October 2, 2023

Office of Disability Resources Updates

Happy Start of the Fall 2022 Semester!

ODR has a variety of events to share with our community that are in store for the upcoming months. We hope that you take a moment to review this information, RSVP to the opportunities of interest (if required), and to see you throughout the semester!

Disability Etiquette Training

This presentation is offered to the UMW community and open to faculty, staff, and students as an opportunity to learn more about current and best practices related to language about disability, general tips on interacting with people with disabilities, and tips on supporting individuals with specific disabilities. RSVP for Disability Etiquette Training

  • Tuesday, September 13th
  • 3pm-4pm
  • Colonnade Room (315), Rucker University Center

Digital Accessibility: Top Things to Know

This training will focus on quick tips and tricks for anyone in the UMW community interested in learning more about digital accessibility. This is a great opportunity for students, faculty, and staff involved in sharing any information with a wide range of individuals. General information for Word and Powerpoint accessibility, tips for social media, and closed captioning will be shared! This presentation will be limited to 15 participants to allow time for interactive discussion and questions. Come, learn, and ask questions in a judgment free environment with training provided by ODR’s Assistive Technology Coordinator, Danielle Smith. RSVP for Digital Accessibility Training

  • Tuesday, October 12th
  • 3:00pm-4:00pm
  • Capital Room (314), Rucker University Center

Assistive Technology Demo Day

Assistive Technology (AT) changes lives, and many of us use it every day! See how high-tech and low-tech devices can support learning and every day activities. Come check out Assistive Tech Demo Day to play with and see AT in action at UMW. This event does not require an RSVP and will be held as part of Disability Awareness Month programming during October.

  • Thursday, October 13th
  • 1pm-3pm
  • Office of Disability Resources, Suite 005 Seacobeck Hall

Disability Awareness Month Major Speaker – Rachel Loria

Rachel Loria is a Disability Rights Advocate at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, where she has been working for over 8 years. She works particularly on cases involving vocational services, Pre-Employment Transition Services, and assistive technology. She was born and raised in Richmond where she also began her journey as a self-advocate. She had the privilege of working with both Virginia Board for People with Disabilities and the Partnership for People with Disabilities in her 15 year career as a self-advocate working to help individuals who have disabilities.

  • Thursday, October 13th
  • 7pm
  • Chandler A/B Ballroom, Rucker University Center

Disability Awareness Month Table Fair

A table fair will be held to share information about both on- and off-campus disability organizations. There will also be a tye-dye table set up for students who would like to tye-dye a t-shirt with the month’s theme: “Amplifying Voices, Empowering Access.” There are a limited number of t-shirts available so come early to join the fun! In the event of inclement weather, the table fair will be moved inside and the tye-dye activity will be rescheduled for another date. No RSVP required.

  • Friday, October 14th
  • 11am-1pm
  • Campus Walk

Accessibility 101

Accessibility 101 is a campus-wide workshop designed as an opportunity to build awareness and understanding of how our practices, policies, attitudes, language, and interactions impact individuals with disabilities. As a group, we will review and discuss what it means to be accessible.

Individuals will be recognized for completing the Accessibility 101 Workshop as “UMW Accessibility Partners.” We hope to create our own transformative movement- one to promote accountability, accessibility, and inclusivity at UMW that aligns with our ASPIRE Values and Principles on Diversity and Inclusion.

Please be sure to RSVP for Accessibility 101 so that we can share the presentation and plan for your attendance.

  • Wednesday, November 9th
  • 3:00pm-4:30pm
  • Capital Room (314), Rucker University Center

Additional information is available on the ODR News/Events page.

Let us know if you have any questions or require disability accommodations by emailing odr@umw.edu.

Have a great start to the semester!

Memoirist, Disability Rights Activist Kenny Fries Delivers Keynote

Author and disability rights activist Kenny Fries delivered the keynote address for JFMC’s Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration at UMW. Photo credit: Michael R. Dekker.

Author and disability rights activist Kenny Fries delivered the keynote address for JFMC’s Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration at UMW. Photo credit: Michael R. Dekker.

Acclaimed writer Kenny Fries had a message to impart last week when he spoke to University of Mary Washington students: “Disability is just a different way of moving through the world.”

Fries, an author and activist whose work focuses on his experiences of being disabled and gay, came to UMW to deliver the keynote address for James Farmer Multicultural Center’s duo of commemorations: Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration. The event was held in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom and livestreamed via Zoom.

A prolific writer, Fries earned a master’s degree in playwriting from Columbia University. He has published the award-winning In the Province of the GodsThe History of My Shoes and The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory and Body, Remember: A Memoir as well as several books of poetry, and he edited the literary anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. Fries is also the recipient of numerous awards, grants and fellowships and is a two-time Fulbright Scholar. Read more.

October is Disability Awareness Month

UMW is celebrating Disability Awareness Month during the month of October. There are a number of exciting events in store for our students, staff, and faculty! Please review the flyer or check out ODR’s website to see What’s Happening!

Disability Studies Course Gains Acceptance at UMW

UMW senior Claudia Woods, president of the student club DiversAbility (shown here in a psychology course last year with her service dog, Hearo), is taking “Intro to Disability Studies.” Offered for the first time this fall, the course takes an interdisciplinary look at disability as key to the human experience as race or gender. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW senior Claudia Woods, president of the student club DiversAbility (shown here in a psychology course last year with her service dog, Hearo), is taking “Intro to Disability Studies.” Offered for the first time this fall, the course takes an interdisciplinary look at disability as key to the human experience as race or gender. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

One in four Americans lives with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the University of Mary Washington, it’s one in eight.

“With those sorts of numbers, it’s mind-boggling [that] disability doesn’t have more automatic inclusion when people think about diversity,” said UMW Professor of English Chris Foss.

As the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 30th year and October’s Disability Awareness Month shine a light on one of the country’s most underrepresented groups, so does a new UMW course. Offered for the first time this fall, Intro to Disability Studies (IDS) delves into the 21st-century experience of a diverse population, exploring cognitive, sensory, mobility and other differences as just as essential to the human condition as gender and race.

The 16-week course fans out across disciplines, examining disability throughout the lifespan in historical, political, social and other contexts. Years in the making, the class is team-taught by faculty and staff – from art history, education, English, historic preservation, psychology and the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) – who’ve poured their time and passion into the topic in hopes it gains traction. Read more.

UMW Celebrates Disability Awareness Month in October!

On behalf of many members of our community, ODR would like to announce a series of programming for Disability Awareness Month, celebrated in October at UMW.

We encourage all to participate in these opportunities to raise awareness and continue to reach towards our ASPIRE Principles and Values.

Please feel free to contact Office of Disability Resources (ODR) with any questions!


Professors Pool Expertise to Create ‘Compelling Courses’

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall. “My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an […]

UMW Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act

When UMW junior Lueden Sheikhnureldin arrived at Simpson Library that early fall morning, something felt off. The old-style wooden chairs in the study area where she’d crammed for so many exams had been replaced by sleek gray-and-green seats.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

“I couldn’t concentrate,” said Sheikhnureldin, whose ADHD can cause sensitivity to details like a chair’s texture and feel. “I thought, ‘This is confusing. Everything is changing. I can’t do this.’” She retreated to her Madison Hall room, instead, to study for a biology test.

An English major pursuing a degree in education, Sheikhnureldin is one of hundreds of UMW students with disabilities ranging from ADHD and autism to issues with vision, hearing and movement. “There really isn’t a category that isn’t represented here,” said Jessica Machado, director of the Office of Disability Resources (ODR), which provides services, accommodations and access.

It’s one of the most utilized offices of its type in Virginia, Machado said, with 12 percent of Mary Washington’s more than 4,000 students registered. That’s particularly poignant this month, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 30th anniversary. UMW officials like Machado are using the milestone to recognize three decades of strides toward equality for the disabled and also the work left to do.

“We must directly challenge the assumptions and effects of ableism and work to ensure that every member of the UMW community can realize their goals and aspirations here, and that all of us together thrive and flourish,” Provost Nina Mikhalevsky wrote in an email to campus. Read more.

Departure of Associate Director in ODR

As you may have heard, ODR will be going through some transition over the next few months. Due to my pending departure at the end of the spring semester, my position is one in which we will be transitioning. Recently, my family received word that my husband’s job would be moving to Texas and therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I share my time at UMW is coming to an end. I do plan to complete the spring semester, will continue to work with students, new and current, and continue to welcome your questions and concerns, with the goal of addressing them as quickly and efficiently as possible. I have truly enjoyed working with the faculty and staff at UMW and thank you all for your support over the years. Alison Grimes, Associate Director of the Office of Disability Resources


Alison Grimes: Access for All

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes.

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes.

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes wears many hats. She’s a disability content specialist, educator, motivator, interpreter, sounding board, cheerleader, trainer and more. It’s what you’d expect, given that Mary Washington has the highest population – 11 percent – of students who self-disclose a disability, when compared to other Virginia state universities.

After earning a master’s of education degree from UMW in 2011, Grimes thought she’d become a teacher. But a position in counseling services changed her mind, and six years ago, she landed a job in the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) at her alma mater.

“I felt that I could make a bigger impact and support a community that helped me grow into the passionate professional I am now,” said Grimes, whose days are spent meeting with students, navigating committees, reviewing documentation and working with faculty and staff. To Grimes, the willingness to learn and take on additional roles and responsibilities is necessary toward enacting change in a student’s life.

Diagnosed with type one diabetes as a child, she uses her personal experiences to encourage students to communicate their needs, understand their strengths and access the campus community so they can make their own mark. Despite her chronic illness, Grimes says the onus is on her to push herself to participate in life and be there for her students.

“I believe actions speak louder than words,” she said. “If I’m going to ask students to show up, I should as well.”

The motivation appears to be working. Grimes’ desk is decorated with thank you cards from students she’s helped, reminding her on difficult days just how much she loves her job.


Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The students, by far. I love seeing them grow and learn to advocate on their own behalf. I appreciate how they bring a level of understanding of access to the different areas in which they participate across campus and the support they give one another.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Finding ways to support students, as it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about learning what each person needs and helping based on that information.

Q: October is dedicated to celebrating disability inclusion. Why is that important?
A: Individuals with disabilities constitute the largest and most diverse minority group, so it’s critical that we educate our community. Promoting disability awareness helps those with different needs be heard and understood, and encourages empowerment and advocacy across campus.

Q: Is ODR introducing any new initiatives?
A: Our new mission is Access for All. We’re working to guide the UMW community into focusing on accessibility first. For example, ODR has partnered with Diversity and Inclusion on addressing the need for accessible furniture on campus. We’re also offering more training opportunities for our campus partners. In spring 2020, ODR will launch the Keep CALM campaign to assist faculty with choosing accessible learning materials. More information will be shared in the coming months.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill


October is Disability Awareness Month

A message from the Office of Disability Resources. 

The Office of Disability Resources (ODR) invites you to celebrate Disability Awareness month throughout the month of October to raise awareness and understanding of disability-related issues and how WE can support! Disability Awareness Events Flyer

There is a variety of programming and events offered throughout the month and all students, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend! Some events are geared more towards students, but we welcome all who would like to take advantage of these opportunities to raise awareness and understanding of disability-related issues and supports.

Events will kick off with a Disability Awareness Month Dinner with President Paino on October 7th. Students have been selected by random drawing to attend, and we look forward to this memorable evening of conversation and elegant dining, as well as an opportunity for students with disabilities to share their experiences with President Paino.

Breakfast Bars on Ball is an casual opportunity for all to stop by our table on Campus Walk (in front of Lee Hall), grab a breakfast treat, and connect with the ODR staff to learn more about disability-related issues. Please come by and see us! We will be at the table giving out bars to all from 9:00am to 10:30am.

A Disability Awareness Table Fair will be held on Campus Walk (in front of Lee Hall) on October 16th from 11:00am to 2:00pm. A number of on- and off-campus providers will be available to share resources and information on supports in our community for individuals with disabilities. Come by to hang out with us, and get some free swag!

The Let’s Talk Event will be held on October 16th from 7:00pm – 8:00pm in Lee Hall, Room 414. This event is an opportunity for survivors with disabilities and allies to discuss a problem flying under the radar – that individuals with disabilities are disproportionately affected when it comes to experiences of sexual or intimate partner violence, when compared to those without disabilities. Please join ODR, the Talley Center for Counseling Services, and the Center for Prevention and Education, for a student-led discussion about risk factors and prevention followed by a confidential discussion group for survivors and allies.

The international honor society for students with disabilities, Delta Alpha Pi, will hold its first Induction Ceremony at UMW on October 22nd. This will be an opportunity to recognize high academic achievements of students with disabilities. Students who meet eligibility criteria have been notified and are encouraged to RSVP to be a part of the Zeta Mu chapter here at UMW!

Disability Awareness month programming wraps up with the Fall Social, held on October 30th from 6:00pm – 7:30pm in the University Center, Colonnade Room (room 314). This is an opportunity for all, and especially students with disabilities, to have some fun and celebrate this time of year with others in the community.

Accessible electronic flyers are also attached that provide information on these events.

We hope to have your support in celebrating disability as diversity and in bringing disability awareness to our campus!

Please contact ODR with questions: (540) 654-1266 odr@umw.edu, or in person in Lee Hall, suite 401.

We look forward to seeing you there!

ODR Staff