Disability Panel Works to Improve Accessibility
Meredith College has an established Disability Panel. Historically, this panel has dealt with any disability related grievances and has also played a role in facilitating the annual Access Award. This semester, there are a series of topics and goals which the Disability Panel is looking to progress based upon a monthly meeting.
The Disability Panel is a space for faculty and students to convene and discuss a variety of topics that are present in Meredith Campus. Carolyn Koning, the Assistant Director for Disability services and Karen Coffer Hager, a Disability counselor, note the importance of the Disability Panel and how it cultivates spaces to “work with Facilities Services and other partners on campus to combine resources to accomplish improvements and larger access projects (for example, accessible residence hall rooms, suites, kitchens, laundry, and parlors).” Koning and Hager also met and consulted with Liliana Madrid, the DEI Coordinator, with the hope of “expand[ing] the Disability Panel representation to improve communication, awareness across campus, and overall accessibility.”
The Disability Panel has worked to create a platform of goals that will further be established at their followup meeting late this Feb. 16. Both Koning and Hager note that Panel members have identified four major goals:
1. Increase campus awareness of disability issues and create a climate of inclusivity.
2. Improve accessibility of campus programs, services, and built environments.
3. Adapt campus policies to reflect current legal and ethical trends related to disabilities.
4. Improve campus communication related to accessibility concerns.
Beyond these goals, Koning and Hager also expressed wanting to highlight or rather bring attention to a myriad of topics around campus. “The Disability Panel recognizes there is work to be done regarding accessibility at Meredith, and the Disability Panel is committed to developing a process for addressing and eliminating access barriers.” Dr. Janley Strutz McMillen, the Director of Sponsored Program of School of Natural & Mathematical Sciences, believes that the Panel is in a “transition phase in which we are working toward becoming proactive, rather than reactive, in addressing accessibility-related issues on campus.” Dr. McMillen explained that the Panel envisions a college community in which “programs, services and environments are universally accessible and usable by all people.”
With regard to promoting change on campus, Koning and Hager stated, “[The Disability Panel] have created subcommittees connected with each goal. The subcommittees will determine their own strategies and activities for the year.” Dr. McMillen also added that “these subcommittees will be charged with identifying key activities for meeting the goals as well as key metrics for measuring [the Panel’s] success.”
The Disability Panel has already opened space for students and faculty to talk about resolving issues on campus. For those who are interested in learning more about the Disability Panel, the next meeting is on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 12:30 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Zoom.
By Shae-Lynn Henderson, Features Editor, and Camila Cardoso-Herrera, Contributing Writer