The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

EIU searching for director of accessibility and accommodations

Eastern interviewed three candidates for the position of director of accessibility and accommodations including James Cox, Amber Jordan and Jessie Shuemaker. (File)

Eastern is on the search for a new director of accessibility and accommodations. 

The first candidate for the job was James Cox. 

Cox received his Master of Science in education leadership from Eastern in 2023, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in special education from Western Governors University in 2020 and his Bachelor of Science degree in organizational and professional development from Eastern in 2016. 

He obtained professional experience from Eastern Illinois Area Special Education, starting in March 2017 as a paraprofessional educator. He concluded working in this role in Dec. 2017, and began working as a special education teacher as a learning behavior specialist in 2018. 

Cox has been working in special education for six years. He said the school that he currently works with included accommodations on a daily basis. 

“I enjoy seeing students achieve greatness and want to help them succeed,” Cox said. “Making sure they have the accommodations they need and accessibility to do the same things other students have is a part of that. No one should be denied an education they want because of a disability that they have.” 

If selected for the position, Cox said that he would have to determine what needs to be broken before deciding what there is to fix. 

“I would hope that students would give me grace as we get the program up and running to its fullest potential,” Cox said. 

People in the past said that they felt as though accessibility services dismissed them whenever they approached them with an issue. 

Cox said he would have handled this issue differently. 

“Since I have not worked at Eastern in this department, I am unaware that this took place,” Cox said. “Going forward, I would have to look at each student’s request individually and assess whether or not they are entitled to any accommodations. There are rules, procedures and laws that protect a student’s right to see these programs. Usually, a student would have had a program in place during high school. As long as they produced documentation, my team and I will try and give them the support they would need.” 

The second candidate for the role was Amber Jordan. Jordan’s last professional experience was at Lincoln College as the director of disability services until its permanent closure in May 2022. She held the position from Jan. 2022 until June 2022. 

Jordan said her reasoning for wanting to get involved in this line of work started when she was in elementary school. She said one of her friends had down syndrome, and he was not treated properly. She said both teachers and students would bully him, and that motivated her to go into special education. 

Jordan said her way of resolving the issue of students being dismissed would be building connections and relationships with people in the community. 

“I’ve always talked about that I have to be a relationship person,” Jordan said. “I have to be somebody that [students or employees] can approach and have conversations, so I’m really making sure that I’m being open, honest but in a timely way.” 

Jordan said one of the things that she is looking forward to implementing at Eastern is having neurodivergent specific housing rooms. 

“Whether that’s looking at quiet areas, we’re looking at the lights and if we need to change the lighting, if we’re pairing those students up that would like to be in there, something along those lines, not just simplistic,” Jordan said. “We’re going to throw some things up on the wall, so really digging deep into that would be one of my first ones that come to mind.” 

As far as students having emotional support animals, after reading Eastern’s website information pertaining to the topic, she said students are responsible for obtaining them, but the office has the right to take them away if they become a distraction. 

The last interviewee was Jessie Shuemaker, an Eastern alum with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and marketing. She has been working as a school psychologist, primarily working with students in pre-K through their senior year of high school. 

Shuemaker said that her main role has been collecting and analyzing data and reports to see if students qualify for special education services. 

Around one year ago, The News dedicated an entire edition to accessibility around Eastern’s campus. 

Some students expressed their frustrations regarding being able to access everything. 

Shuemaker said she would focus on handling every situation differently because “every student’s needs are different.” 

Shuemaker also wants students to be aware of the process of having certain accommodations met. 

“I really would like to hear from the students themselves and what their experience has been, and what they have found helps them and makes them be successful,” Shuemaker said. “Just make sure everyone always feels heard.” 

Shuemaker said she has experience working with a “wide range of disabilities in different severity levels.” 

Being an Eastern alum, Shuemaker was able to see some of the things that could be changed from a student’s point of view. 

Shuemaker said that allowing the university to be more aware of the accessibility office would be one of the things that she would like to fix. 

“I didn’t know anything about it when I came here,” Shuemaker said. “I think that’s just kind of one of the things that maybe the office just needs to be more exposed to people, [so] more people know about it when people know that you can get resources.” 

Shuemaker said her greatest strength was not only working well independently, but also in a group setting. 

Ben Wells, a senior majoring in computer and information technology, attended the interview and said what he was looking for in the director position. 

“Someone who has a strong interest in working with people in differences in ability, who understands the challenges that they experience when they are going into higher education, someone who stays up to date on best accessibility practices and accessibility laws,” Wells said. “Someone who is just committed to helping them succeed, helping advocate for them while also I would say tapping into their strengths and helping them to feel empowered.” 

Wells said the issue matters to him because as someone on the autism spectrum, he gained a lot of support during his education years. 

“EIU’s STEP [Students with Autism Transitional Educational Program] has been a tremendous help in helping me just transition and acclimate to campus, unlocking the strengths inside of me and helping me develop good academic success strategies,” Wells said. 

 

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

 

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Cam'ron Hardy
Cam'ron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 
Josh Saxton
Josh Saxton, Photo Editor
Yo! I’m Josh! I am a junior journalism major and the Photo Editor for the Daily Eastern News. I am a lover of words and rhymes, when I’m not behind the camera I’m chilling out, playing basketball or just living, you know, doing my own thing.

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