Emily Lucio, one of the two finalists to be the University of Maryland’s Americans with Disabilities Act/504 coordinator, shared her vision for the future of accessibility and inclusion at this university at a virtual webinar Monday.
As coordinator, Lucio said she would want to center the experiences of students and provide opportunities for education and awareness on disability-related issues. She would also hope to get to know all members of the campus community and listen to their thoughts on inclusion and accessibility, she said.
“We want to learn from them about all of their experiences and then determine what works well, what needs improvement, what areas have not been addressed and then review and evaluate current policies and procedures,” Lucio said.
The coordinator will be responsible for “assessing and responding to accessibility concerns, and providing education and outreach to the campus and ensuring continual efforts for access and inclusivity,” Georgina Dodge, the university’s diversity and inclusion vice president, wrote in an email last week.
The coordinator will work with the university’s Title IX coordinator, the President’s Commission on Disability Issues and others around campus to enforce ADA compliance. The coordinator will also oversee compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which discusses equal treatment for students with disabilities, and other parts of the act that cater to campus community members with disabilities.
Lucio has almost 30 years of experience working in ADA compliance and disability services, including at Johns Hopkins University and the Catholic University of America. She has also worked in ADA compliance with the Montgomery County government.
Lucio would identify stakeholders to work with to make this university more inclusive and accessible, she said. She said she would start with those involved in providing Accessibility and Disability Service accommodations.
In the fall semester, some students with ADS accommodations called on the university to do more to assist them — especially as COVID-19 heightened the challenges they were facing.
Lucio also emphasized the importance of universal design, which centers on creating products and environments that benefit individuals regardless of disability or ability, as a “cohesive approach to promoting inclusion.”
Adapting to a virtual environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that catering to all students through universal design is possible, and those adaptations should be centered as normal life resumes, Lucio said.
“If we record all of our Zoom classes and allow students to pay attention and then go back and double check the lecture … we’re only reinforcing that opportunity to learn, while at the same time providing an equal way for all students, including those with disabilities, to have access to the information,” Lucio said.
Lucio also answered questions from webinar attendees about taking cultural inclusion into account when catering to students with disabilities. It is important to look at disability issues as part of larger conversations about ethnicity and race, she said.
In response to questions about helping graduate students, who often don’t receive ADS accommodations, Lucio emphasized learning about individual situations.
“All of these things always require a good deal of communication and learning about the setting, learning about the situation, learning about the individual with the disability,” she said.
Rather than having an endpoint, inclusion must be a continual process and action that leads to a more welcoming community at this university, Lucio said.
“That’s the overall goal,” she said. “It’s a future where all people are fully included in society, leading to self determination, independence, productivity and participation in all parts of community life.”
The other finalist for the position will meet with community members on Friday.
This story has been updated.