief Executive Officer
for Disability:IN in the DC Metro area.
We are one of 35 affiliates in the country,
the national organization Disability:IN,
and we are all employers,
and collaborators and allies,
including people with disabilities in the workforce,
the marketplace, and the supply chain.
I've spent a lot of my career working with
college students and helping them prepare for careers,
and so I'm very excited that we have
both the Veleka and Sharron here today,
both from the American Association for Access Equity and
Diversity and a wealth
of experience around accessibility.
Veleka, would you like to introduce yourself?
Yes. Thank you so much, Katherine.
Thank you for inviting me to this panel discussion.
Yes, I'm Veleka Gatling.
I am actually now
the Interim Assistant Vice President for
Equity and Diversity all of two days in.
I'm at Old Dominion University,
which is in the state of Virginia,
which is in the middle
of the State of Virginia and coastal Virginia,
not too far from Virginia Beach.
I have spent the past 30 years in public education,
K12, I've been in higher ed for the past four years.
I bring that wealth of experience.
Most recently leaving public education in the role
of Executive Director for Gifted
and Special Education Programs.
It's an honor to serve today on this panel.
Sharron, let's hear from you.
Hi, I'm Sharron Gatling and I have
about 20 years of experience in higher education.
Before I took on this position at being
the DEI Officer at
the Space Telescope Science Institute,
I spent 20 years at William and Mary,
which is not that far from Old Dominion University, ODU.
I bring that wealth of experience.
During that time, in 20 years,
I've always worked in the realm
of disability accommodations and accessibility.
I'm also working with some of
our affinity groups at my new organization
That's great. Thank you and welcome again and
welcome all of you to hearing this conversation,
which is the next queue question.
Why is this so important now?
What do you think accessibility
at the faculty, student,
and admin level is critical for us to have today?
Veleka, do you have some thoughts on that?
Yes. I'd almost like to turn around,
it's like why has it not been important?
Why is it so important right now?
I think we do a lot of blaming everything on COVID.
Of course, Winston Churchill says we
should never waste a crisis.
But when I think about why it's important right now,
we've had to again,
re-imagine and pivot and
shift in the manner that we do things.
When we think about this notion of accessibility,
it's people just don't understand that if we
don't create accessible opportunities and space,
then that means that people can't be actively engaged.
That's why I think it's important,
because we want people to be
actively engaged in whatever way that they can.
Thank you. Sharron.
Speaking about COVID,
COVID ends up being the perfect storm for us.
It actually has caused us to bring accessibility
disability back into the conversation
and not let it be hidden anymore.
We can't continue to
table the conversation around these important things.
Because when you look at the data and
the statistics of the number of people,
there are millions of people with disabilities.
This apart, they're experienced
their way of life and it needs to be where
that people with disabilities are seen as
critical individuals in society and not as ad hoc.
This is Katherine. Absolutely, I agree with you.
As a person with a disability,
as a parent of adult children with disabilities,
having been a caregiver,
it's always been important to me.
But from an employee perspective,
today with COVID and add on the great resignation,
how are we going to find talent
if education place isn't there?
We need to make sure that
all students with disabilities have
the same accommodations to be successful as those
without disabilities because we
accommodate people with and without disabilities.
But I think today we need to prepare the next workforce.
We cannot let people be lost or left behind.
When talking about accessibility,
it's also legally a real concern these days.
Veleka, is this the quote that you shared?
"If you embrace diversity but
ignore disability, you're doing it wrong."
Yeah. Because when we think about diversity,
initially people think about what we look like.
People, their natural inclination,
it defaults to black and white or
whatever the majority or minority statuses
that are a part of their community.
It could be Hispanics and not Hispanics.
But when we think about diversity,
it's multi-dimensional and you have to
consider disability in that,
and I think to Sharron's point
about the fact that we can't be ad hoc.
It has to be at the beginning.
It can't be, "oh, by the way,
we're having a presentation and oops,"
we did not provide for
an accommodation for our employees or our students.
It has to be at the beginning.
Posing the question of,
in order for everyone to be
successful or to be actively engaged,
what do they need?
You would ask me, in order to be
successful and actively engaged,
do you need some sticky notes?
Do you need some highlighters?
Thinking about it the same way we think about
the sticky notes and highlighters, which are by the way,
accommodations, I need my sticky notes,
to amplify things on my paper.
We have to
think about that first when we're creating training,
it is first,
professional learning. It is first.
If we think about what do I need to be successful?
I think about moving from the adage of treating people
the way we want to be
treated versus treating people
the way they need to be treated.
We all grew up learning
the golden rule of
treating people the way they want to be treated.
But I subscribe to the platinum rule
treating people the way they need to be treated.
Absolutely. The interesting thing about
diversity these days is that more and more companies,
corporations who have disabilities and
diversity equality is also including accessibility,
so it's DEI.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
I guess the A has to come because it flows better.
But I think [inaudible].
Let's move onto some conversation.
The three of us have had over the past several weeks.
It's been very exciting to get to know both of you.
We both committed to saying that we were in Virginia,
so I will just say that we were in Virginia.
But I'd like to ask you a few questions to get your sense
and utilize that expertise that he shared with us.
Let's think about students,
faculty, and staff.
It's difficult to get accessibility
across to the idea of accessibility.
I'm going to jump right in here.
I think in terms of those,
that group that you talked about,
students faculty and stuff, I believe is a faculty,
that sometimes has the most difficulty
to wrap their mind around accessibility.
Because of the fact that
the academic environment related to faculty is,
we think about, and they think
about their role in the classroom.
The standard that has been set
in academia for the professor.
For K12 teacher, you go through
all these certifications and processes.
You learn how to teach a variety from
a group of individuals with all types of ability.
But in the Professorate,
you are trying to be a researcher.
But that's not a part of it.
But yet, and still you're in
the classroom with these students,
yet about 50 percent of our students have
some type of disability, or accessibility needs.
They, come into the classroom, but our professors,
faculty are not quite because not even in the program.
The curriculum has been used to develop them as teachers.
What that means to be a teacher in that classroom.
What that means to look at,
to making sure that everyone in their circle of
influence have what they need to flourish,
to learn, to belong,
to be engaged, and to be empowered.
That I think is the critical piece that's
missing in the grand scheme of
entire curriculum for faculty.
We don't teach them how to teach.
She said a whole mouthful. I hear that.
We do have some professors
now who are raising their hands.
As we think about this notion of cultural competency,
they are saying, I did not learn pedagogy.
But when we think about the inception of the academy and
higher education institutions and
the way that they were set up many, many years ago.
There were set up for the haves.
If you had a disability or you had,
you went somewhere else,
you didn't go to the main institution.
You think about the stigma that we have.
We have decreased the stigma of community college.
Remember that used to be the place where if you couldn't
make it in a four-year institution, you went.
Now it's the place to go.
Especially if you financially,
you're not quite sure what it is that you want to do.
I told my son I wish you would have gone that route
because you really weren't quite sure what you
wanted to do instead of wasting my money.
We really want to go down a little bit of
a history and how we got here.
HBCUs were set up to assist
marginalized populations and with African Americans,
so oftentimes, that was attention
to learning concerns,
and we're addressed in those particular settings.
But when we think about the academy in another South,
they haven't been taught.
We did not keep up with
the notion of being more inclusive.
In our universities,
we didn't think about what are some of
the prerequisites that we need in
order for everyone to be successful.
Now where we're being
proactive and being reactive at the same time,
and we think about accessibility.
I'm interested in the faculty situation.
Do they receive diversity training?
Is that part of what they go through?
Yes. At most institutions
and organizations, there's diversity training.
One of the things is that they may
be a lot of times when the semester is getting
ready to begin the faculty
normally comes back before the students.
But in that time there's a lot of training that happens.
That's how it was done a lot and [inaudible] as well.
Some of the core pieces
about diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility,
were webinars and things are done during that time.
They can have understanding,
but we also have implemented some other pieces
in terms of ongoing professional development
around these topics.
I was going to mention that there is by university.
Some universities are allergic
to the M-word of mandatory.
Break out in halves or something.
Just like companies and organizations.
When you think about the culture.
To Sharron's point about ongoing,
that's when we went to really get the most of
our training and opportunities
done because people see the need for
ongoing once they experience a particular situation.
But then we always see sometimes the same people
in the training and the professional learning.
We also try to strive to make it engaging.
In this course face of COVID,
we've been able to do things hybrid.
We've been able to offer things online through Zoom.
As like today,
we've been able to offer things where
people like professors don't feel as
threatened because they are in
a space where they could
turn their camera on or not turn their camera on.
Asked him questions because they
may be uncomfortable with
the fact that I probably
should have known the answer to that.
There has been lots of positives when we
think about training and promoting,
creating more capacity around
accessibility in this space too.
If faculty is of the three areas that's most difficult,
say, between students and staff, do students get it?
If it's the faculty,
do they know who to call?
Do they know who to access?
That is any organization should have it where
it's a constant conversation
about where to seek resources,
where those resources are.
Making sure that we put out information in
all types of ways in terms of our intranet,
internal communications, at faculty meetings,
at their departmental meetings,
we need to push
that information so they're getting it in multiple ways.
We communicate, don't forget about
the resources those available to our students,
making sure that they know where to go.
Veleka, would you say something?
Because it can be overwhelming to try to keep track of
resources for accessibility because sometimes
situations for concerns around disability or situational,
they're temporary, and sometimes they're permanent.
One of the things I think would be helpful while we
do have a place where we house
like we have a Center for Faculty Development,
they provide lots of resource.
We have our Office of Educational Accessibility,
and then we have our
Office of Faculty Diversity that has resources,
and then the office that I'm in has resources.
We have employee resource groups on campus,
and so we try to make sure
that whenever we have an employee resource group,
a leader meeting, that we elevate various topics and say,
did you know this was available?
Even if it's not a part of the agenda.
Then I also encourage in departments and in
the colleges because everybody
can't be an expert on everything.
There may be someone who has
a deep compassion and drive to keep on the pulse of this.
You make that person an ex
officio of accessibility on your team.
It was like every time we had this meeting,
every time we plan something, Katherine,
we'd need for you to raise your hand and say hello.
Even though for the first couple of
times Katherine is going to be like,
here she go again, we've
got to figure out what we're going to do.
we don't want you to do that program anyway,
because we got to get an interpreter
but having just someone who's at the table who says,
"have you thought about XYZ?"
Have we considered in
the classroom when we're buying programs,
for example, we're transitioning
from Blackboard to Canvas?
Have we talked about what are the best programs,
what are the best apps,
what are the best resources that have been vetted
by those organizations who do accessibility really well?
Let's do those as opposed to just google in anything.
What I want to add onto this is,
one of the things we do well in higher education,
we will get a new center or new area to do
this to address a particular issue,
but it is critical that
those offices come together in some type of cadence,
quarterly or monthly to make sure that
they know the same information.
Because that could be end up being
a barrier in terms of accessibility when
you're getting so many different answers
from the various different offices,
and it causes a level of frustration.
What is the best way for
our environment or our institution
to move forward with that?
Making sure that the piece about IT is there,
that their presence is
there in these conversations, period.
A lot of times in higher education,
they can be decentralized,
so this school is doing something
different than the arts and sciences,
and we're not maximizing resources.
We can be doing greater things in
terms of accessibility when we pull
those resources together and making
sure that the software,
the programs that we want to implement,
have all of those accessibility features.
That they can interact with other types of software.
That conversation needs to
constantly have a representative
from the IT area there, all of the time.
Because I've seen sometimes a waste of resources,
we could be utilizing them elsewhere when we don't come
together as a collective to tackle some of the concerns.
That's true when employers to
[inaudible] and we have
big companies and things like that.
Let's talk about students for a moment.
Research has told us that for years,
the majority of disabilities
students had were learning disability.
That has changed and actually it's changed
for a lot of us because of COVID.
The impact of COVID and mental health
is unbelievably growing,
awareness is growing, which again,
one of those silver linings, I guess,
that we're not having for our patients.
But have you all had an experience,
although you probably hybrid, in class,
but accommodating or providing
accessibility for students with mental illness?
Have you had that? Well, you wouldn't have,
but perhaps you would be able to talk about that.
What accommodations that you might
provide for someone who say,
they mental health conditions?
Well, at the universities,
they have their counseling centers.
Making sure that,
when you talk about the whole piece about ableism,
and mitigating the bias
there and the discrimination there,
and making sure that our students,
that the counseling services are accessible to them.
That they're able when they have a need,
and it won't be a stereotype,
even if there's something that
happens during their classroom time,
that they're able to go ahead and reach
out and get the services that
they need at that moment, which is critical.
Even in terms of with
this hybrid in terms of technology,
being accessible to them,
but even with a person with a mental health issue,
they have a mental health issue and
they're not able to really
physically pull themselves together to go to clients.
Being able to click on a link and just listen in,
even while they're in
bed or lying down or whatever you do to me,
whatever they need to do
for their own personal self care.
That's important for them be able to do that.
At a moment's notice.
We have to develop
our classroom structures around
the ability for them to be able to do that.
Because again, that ableism comes back in place,
and we're used to doing it a certain way.
We've always done it a certain way,
and it's hard for us to change
our thinking about these issues.
Of course, faculty had the same situations.
Mental health at the fixed every one of us.
Absolutely. One of the things that I was
always concerned about is for
our counseling centers on campuses,
that they're assessable for the students.
But they're not really geared for this faculty and staff.
I personally think that that needs to evolve,
where there is that resource
right there on campus when a staff,
personal faculty person, needs assistance.
Have you heard that? Have you seen that?
That there is no place for faculty or
staff like would happen in EAP?
Yeah, and the process of getting to EAP is the process.
If you can get somewhere
quicker than you can get to EAP,
it can serve as a bridge.
The same that Sharron mentioned
about counseling for students I guess like on-demand,
one of the successful things that I
experienced with a student was they had
a graduate assistant who was working with
the class and also had some information as
it related to counseling center opportunities
and so I was able to provide the student with
a link to the counseling center
on-demand and then they were able to pop into
the Zoom but just with one person
and then they were able to put them in
a breakout room with the counselor.
Having that particular resource,
it created a bridge.
The student needed some additional assistance but it
created that initial opening.
To Sharron's point to be able to have
something that created a bridge for us
because you think about gesture on
immediate needs for something if
you were to lose your job,
and so of course that happened for many during COVID.
We think about again,
what is the immediate need that I have?
I'll touch on Sharron's point
about calibrating and collaborating.
Many people felt that
the first thing that people may have needed was food.
Well, for some communities,
food wasn't the first thing that they needed.
They needed a place for their kids to be or school.
But we always jump to and to Sharron's point that
dominant culture is definition
of what's needed and how to provide it.
Just as an aside with
the whole food situation during COVID,
we were providing food at
our church and then
people up the street were providing food.
It got so much that every church on
the corner was providing food and
people would have to say, "I'm sorry,
my refrigerators full," they were like,
"But now I need some supplies for my kids for school."
I was like, "yikes." We didn't ask.
Yes. It's always there, if you don't ask you
make assumptions for sure.
We haven't talked about the disability
services offices at all,
do you ever worked with those offices, and if so,
you were talking about being siloed
as close to being collaborative,
and be able to bridge
everything that's going on on the campus,
do you all interact with them,
or do they come to you for support?
You're pretty much expert in this.
At my previous employer,
I was the person for accommodation,
reasonable combination, and accessibility.
They came through my office,
and that was a part of diversity,
the diversity equity inclusion office.
It was split,
I dealt with the employees to include faculty.
Office of disability services for
students of course dealt with the students.
But we started meeting up quarterly or
monthly to be able to talk
about accessibility issues across
the institution at large,
to making sure that we
knew in each area what was happening,
some common things that were happening.
In both of our offices,
we bind together to
have trainings around the interactive process,
and for faculty about,
for staff person as well,
so I may not automatically use that word,
"I need accommodation,
I'm having issues with accessibility," they may just say,
"I'm just having some difficulties,
I can't do this, I can't do that."
That should be triggers to
the faculty and staff that there's a need here.
What does that interactive process looks like?
One, we've always tell
the faculty and the faculty knows
this that when it relate to the students,
please refer them to the Office of Student Accessibility.
Because of the fact that our faculty
don't have that in-depth training
to implement an accommodation,
and because of the protection of their information,
their medical information,
they can't have access to that.
You want those persons in that authority to be
able to see and help navigate the best,
not sub-optimal, but
the best accommodation that is possible for them.
Then, in all the staff side and
faculty side, with the deans,
if a faculty member address
the dean about an accommodation,
they know they refer that individual back to my office,
so it's centralized regardless of
what school you're from, it's all centralized.
To me that was the best way to
handle it than having a lot of decentralized operations,
and to make sure that
that medical information was very strictly confidential,
and the process for making sure
that we create a confidentiality.
We toggle between our office,
the Office of Institutional
Equity and Diversity as it relates to
providing accommodations and answering questions
about accessibility for faculty and staff.
We do have the Office of Educational Accessibility
that works with students,
and then human resources.
Oftentimes working with human resources as well,
and then with building and facilities.
To Sharron's point 2,
determining what do we need to do in terms of
additional tentacles to come to collaboratively.
But we also have
an employee resource group for people with disabilities,
which we've been working
to being very proactive
in getting information out
to our employees with disabilities.
Of course, you have to self-identify in that space,
which we're hoping to provide
more additional education and
opportunities so that people
feel comfortable identifying so that we can
utilize the folks on campus
who identifies a disability to
help to continue to create programs and opportunities.
We toggle between
those particular areas that I mentioned.
Again, oftentimes if we need to include
other departments on campus.
To Sharron's point about IT,
but our base is with us
here in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity
with the Office of Educational Accessibility, and HR.
We've been talking a lot about
technology because we've pretty much spend
most of our lives on Zoom or some technology,
but we haven't really
talked about new products, facilities,
new building is being created,
or needs to be revamped or something.
Are you both involved in those conversations?
I didn't hear the latter part of it,
when buildings are being constructed or?
We know that accessibility is more than just technology.
Are you all involved in things
that a new building is going
up or they're refurbishing a building or any thoughts?
Do they realize that they need to be thinking,
I'm sure they do,
but realize they should be thinking
accessibility from that standpoint.
The curb cuts are one thing, coaching doors,
that's the most prevalent titling,
but are you part of that conversation?
That's my question.
That's a yes or no type of conversation
because there is bias being in a public institution.
There are a lot of things that we go through
the state processes for
and those pieces about
accessibility that way is built-in to the standards.
Do you say to me of how, the why,
how are the doors have to be in,
and the egress and all of that,
and so that's built-in.
We have done accessibility studies
quite often several times and
had external consultants to
come in for our existing buildings.
Because William & Mary is at 327 years,
William & Mary had some very historical buildings.
Some of them would up being grandfather in to some.
Then we did some things that we could do
without posing a major structural issues.
But the new ones,
there is that whole process,
that's already embedded in that.
But when it comes down to some of our older buildings,
then my office at
that particular time when I worked there,
we will be a part of that conversation.
In our facilities management individuals,
they are well-versed on those things.
Already and making sure
that try to mitigate some of those issues.
It gets tricky because,
when some building's are grandfathered
in historical rebuilding,
different things like that.
We have to be creative in terms of people's usage of
that building because it doesn't
have an elevator in the there.
Certain things we have to make sure
that they're just on the first floor.
We can't utilize the second floor for certain things,
and then we may have to put in temporary ramps,
and thanks to the building,
because they have those steps,
new columns and everything.
Those are the pieces that William & Mary was constantly
doing at that particular time for those.
Then we have to look at, William & Mary
had this tradition are those that,
are ringing the bell.
For those that get their PhD,
go up to the ran all the way up with a bell ringing.
But if there are persons with mobility issues,
they can't get up there.
It was where the schools had to create
other opportunities of a type of bell ringing.
You have to end up being creative,
when you can't do anything with that structure,
and that was a constant conversation
with everyone pulling everyone in.
How are we going to do this for graduation?
Departments having their own mini graduations.
Where their mini graduation is going to be located,
who has accessibility issues?
We can get into that long conversation
about universal design,
and those pieces to that,
so it is being creative,
and making sure that people feel that sense of belonging.
Creativity does not always cost money.
We should think about. Veleka,
I want to have an opportunity for you to
speak a little bit and then I
have like 20 more questions.
Can we stay on for about half an hour?
Yeah. Sure. Other people
who signed up for the web are not alike
mmh it's getting close, no.
Would you like to address the facilities issue?
Yeah. When we think about the facilities,
we do have those standards and those guidelines.
One of the things that we've really.
Focused on here at Old Dominion is,
once we have those facilities in place,
who are the people in
the facilities that need the assistance?
I go back to our buildings and facilities team
that we create those emergency management plans.
We have someone within each of our departments and
units and that may be miscalling
them but serving that emergency capacity.
What are we going to do in terms of an active shooter,
if we have someone who has some accessibility needs,
or what are we going to do when
the elevator is not working or there's a fire.
Again, we have to rely on creating a climate,
and a culture that people feel
comfortable enough to divulge that information.
Because they have to be able to, especially if they
don't have a visible disability to divulge
the information that I have
a neural disability that if this alarm goes off,
it's going to cause me some concern and I may freeze,
and I may not get out of the building.
We have to create that culture where
people feel comfortable enough to share that,
so that when we do create those emergency plans,
we can make sure that we are
accommodating as best as we can.
That's something that we
continue to have conversations around,
and reviewing accessibility,
as someone decides, well,
we want to plant a tree here,
we want to put some more flowers here,
was this a part of the building
that people were supposed to be moved out of,
or we added onto a building so it
continues to be an ongoing conversation.
I want to add something to that.
You spoke something like,
that faculty relationship is
very different from the staff relationships.
Faculty members, normally what I've seen,
if they have a disability,
they may be very
open to be able to discuss that with their dean,
or their department chair.
They may feel empowered to do that,
but on the staff side,
there's a lot of reservations,
and because you have to think about
the dynamics that plays
in academia, faculty -
Exactly. More so,
and that's that whether it's real or perceived,
that perception is there.
I remember a situation in which,
a staff person would
not request the accommodation, would not.
Because it impacted the work,
that person rather be let go, released,
terminated before that person
would divulge or sick assistance.
In those situations,
the only thing that you can do is,
really try your best to talk with
them about you really
want you to feel that sense of belonging,
to be a part of a community,
and let us help
you be a part of this community and whatever you need.
But sometimes people won't
allow us to help and there's nothing else we can do.
We continue to call them,
please let us help you.
Some of this, I think has to do with first person born
with that disability or they are new to that disability,
and or did they acquire it,
but it's been not quite genuine.
Yeah. I also think of,
is remember to we are very diverse in who we are,
and have intersectionality of our diversity dimensions.
When you think about people who are already
a part of a marginalized population,
and then you add another layer of a disability,
then it's like I already feel as an African-American,
or I already feel as an immigrant,
or I already feel as someone
who is a part of the LGBT community.
Now you want me to tell somebody that I have ADHD,
that I need extra time,
and I've been raised to pull myself up by my bootstraps,
and just get the work done.
We also have to think about our
lived and learned experiences and how
that plays out into how
we convey if we have a disability,
if the person has a disability,
and/or the perception thereof of
the person who is receiving that information.
All of that plays a part of it,
and that's why I'm very,
when I talk about creating
a culture of cultural competence,
where let's talk about what do you need to be successful.
People get that, they get success.
As a principal, I would tell my kids,
I'm trying to help you win at this second grade.
I'll try to get you to win at this grade.
They're like win?
Yes, you understand the concept of win,
you're struggling with I'm going to
middle school but if I
teach you how I may help you to win at 5th grade,
they are like, okay, I like winning.