Sunday, July 26, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, this landmark civil rights legislation increased access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities across community life, including employment. By ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to work, the ADA is an affirmation of our nation’s founding ideals and a cornerstone of our efforts to ensure a fully inclusive workforce.  

“As we mark this milestone for the Americans with Disabilities Act, we recognize its significant impact in the development of our campus over the past three decades,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “As the higher education landscape evolves, we must continue to ensure that all members of our community have full access to our campuses, both physical and virtual.”

ADA and Accessibility Services in the Office for Equity and Accessibility serves as a leader in opening doors for individuals with disabilities at Virginia Tech. Pamela Vickers, director for ADA and Accessibility Services, leads the university’s efforts to ensure institutional compliance with the ADA. The ADA director provides oversight of the reasonable accommodation process for applicants, employees, and visitors; ensures that the university’s programs and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities; and consults with various stakeholders and community members on many ADA related topics, such as effective communication and accessibility.

In addition to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified employees and visitors, the ADA team serves as experts with regard to workplace accommodations, medical restrictions, physical accessibility, and programmatic accessibility that is required for all programs and services provided by the university. The team also provides a range of trainings and consultations on the ADA and works with departments, programs, and colleges on how to make certain that all activities and events are fully accessible and inclusive to individuals with disabilities.

The university continues to focus strong efforts on eliminating barriers in existing facilities and making certain that newly designed facilities are ADA compliant. Leading the extensive and stringent planning and implementation of these projects is the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure and Facilities and its University Building OfficialOffice of University Planning, and Capital Construction and Renovations units.

Central to the widescale implementation of the physical projects, programming, and improved service delivery is extensive collaboration – across all corners of the university.

“Accessibility is among the institution’s most critical crosscutting organizational improvement initiatives, requiring exceptional and strategic partnerships to produce scalable change,” said Dwayne Pinkney, senior vice president and chief business officer. “That is why university efforts — led by the Campus Accessibility Working Group — to foster inclusive and accessibility environments are rooted in the tenet that all areas who have accessibility responsibility should be working together toward the same vision.”

The Campus Accessibility Working Group, established by Pinkney in 2018, strives to identify opportunities and solutions that advance university accessibility in a collaborative and coordinated manner across multiple divisions and work streams.

To accomplish this, the working group leverages a community of practice model, drawing upon expertise, programming, and support services from across the administrative enterprise, Equity and Accessibility, Human Resources, Inclusion and Diversity, Student Affairs, and more, along with strong input from employee and student governance and the Disability Alliance and Disability Caucus to implement accessibility-related projects.

“Through implementation of the ADA, OEA works with individuals with disabilities to ensure a campus environment in which all members of our community can thrive. Our campus community is stronger as a result of the contributions of individuals with disabilities,” said Kelly Oaks, assistant vice president for equity and accessibility.

ADA and Accessibility Services plans to honor the anniversary of the ADA with an event in the fall that will highlight how the lives of individuals with disabilities have been impacted by the ADA.

“SSD is committed to ensuring that our communities are accessible and that no barriers prevent students with disabilities from meeting their aspirations for learning. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, we're so grateful for our wonderful colleagues who also commit to this work,” said Nikeshia Arthur, associate dean of students and director of service for students with disabilities.

Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides accommodations to students on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of disability they may have. SSD offers student accommodations the Werth testing center, and more. Support Services include academic coaching, academic relief/suspension appeal, standardized testing assistance, and more.

“The ultimate goal is an equal and accessible playing field for individuals with disabilities. The ADA lays the foundation but it is a consistent and focused institutional commitment to accessibility that will get us there,” Oaks said.

Related links: