April 8, 2019

Focus Awards recognize those committed to disability accessibility and diversity

Will Traub, Vilisa Thompson, Jesse Fawbush, Kelsey Jordan, Mark Ward, Mandy Rispoli Front row: Will Traub, Vilisa Thompson, Jesse Fawbush. Back row: Kelsey Jordan, Mark Ward, Mandy Rispoli. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

Six pioneers of disability accessibility and diversity were honored at a reception March 7 as winners of the 2019 Focus Awards.

The awards were presented at the Disability Awareness Month reception, held in Purdue Memorial Union. Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for ethics and compliance, provided opening and closing remarks, and Erin Oliver, director of the Office of Institutional Equity, presented the awards. Vilisa Thompson, licensed master social worker and founder and CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, was the keynote speaker. Awards were presented to a faculty member, a staff member, students and an organization affiliated with Purdue in recognition of their commitment to raising awareness and furthering access to education, work and play for individuals with disabilities.

The award recipients were:

* Faculty: Mark Ward, professor of statistics and associate director of actuarial science, was recognized for his dedication to providing an equitable learning environment and the promotion of inclusive and accessible environments on campus, nationally and internationally. Ward creates opportunities for students to learn from each other and with each other, and is committed to creating a unified community that respects each other embracing diversity. He promotes inclusion by focusing on making all environments accessible, and lives out his commitment to inclusion and accessibility. Ward decided that his limited ability to communicate with a deaf student was hindering his student’s opportunity to get the most from his class, so he learned some basic sign language and is seeking out ways to enhance his sign language skills to provide the most equitable learning environment possible.

* Staff: Kelsey Jordan is the testing coordinator for the Disability Resource Center, overseeing the Accommodated Testing Center and its daily operations. She also serves as the staff advisor for the Disability Resource Center’s Student Advisory Committee. She is actively involved in everything the committee does and participates more as a member of the committee than just an advisor. Jordan helped create the photo voice project, works with every test sent into the DRC and attends conferences for disabilities. She has been known to run across campus to get a final exam for a student, and while her contributions to the disability community are outstanding, the way she cares about each individual is what really sets her apart. Jordan is there for students when help is needed, when school is overwhelming, when they had a bad day or when they just aced an exam.

* Student: Jesse Fawbush, Braiden Linder and Will Traub are student service employees of University Residence Capital Projects. They were recognized for their outstanding effort and dedication to accessibility in creating high-contrast combinations on calendars, charts and schedules used by their team at University Residences. Fawbush is a sophomore studying social studies history in the College of Education, Linder is a junior studying sociology in the College of Liberal Arts, and Traub is a former student employed as an intern. All three recognized the importance of good communication in their work culture and began a process to improve it in summer 2018. The team created color-coded bands and boxes on weekly calendars and charts to illustrate employee work days or task efforts. It was later recognized that not all the colors and text insertions were visually clear to all parties, so to aid color blindness, appropriate contrast combinations are used in production efforts. This reinforces an internal office though process of performing their responsibilities with awareness and efforts that do not impede the progress of others.

* Organization: Purdue Autism Cluster was established to develop an interdisciplinary and highly coordinated effort to understand, assess and treat individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Their effort spans basic biological and genetic to behavioral and applied approaches, and faculty associated with the Purdue Autism Cluster reside in a number of academic units across campus, including the colleges of Health and Human Sciences, Science, Education and Veterinary Medicine. The Purdue Autism Cluster is deeply invested in the testing and delivery of newly discovered clinical interventions to aid children with autism spectrum disorder and in generating the basic research that makes these interventions possible. The Purdue Autism Cluster was selected to receive the organization award for its commitment and dedication to accessibility and disability, specifically through advancing research, assessment and treatment in autism spectrum disorder and the creation of a holiday shopping guide for children dealing with autism spectrum disorder. 

Writer: Kelsey Schnieders Lefever, kschnied@purdue.edu

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