Missouri State has adopted numerous diversity initiatives throughout the years, such as Bear POWER and the Diversity and Inclusion Plan, with other initiatives that work behind the scenes, like the President's Council on Accessibility.
Missouri State is founded on the three pillars of public affairs: ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement, with the President’s Council on Accessibility honoring the ethical leadership pillar.
The council’s purpose is to “enhance the full participation of individuals with disabilities in the campus community by serving as an advisory and oversight committee regarding accessibility issues,” according to their website.
The council is made up of 23 faculty from various university departments such as the Disability Resource Center, Institutional Equity and Compliance, General Counsel and Compliance, College of Humanities, Public Affairs and Office of the Provost, as well as a student representative from Student Government Association.
Among the faculty, Christopher Craig serves as the Deputy Provost of the council and has some primary responsibility for the council’s faculty and instructors.
“I represent academics on the council and provide updates on disability related activities in our area or planned updates to policies impacting individuals with disabilities,” Craig said.
Eric Nelson joined the council having interest in its mission and was Provost Fellow for Accessibility for a several years, but he now serves as a representative for the College of Public Affairs and Humanities.
Nelson said, as the former Provost Fellow for Accessibility, he worked to ensure courses on campus were accessible to everyone from the start, without requiring special accommodations.
“I came to this topic (accessibility) from a faculty point of view, trying to make sure that faculty have the tools to make their courses as accessible as possible, including a tool in Blackboard called Ally that automatically checks all documents posted to it to make sure that they are accessible,” said Nelson.
Nelson said his current role as representative for the College of Public Affairs and Humanities is to bring any issues to the council raised in the College of Public Affairs and Humanities and to communicate the council’s initiatives and actions back to his colleagues in the college.
Another faculty in the council is Julia Holmes, representative for the General Counsel and Compliance Department.
“My specific role in the group is to focus on the needs of faculty and staff at the university who require workplace accommodations,” Holmes said.
Holmes said the Office of Legal Affairs and Compliance helps advocate for people with disabilities and compliance with state and federal mandates, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act-Amended.
The council’s vision is to be a university of choice and opportunity for all students, a beacon for diversity locally and nationally and welcome all forms of diversity on campus, according to the President’s Council on Accessibility website.
The President’s Council on Accessibility is constantly striving to make improvements and adjustments, such as Nelson’s idea to promote the idea of universal design on campus, which aims to design courses from the ground up with universal access at their core.
For more information on the President’s Council on Accessibility, visit their website for details and contact information.