The Ohio University President’s Advisory Council on Disability and Accessibility Planning (PACDAP) met with the Athens City Commission on Disabilities July 15 to initiate their collaboration under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed by Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis in 2014. The two groups discussed the scope of the memorandum, upcoming projects, future goals and plans for the upcoming “ADA25 Celebration Series” in October that will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“One of the first and most critical projects we are working on under the MOU relates to developing a plan for emergency preparedness for persons living with disabilities that considers both the university and city processes,” said Dianne Bouvier, PACDAP chairwoman and director of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Accessibility and ADA/504 coordinator for the university. “It is critical to have a plan that crosses between the two entities so that all members of the community are safe should we undergo an emergency. One of the goals of this committee will be to educate community members who live with disabilities on how to have a safety plan in place. This committee will be actively seeking input from the experts in the field as well as persons living with disabilities, to find the best solutions possible.”

According to the memorandum of understanding, PACDAP and the Athens Commission on Disabilities will promote communication, cooperation and collaboration while working together to address issues of mutual concern to community members who are living with disabilities.

In 2012 President McDavis charged PACDAP with developing a strategic plan to provide a vision on how the university could enhance the OU experience for individuals living with disabilities, both in educational and employment settings. Upon completion of the strategic plan, the president re-charged PACDAP to serve as partners with the Athens Commission on Disabilities to implement the MOU between the city and the university.

In addition to the upcoming work in developing a disaster preparedness plan for community members with disabilities, the groups will collaborate on the upcoming celebration for the 25th anniversary of the passage of the ADA, which will recognize and commemorate the importance of the legislation.

“The ADA and other legislation related to rights of people with disabilities are important to assure that we fully include people of all abilities in having the opportunity to learn, work, and pursue their personal interests and goals,” said Carey Busch, assistant dean for Student Accessibility Services and PACDAP member. “While the ADA has not solved the issue of exclusion, it provides a framework through which we can advocate for accessibility and move toward becoming an inclusive community. The 25th anniversary of this legislation provides an important reminder for us to examine in what ways we are, or are not, meeting both the spirit and letter of the law so that we may recommit and prioritize our work to honor the intent of the legislation.”

During the month of October, PACDAP is coordinating the “ADA25 Celebration Series,” which will include workshops, information sessions and guest speakers intended to raise awareness among members of the OU community.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into legislation on July 26, 1990. The commemoration of the passage of the ADA gives us the opportunity to re-energize our commitment to supporting the civil right for persons living with disabilities so all beings can engage and reach their highest potential both while members of the Ohio University community and beyond our borders,” Bouvier said. “What is worth noting is the increased momentum around the university to make decisions that consider how we can best provide opportunities that are fully accessible. We need to include and learn from all of our voices, those living with disabilities and those who do not, to have the most meaning.”

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