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Portrait Gallery: Ron Venable, director, Office of Disability Accommodation

Ron Venable, director, Office of Disability AccommodationRon Venable, director, Office of Disability Accommodation (ODA), has watched technology and ODA programs make college accessible for students who once might have been isolated. He’s also an avid angler.

How has disability accommodation changed over time?

In so many ways, there has never been a better time for students with disabilities to pursue higher education. The faculty of today grew up with mainstreaming being the norm; people with disabilities of this generation were no longer isolated but given the opportunity to learn in integrated settings with everyone in K-12.

Universal design in construction has literally opened doors for millions that were closed or without ramps just two decades ago. Technology now enables students who cannot see to “open” their digital text books in class to follow along with everyone else.

Has there been an unusual challenge that required special creativity?

We accommodate all types of permanent disabilities, and more often than not the challenges require a good deal of creativity.

One story comes to mind.

We often see over-accommodation. An astronomy professor wanted to simply waive many essential requirements of his course for a student who was blind, because initially he could not imagine how a student without sight could understand highly visual concepts like planetary orbits. We encouraged him to think of ways the student could use other abilities to demonstrate knowledge. The professor came up with the idea of having the student stand at the center of a circle, and then he would walk in another circle, around the student, using his voice to call out different orbits. The student easily grasped the key elements of the concept and did not have his educational experience compromised, and the professor was able to learn new ways to teach a subject.

How did you become interested in disability accommodation programs?

I’ve always had a strong interest in both counseling and medicine - this field combines both.

My career working with students with disabilities began with the Texas Rehabilitation Commission (now known as the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. In this position, I provided transition counseling for people with disabilities, job placement and eligibility determination for services. My caseload at DARS was primarily comprised of college students from the University of Texas at Arlington and the Tarrant County Community College District.

After DARS, I was the assistant director of the Office for Students with Disabilities at UT-Arlington. I worked with students and faculty to determine appropriate accommodations in the classroom before coming to UNT in 2004.

I earned my undergraduate degree in psychology from Baylor University and a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Stephen F. Austin State University.

How do you spend your free time? 

Ron Venable, director, Office of Disability Accommodation, Portrait Gallery.Outside of work, my biggest passion is for angling … not the typical toss out a line and kick back with a cold beverage style. I’m a somewhat fanatical CPR angler (catch, photo, release) and occasionally compete in large-mouth bass tournaments. Right, fishing for fun on Lake Ray Roberts.

What is your favorite book, movie or TV show?

Favorite book would have to be Freakonomics. Discovering the story and motivations behind our society (at least according to the authors) is fascinating. Favorite movie would have to be Shawshank Redemption, because I’m a guy, and a favorite TV show would be any of the bass angling shows – yes , people actually watch other people fish.

It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.

Posted on: Mon 08 April 2013

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