HAMMOND | Going beyond the letter of federal disability laws and striving for universal access at schools and other public facilities will be front and center Tuesday at a free Purdue University Calumet conference.
School administrators and teachers, university faculty and others interested in disability access issues are expected to attend the five-hour conference titled Going Beyond the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
The conference will feature workshops taken from topics in the recently published book, by the same title, authored in large part by Dr. Mary Lee Vance, academic advising director at Purdue University Calumet.
Vance said the workshops will focus on issues of web access for the disabled at public facilities, disabled student advocacy, designing accessible school curriculum and providing accessible services for disabled veterans of the armed services.
Vance said the conference is aimed at creating discussions about providing universal access for the disabled, which federal disability laws do not include.
For instance, she said, Northwest Indiana transportation officials offer as-needed transportation services for the disabled to medical or other scheduled appointments. But the goal of the conference and her work is to ensure everyday public services, such as buses or trains, are available to the disabled just as they are to the public at large.
Vance also noted many websites — vital tools for research in schools and universities — are not compatible with the software for screen readers used by the blind or visually impaired.
"What we really need to talk about is universal design — accessibility for everyone," she said.
Event co-organizer Dr. Dhanfu Elston, executive director of student success and transition at Purdue Calumet, said the issue of providing accessible education for physically and psychologically wounded military vets retuning from Iraq and Afghanistan will be a big part of the conference.