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

around accessibility.

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.

Yeah. Absolutely.

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.

That's wonderful.

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.

[inaudible], Katherine,

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.

I'm sure.

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.

Thank you.

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.