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LU recognizes ADA 28th anniversary, celebrates support and opportunities

Bello-OgunuLamar University faculty, staff, students and alumni gathered today to recognize the significance of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the landmark legislation. The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990.Director Kyle Mutz

“I really love working at Lamar,” said LU Disability Resource Center director Kyle Mutz before the group gathered in the university’s John Gray Center. “You can see here today the diversity of our employees and staff. Lamar has hired and supports so many individuals with disabilities.” He said that in his time at LU he has been “so well supported and empowered to support people with disabilities in the community.” 

“The ADA is not only a law, it’s an opportunity for change,” Mutz said noting that his own opportunity to earn a degree and work at a university is a result of the ADA.

“Our theme is building an accessible community for everyone,” Mutz said. He encourages everyone to try to create better environments for people with disabilities, he said.

John Bello-Ogunu, vice president of the Division of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Intercultural Affairs at Lamar University, said, “It is easier to commemorate an event than to fully understand the magnitude of the implications of what we are celebrating.”

“The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The purpose of the law is to make sure that persons with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, no exception,” Bello-Ogunu said.

“Diversity, while it embodies numerical representation of people from all backgrounds, it also includes our willingness as humans to recognize, respect and to appreciate those differences; to make sincere efforts to co-create a society, a community, or a neighborhood that is inviting welcoming, inclusive, nurturing and supportive for all human beings,” he said. “We cannot talk about diversity without talking about ADA and our fellow brothers and sisters with disabilities.”

ADA commemorationMost important, it is what we do “collectively - in spite of our differences - to co-create a society where all human beings are seen, respected, and treated humanely, where opportunities are given to all to be able to successfully pursue happiness and all the dreams that they may have.” 

“Simply commemorating the day that ADA was officially enacted as a law, or simply celebrating the contents of the act, is meaningless without the willingness and the unwavering strong commitment on the part of all Americans, to ensure that the letters of the Act are recognized and operationalized in our daily lives, so as to ensure that our fellow human beings, regardless of their conditions in life, and regardless of our social cultural differences, are treated with respect, humanely and accorded the same rights and opportunities that all human beings deserve,” he said.

“We need to remember to take a step back, and ask ourselves how well are our fellow human beings, who happen to have some disabilities, doing, and then ask how can I help?”

Jana Daigle, who graduated LU in 2010 with a degree in social work, shared a brief overview of the American Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

While attending classes, Daigle always carried two backpacks, she said. The first contained all her books and the second all her medically necessary support for her nutritional needs for the day. “Attending school with two backpacks was very heavy,” she said. “To me, the ADA is a statement of someone saying ‘I see what you’re carrying and I want to share the load with you.’”

ADA commemorationClinon Kyle, another recent LU student said, “the experience that I got here through the DRC was phenomenal. The center really opened its resources to me as it does to every student with disabilities. They were always open, always understanding of what my needs were, always polite and very professional.”

Kyle said that as a blind student he faced many challenges, but added that “We all have challenges,” before concluding his remarks by quoting an inspirational poem titled “Don’t Quit” by 19th century poet John Greenleaf Whittier. 

Other program speakers were: Kenneth Semien Sr., president of the Beaumont Area Council of the Blind; Tanisha Griffin, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Texas Workforce Solutions, on vocational rehabilitation services; and Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry on ADA voting accommodations.

LU’s Disability Resource Center determines and facilitates reasonable accommodations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and ensures equal access through advocacy, accommodations and support services. The DRC supports students enrolled at LU with a documented disability with services that include extended test time, distraction reduced testing, priority seating, accessible seating, priority registration, enlarged print materials, audio record lectures, closed captioning and other accommodations. For more information, contact drc@lamar.edu or call (409) 880-8347.