2011 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty - Professor Bernard Wulle

Professor Bernard Wulle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aviation Technology. In the summer of 2010, he helped bring Able Flight to the Purdue campus, giving students with physical disabilities a chance to learn how to fly. Able Flight is a scholarship organization that works with flight schools that provide aviation training. Able Flight’s mission is to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance. As a result of Professor Wulle bringing Able Flight to Purdue, two individuals with physical disabilities, Heather Schultz and Chris Spaur, have had the opportunity to earn their pilot certificates after five weeks of hard work and training provided by instructors from Purdue’s Department of Aviation Technology. Able Flight has opened up a whole new world for Chris as he is now working toward obtaining his commercial certificate. Professor Wulle hopes to expand the current partnership with Able Flight and help people with physical disabilities consider potential careers in aviation, including opportunities in flight, maintenance, management, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Professor Wulle has stated, “We should explore all sorts of possibilities to train and educate not only students but also corporations to take a look at some of these folks.” Professor Wulle’s vision and efforts have helped open up a world of possibilities for individuals with disabilities.

Staff - Kristopher Knotts

Kristopher Knotts is the Web Marketing and Development Manager in the Krannert School of Management. Mr. Knotts is currently serving as a key member of the Web Accessibility Committee, a volunteer committee that was instrumental in bringing to fruition the Web Accessibility Policy, which became effective March 15, 2010. As a member of the Web Accessibility Committee, he has made major contributions to the University in the area of web accessibility. Mr. Knotts created a self-guided training module, which is available on the Web Accessibility Committee Website, and is a valuable resource to assist Purdue departments and units with improving the accessibility of their Websites. He also assisted with the creation of the Committee’s instructor-led training and helped co-present this popular training to the campus. Mr. Knotts takes time from his many duties in Krannert to answer technical questions that individuals have in regard to improving the accessibility of their Web pages. In addition to these efforts, Mr. Knotts volunteered his time to speak at the 2009 Disability Awareness Month reception about web accessibility. Mr. Knotts continually dedicates his time and efforts to educating the Purdue campus on web accessibility, and in doing so, he has made a significant impact on increasing information access for individuals with disability here at Purdue University.

Student - Alexander Camarota

Alexander Camarota, a Purdue graduate, was a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts’ Master of Fine Arts program for creative writing at Purdue when he received the Focus Award. Mr. Camarota spent several months at Purdue before working with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to receive academic accommodations. He wrote about this time, “I was uncertain of how to define my disability, of how to even define myself and my position in the world.” Once he made that first step, he has begun to explore Deaf identity, American Sign Language, and the Deaf community. Mr. Camarota joined the DRC’s peer mentor program, and he began tutoring undergraduate students and sitting on panels about disability. He also turned his attention to basketball, petitioning for Closed Captions at Mackey Arena. As a result, he was invited by Intercollegiate Athletics to help evaluate demonstrations and tests of the closed captioning systems. Throughout his time at Purdue, Mr. Camarota continued to explore his own uncertainties through writing, and, spring of 2010, he earned the PEFCU Award for Creative Nonfiction for a piece called “Discapability.” In 2010, he successfully lobbied the DRC and the Diversity Resource Office to co-sponsor a workshop titled “Writing the Disability. Breaking the Myth,” which Mr. Camarota facilitated. In the final week of the workshop, some of the participants gave a public reading of their works, which was also compiled into an anthology. At the reading, Mr. Camarota summarized much of his inspiration and philosophy for the workshop:

“When I write, I am ‘deaf,’ and not ‘hard-of-hearing,’ I am accepting an uncertainty in my life. I am accepting that I do not live in a hearing world. And yet, I do not live in, as the cliché goes, ‘a silent world.’ What is most important is that I finally accepted something about myself and with that acceptance, an entire new world opened up, one with sound and silence and everything in between. It is still an uncertain position, and I am okay with it; I welcome it, and I welcome the opportunities it gives me to share with others. If John Keats could go bravely, but uncertainly, in the next world, we can all go into the uncertainties of this world, and writing can be our vehicle.”

Mr. Camarota facilitated this workshop again in 2011 with the continued sponsorship of the DRC and the DRO. He also participated on a panel for an event  in 2011 for Disability Awareness Month titled “Interacting with People with Disabilities.” Mr. Camarota has been a unique and valuable contributor to the Purdue community through his extensive and continued efforts in the area of accessibility and disability.

Organization - Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office

The Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office was created in December 2006 to oversee the emergency preparedness and planning activities on Purdue University’s West Lafayette Campus. This office, under the supervision of Director Ron Wright, was awarded the Emergency Management for Higher Education grant from the Department of Education. The grant supports institutions of higher education projects designed to develop, or review and improve, and fully integrate campus-based all-hazards emergency management planning efforts. One of the requirements of the grant was to develop a transportation plan for people with disabilities. The Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office took this requirement a step further by developing an “At-Risk Campus Populations Plan” for inclusion into the University’s integrated Emergency Management Plan to provide guidance in all areas of emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities, not just with transportation. The office met with key members on campus that work with people with disabilities, listened to their feedback, and then incorporated recommendations into this comprehensive plan. As a result of this open collaboration, the office has developed sustained partnerships with these individuals and departments. The office also rewrote and implemented a voluntary registry system, whereby all individuals who feel they may need additional assistance in times of emergency can voluntarily indentify themselves and express their specific needs to public safety responders in advance of their need. In addition, the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office developed a Mental Health Resources Plan, which proactively addresses mental health issues among the university’s students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The plan is a valuable resource that provides practical guidance intervention and response methods. Jefferson Howells, Assistant Project Director of Management in the office, presented a session on emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities in 2011 for Disability Awareness Month, a session he created for Disability Awareness Month in 2010. The Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office’s efforts in securing and implementing this grant have helped the University make significant and important strides in improving Purdue’s emergency planning efforts for individuals with disabilities.