Missouri State University
Universal Design

“Unspeakable: A Dialogue on Race and Disability” with Dr. Susan Burch

Thursday, February 2, 2012
7:00 PM
Carrington Hall 208

In this Diversity Dialogue event, Dr. Susan Burch (Middlebury College) will share from her book “Unspeakable: The Life Story of Junius Wilson”. Wilson (1908-2001) spent seventy-six years at a state mental hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina, including six in the criminal insane ward. He had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge, but he was deaf and black in the Jim Crow South. “Unspeakable” offers us an opportunity to reflect on powerful forces that shape American identity and community, historically and today.

Susan Burch, Ph.D. is an associate professor of American studies and director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. She has authored, co-authored, and edited numerous books, chapters, and articles in critical deaf and disability studies.

Book signing and reception following the presentation

These programs are brought to you by a Public Affairs Grant.

Participants with disabilities who may not be able to fully participate because of the instructional format or design of the program may request an accommodation by contacting the Disability Resource Center at your earliest convenience, 417-836-4192.

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Faculty Development Presentations

How does society perceive disability? How much do you know about disability culture and history? How does disability intersect your field of study? Do your students know about these issues?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

8 AM-10AM “The Value of Disability Studies”
Location: Plaster Student Union, Ballroom East
Intended Audience: Faculty/Staff

10:30 AM-12:30 PM “Disability Studies Workshop
Location: Plaster Student Union, Ballroom East
Intended Audience: Faculty. staff, and student interested in developing a disability studies minor

Susan Burch, Ph.D., is an associate professor of America studies and director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. She has authored, co-authored, and edited numerous books, chapters, and articles in critical deaf and disability studies. Burch recently served as editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of American Disability History. She was a co-founding member of the Disability History Association and currently serves on its Board of Trustees. Burch also has served on the Advisory Board of the Society for Disability Studies. She has taught at Gallaudet University, Charles University (Prague, Czech Republic), King’s College (Aberdeen, Scotland), and Ohio State University.

These programs are brought to you by a Public Affairs Grant.

Participants with disabilities who may not be able to fully participate because of the instructional format or design of the program may request an accommodation by contacting the Disability Resource Center at your earliest convenience, 417-836-4192.

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“Design Creates Culture. Culture Shapes Values. Values Determine the Future.” – Robert Peters

I wanted to share the link below from CNN’s website.  It caused me to reflect on how our society perceives disability and how it impacts our lives.  When I went through my last reconstructive surgery I was around the age of eleven.  I had to use a wheelchair for a while during that time.  I recall being in a room that was not designed for a wheelchair….why was that?  I was told it was because I had to learn how to ‘deal’ with using a wheelchair.

I wonder what life would be like if professionals and citizens learned how to design inclusive, equitable environments so that everyone could fully participate?  We need to shift our thinking.  Poor design and the lack of proactive inclusive thought is what is limiting….not the disability, not the wheelchair.


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Claim It!

Language is a powerful thing in disability culture.  As my profession is beginning to make a shift in how we think about and perceive disability we have discussions on how language plays a role in our work.  Many times, we hear professionals/people talk about ‘ability’ instead of using the word disability.  One of my colleagues, Rosemary Kreston (Director of Resources for Disabled Students, Colorado State University), shared why she believes it is so important to embrace and use the word ‘disability’.  I agree with Rosemary’s points and I wanted to share them with you… -Katheryne

On my campus, there is the tendency to use the term ‘ability’ when including disability in the general categories of diversity. I understand the intent but here’s how I’ve responded as to the impact.

“First, everyone has abilities but not everyone has a disability. By not using the term disability as an identifier, you are actually further marginalizing students with disabilities by glossing over or ignoring a major part of their lived experience.

Second, the word ‘disability’ is not a negative one – unless you make it so. It is simply a word. Yes, it has lots of stigma attached to it, just like all other words that have been used to represent specific devalued groups. But to avoid using the term simply means you are buying in to the stigma.

Ignoring the experience of disability is as marginalizing as making it the only aspect of a person that is recognized. Having a disability is a unique way of being in the world, just as it is to be gay, a woman, African American, from a reservation, etc.. The key is to realize that disability is only one aspect of a person but, like other human characteristics, it can shape how a person sees the world, approaches life, solves problems, etc. Shouldn’t we acknowledge that in the same way we acknowledge the ‘cultural’ aspects of other students? That is hard to do when disability gets subsumed by ability.

Disability is a term that has been reclaimed by those who are cognizant of the political and social meaning of the term. By mainstreaming the word, it helps to normalize it and gives identity to a group of students who might not necessarily see themselves bonded by a common experience of disability. The common experience is created by the reactions of society towards the fact they have any type of disability.”

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Director Selected to Particpate in Disability Services Development

Director selected to participate in disability services development

Monday, May 17, 2010

Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, Missouri State University director of disability services; and Dr. Jamaine Abidogun, associate professor of history, were among the 25 selected nationwide to participate in the establishment of Project ShIFT (Shaping Inclusion through Foundational Transformation).

Project ShIFT is a $340,402 project funded by the U.S. Department of Education designed to provide support for studying and enhancing disability practices and procedures at institutions of higher education. The initiative will begin with a workshop series July 27-30 in Minneapolis.

“This initiative is in line with our public affairs mission and our movement toward a model of inclusive excellence,” said Staeger-Wilson. “I am looking forward to working with Dr. Abidogun on creating a shift here at Missouri State in developing more welcoming, inclusive and equitable learning environments for everyone.”

Abidogun and Staeger-Wilson will meet with 22 representatives from other participating institutions. They will learn about and discuss the latest research on disability studies and how new perspectives can be applied to Missouri State’s office practices to facilitate a change in the campus perception of disability and inform both service delivery and curriculum design.

“The overall goal is to bring back information on universal design and on ways to introduce curriculum design changes to include universal design. I look forward to learning how to increase disability awareness and how to design our curriculum to provide equity in the classroom,” said Abidogun. “My goal is to share information with faculty and support changes in their curriculum to ensure inclusive excellence across our campus.”

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Disability History Exhibit

We are striving to create a paradigm shift in our thinking about disability; viewing disability from a negative medical malady to a positive individual difference along with the promotion of disability pride.  As we reframe disability, our perceptions, attitudes, policies, language, and values regarding disability will also begin to shift.

With our public affairs theme being, Leadership in a Global Society, we need to better understand all cultures, including our knowledge of disability history and culture.  Unfortunately, very few people in our society understand that disability is the largest minority group that anyone can become a member of at any time.  With 18% of our population having a disability, we need to be more knowledgeable about disability in order to be culturally competent and to be ethical leaders.  We need to strive to include this information in our curricula and help students grasp how disability intersects their field of study.

Please take the time to view the Disability History Exhibit.  If you would like to view the exhibit in an alternative format, please review the information at this link, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/gcdse/history/HTML_Content_Main.htm.  If the design of the exhibit and the information at this link are still a barrier to your participation, please contact our office.

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Recreation Center Will Include Universal Design Features

As Missouri State moves toward a model of Inclusive Excellence, we are striving to create welcoming, inclusive, usable learning environments for everyone.  When work began toward the design of the new recreation center, students with disabilities were involved.  These students had a voice and were members of the planning committee.  They shared what recreation features were lacking for them currently and what they wanted to see in a new facility.   Students continued to voice that they not only wanted a recreation center that was disability compliant but one that they could easily use.  Students wanted a recreation center that was universally designed.

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design.  It’s universal because the design benefits people of all ages and abilities.  People with disabilities realize that many times what is legally accessible is not always usable.  In conjunction with the Disability Resource Center, Campus Recreation, the Disability Services Advisory Committee, the University Architect and the planning committee, each recommendation was reviewed and considered for the project.

Students with disabilities also made recommendations regarding equipment and program access.  The new recreation center will have just a few of the many universal design features listed below:

  • Main accessible entrance to be the main entrance used by all.
  • All entrances made accessible.
  • Covered entry way.
  • Sloped walkway to the entrance for all, rather than a ramp.
  • Quality exterior lighting at the entrance.
  • Way finding features at the main entrance. This will include a jointing pattern in the concrete and lighting that will serve as general illuminators and as a guiding element.
  • High contrast exterior and interior signage.
  • High contrast color/texture of the flooring that signals there is a change, from hall to room, around pool, etc.
  • High contrast color/texture in floor for way finding purposes. Numerous color changes will be present throughout the building to define geometries and spatial relationships.
  • Automatic sensor lighting.
  • Accessible family style bathrooms and showers, signage should reflect that they are accessible, family style, unisex bathrooms/showers.
  • Full length mirrors.
  • No fixed furniture.  Making certain all furniture is compatible for all body sizes and that they can be adjustable.
  • Tables and chairs are designed at different heights or are adjustable.
  • Countertops and work environments are also at different heights or adjustable; exceeding accessibility requirements (for patrons and employees).
  • High contrast signage with Braille throughout the building.
  • Pool to have a zero depth sloped entry.
  • All lockers at different heights with adjustable hooks or hooks at different levels.
  • High contrast color/texture, non-slip surface around pools.

As we continue to move forward with the project, we plan to examine how universal design can be applied to the programming and services of the recreation center.  One of many things students hope to see in the new recreation center will be workout equipment that is adaptable and usable for everyone with a layout that should provide plenty of space to navigate around equipment and transfer areas.  It will be a favorite place on campus for all students.

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What’s In a Name?

Effective July 1, 2010, Disability Services will be changing the name of the office to the Disability Resource Center.  Below are some quotes of what people think about the change.

“I think the name change would be a positive step.  It has an empowering effect in putting students on a more equal footing when they engage with your office.  This is opposed to being passive consumers of services.  It presents your office as a resource for students with disabilities which they can choose to use.” – MSU Staff

“…I wanted to indicate my whole-hearted support for the name change.  I think the idea of a Disability Resource Center emphasizes important student-centered values –where students, faculty, staff, and others seek out resources that will be useful to them.  I also agree that it promotes a positive understanding of disability as a manifestation of human diversity.” – MSU Faculty

“Changing perceptions so that students with disabilities are accepted as equal peers may be one of the most valuable things that we can do for our students.” – Off-Campus Disability Resources Professional

As we strive toward a shift to the socio-political model of disability, we feel that a name change is necessary.  In order for our office to lead a paradigm shift on our campus and beyond, we must reflect the values we strive toward in our office name and the language we use.  We must first change the way we represent disability in our own work.  There are practical as well as philosophical reasons why the “Disability Resource Center” is preferable to the current office name.  Below are just a few:

  • Disability “Services” keeps the focus on students with disabilities as the problem rather than placing the focus on environmental barriers and the goal for universal design.
  • “Disability Services” implies that one office has the primary responsibility to serve those with disabilities.  The reality is that creating inclusive learning environments is a responsibility of everyone; not just one office.
  • “Disability Resource Center” more accurately describes what the office has become for members of the campus community as well as Springfield and the surrounding area.  We already provide more than “services” to students with disabilities.  The offices provide resources, advisement, consultation, information, and referral for students, faculty, staff, and administrators as well as our community.  Often, our role is to collaborate with members of the campus community in creating more usable and inclusive environments.
  • Dropping the word “services” is more congruent with student development theory wherein we provide resources so that students might direct themselves rather than be served by an office.  The Career Center and Multi-Cultural Resource Center are recent examples of this shift.
  • “Disability” needs to remain part of the office name.  “Disability” is a key word as a source of pride, as a part of diversity, and as an aspect of the civil rights movement.  More practically, it is the most commonly recognized keyword in a search for resources in online and other directories.

This is one of many changes we will be making to facilitate a different campus perception of disability and to enhance both service delivery and the proactive inclusive design of our learning environments.

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