Sitting across from Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, MSW, LCSW, one may not realize that she is a mover and a shaker. As a professional and an advocate for people with disabilities, she works hard to change the way people think about disability and teaches that people with disabilities give value and enhance every aspect of our community.
“As a person with a disability I work to respond as an advocate,” says Katheryne. As a severe burn survivor, acquiring her disability at a very young age, she saw how the negative messages about disability from literature, film or media further myths and stereotypes. Her grandmother taught her that ‘differences’ were something to be valued and not negatives and she has carried that sentiment her entire life.
When her practicum position in college allowed her to work with children with disabilities, she took the opportunity to devote her life to breaking down the barriers which society creates.
For 11 years, Staeger-Wilson, Director of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) within the Division for Diversity and Inclusion on Missouri State University’s campus, has worked alongside students and faculty to ensure that students with disabilities have full access to their education.
Through collaboration and support of the entire campus community, the Disability Resource Center promotes disability pride, self-determination of the student, and universally accessible design principles, so that everyone has full access to university life.
MSU student Rachel Baskerville shares how Staeger-Wilson has made an impact on her university life, “Some of the changes that are happening for people with disabilities on campus would not have happened if Katheryne had not advocated for them. She is there whenever you need her, no questions asked. Most of all, she encourages me to advocate for myself and for others who have disabilities every day.
”Successful forward thinking has helped Katheryne promote inclusion and educate students, teachers, administrators and the general population through DRC’s blog and website and her involvement statewide and nationally.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” says Staeger-Wilson. “I believe that accommodations can lead to providing a delayed or segregated service. If we really value the disability community and other differences and practice real inclusion, students with disabilities would not always have to go through an accommodation process and request those often times delayed segregated accommodations. Instead, the majority of the time, they would be fully included through the proactive, inclusive design of a course or program. Until this happens we won’t ever experience real inclusion.”
Staeger-Wilson’s work with the Foster Recreation Center on MSU’s campus makes her very proud. “The state of the art facility has many universal design features and students with disabilities were involved in the planning process,” she says. It was recently recognized as a model for best practice in The Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability.
In addition to her role with MSU, Katheryne serves on the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) board, a professional membership organization with 2,500 members all over the world focusing on disability policy in higher education and she is a member of the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council (MOSILC) and the MOSILC Housing Committee.
To read more about DRC and their mission and principles, check out www.missouristate.edu/disability.
The Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) recognizes people of the Ozarks with disabilities for their past and present efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have the choice to live independently in the community. Nominations can be submitted anytime and will be considered in these categories: advocacy, community service, peer mentoring, positive role model, determination, and leadership in the community. A new honoree is announced in each bimonthly newsletter issue and a photo of the nominee will be displayed on the “Honoring People with Disabilities Wall” at the Springfield office.
Contact us for a nomination form or visit Honoring People with Disabilities.