Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI) Director Jesse Suter and College of Education and Social Services (CESS) Associate Dean Katie Shepherd assembled an all-star panel to discuss access and inclusive excellence across UVM.

The University of Vermont recently hosted the 12th Blackboard Jungle Symposium, attended by hundreds of individuals, including community members and UVM faculty, staff, and students. Blackboard Jungle annually brings in renowned speakers to address the community and offer workshops to increase Vermont’s cultural competence. This year, among the workshops held was one organized by Drs. Jesse Suter and Katie Shepherd called Building Wider Doors for Inclusive Excellence: Disability in Our Classrooms, Campus, and Community. For this workshop, Suter and Shepherd assembled UVM affiliates from across campus to discuss disability, access, and Inclusive Excellence. The panel shared their own experiences on campus before joining workshop attendees in small group work. The groups engaged with a case study and shared their reactions and thoughts to the prompt before working together to identify possible solutions. Many groups noted how complex issues of access and accommodation can be, especially when factors like classroom placement, course schedules, and assumptions around a person’s abilities all intersect. The workshop wrapped up with some reflections on what Inclusive Excellence could look like on campus and what steps every individual could take to help move our university closer to that vision.

Panelists for this workshop included Winnie Looby (Disability Studies Certificate Program & Academics Coordinator, CDCI), Ben Wimmet (Assistive Technology Access Specialist, CDCI), Vanessa Eugenio (Academic Advisor and Student Support Specialist, College of Nursing and Health Science), Sharon Mone (Program Director, Student Accessibility Services) Amber Fulcher (ADA/Section 504 Coordinator, Office of Affirmative Action & Equal Opportunity), John Pirone (American Sign Language Program Coordinator and Lecturer, CESS) and Lance Smith (Associate Professor, CESS).

In addition to the powerful words, scenarios, and questions workshop attendees engaged with, the panel and facilitators also provided a link to the beginnings of a shared space dedicated to accessibility resources that can be used across campus and beyond. The Accessibility Resources Website offers resources for everyone and calls for anyone to help contribute. Blackboard Jungle Workshops like Building Wider Doors offer powerful content once a year, and it is this group's hope that by including ways to stay connected after the end of the session, the impact can continue to grow.