by Claire Miller
Clinical Assistant Professor Judith Emerson has been appointed GSU’s first Faculty Associate on Disabilities.
Emerson, who was appointed to the position in May, will work with the University Senate Committee on Cultural Diversity and will chair the university’s Disability Initiatives Committee (DIC) to review the policies and procedures already in place for faculty, staff and students with disabilities and determine what changes and additions need to be made to best serve that population. More specifically, she’ll work with committee members on the DIC’s four-pronged action plan, which addresses facility access, web-based accessibility, dissemination of critical information and centralization of communication regarding disability issues.
“My mission is to be part of a collaborative group of people at the university who want to improve the climate for individuals with disabilities on our campus,” she said.
She brings a strong background in both deaf education and special education to the position, having earned degrees in both areas and serving as a liaison between two schools of thought in teacher preparation – special education and general education – in the COE.
In her new role, Emerson will work with the university on physical improvements, such as installing curb ramps on sidewalks and retrofitting buildings to make them more accessible, as well as creating online resources and ensuring policies are in line with the university’s strategic plan.
She believes these changes will not only benefit faculty and staff with disabilities, but the GSU community as a whole.
“When you build curb cuts, that helps the person in the wheelchair crossing the street, the student using a rolling backpack and the person delivering packages with a hand truck,” Emerson explained. “When you make things more accessible, it’s not only beneficial for the person getting the accommodation – it benefits everyone.”
Emerson also hopes to develop a central communication system for faculty and staff with disabilities to address issues that may come up in the workplace.
“I want to be able to help individuals feel comfortable coming forward with their needs,” she said. “And public awareness is a good starting point.”
For more information about the University Senate Committee on Cultural Diversity, visit http://www.gsu.edu/senate/cultural_diversity.html.