Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Molly Hull, a Meredith alumna from the Class of 2016 and past Meredith faculty member, has been working closely with Disability Services this year to expand disability access around campus. Hull is currently employed as the Accessibility Coordinator for the North Carolina Museum of Art and works as an audio describer for Arts Access, an organization dedicated to providing access to art for North Carolinians with disabilities. She also works as the Accessibility Consultant for Meredith College. Through her work with Arts Access, she was able to introduce labels, braille and audio descriptions to Weams Gallery in Johnson Hall and to develop an accessibility section for the gallery’s website. All of these experiences working to improve accessibility (and specifically accessibility on Meredith’s campus) led Hull to reach out to Liliana Madrid, Meredith’s DEI Coordinator, and Meredith’s Disability Services office in order to create Meredith’s Accessibility Initiative.
The Accessibility Initiative is a five-part workshop series taking place throughout the 2022-2023 school year. Each event is about an hour and a half long and includes an hour-long information section followed by 30 minutes of practical skill building by working through simulated access barriers based on current Meredith students’ experiences. The first workshop was held on Sept. 16 and introduced participants to the workshop as well as Meredith’s existing accessibility features.
In October, the group will discuss disability culture and history and relate it back to college campuses, and Rebecca Simmons, president of Meredith’s Angels for Disability Advocacy (ADA), will give a presentation on disabled student groups. November’s session will focus on attitudinal barriers such as the language we use to discuss disability and acknowledge invisible disabilities, as well as discuss the difference between DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion). Next semester, there will be two workshop series, with February’s session being a technological boot camp where participants will hear about aids like screen readers and learn how to make PDFs accessible and include alt text and image descriptions on online assignments. Finally, March’s session will discuss physical barriers with particular focus on how students can make Meredith traditions such as Cornhuskin’ and Stunt accessible for all students to enjoy.
Because of the Initiative’s small-group setting, only 25 people are attending the workshops. However, Madrid and the Disability Services office worked with Hull to ensure that as many departments and organizations as possible have a representative in attendance with the hope that these people can take what they’ve learned back to their departments and circulate the information to their coworkers.
President Jo Allen, academic deans and department chairs, facilities services, career services and planning, Student Life, Technology Services and the Division of Institutional Advancement are some of the groups represented. It is currently unclear if these workshops will be repeated in the future, but Hull’s hope is that they will continue for years to come. Accessibility is a complicated and evolving issue, and there is so much that we as a community can do to make Meredith a welcoming place for everyone.
One of the most important things for Hull was making sure that students were at the center of this discussion. She emphasized that this program has been “intentional from its creation” and said the team “made sure from the beginning that every person has and continues to have a voice in the topics chosen and ensuring that all Meredith student’s voices are honored and heard.”
Beyond reaching out to Rebecca Simmons and other members of the ADA club, Hull has also created an anonymous testimonial form for members of the Meredith community to share access issues they’ve faced in the Meredith community, both in and out the classroom. Hull is the only one who will receive these reports and will redact any possible identifying information before using them as examples for workshop participants. The hope is that working with these real-life scenarios will help participants understand that these things are a reality which enables them to think about how we can improve in the future. The form can be accessed through the Meredith College Counseling Center & Disability Services Linktree.
Overall, Hull hopes that these workshops will embody the idea of “nothing about us without us,” a quote from Disabled People South African leaders Michael Masutha and William Rowland.
By Clary Taylor, Contributing Writer
Correction: Hull is not affiliated with Arts Access, but rather, partnered with them during her time as gallery director and is currently and audio describer. Additionally, the phrase "nothing about us, without us" was spoken by Michael Masutha and William Rowland, who were the two leaders of Disabled People South Africa in 1993.