Texas A&M Disability Resources Director Appointed To Governor’s Committee
Texas A&M University Director of Disability Resources Kristie Orr has been appointed to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.
Orr joins the group for a two-year term to make recommendations to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas legislature on disability issues. She will also promote compliance with disability-related laws, encourage a network of local committees doing similar work and recognize media professionals and students for positively depicting Texans with disabilities.
“This is a huge honor that will allow me to provide more information to the committee about issues that face college students with disabilities,” Orr said. “I look forward to this opportunity and plan to involve Texas A&M students by seeking their input on issues or policies the committee is addressing.”
With her team of 47, including 30 student employees, Orr has advocated for the social model of disability on the Texas A&M campus for 22 years. The social model of disability emphasizes that what makes someone disabled is not their medical condition, but the attitudes and structures of society. The model operates under the notion that a disability is a part of an individual’s identity, not a problem or something to be fixed.
During the past year, Orr and her team helped to design the new Student Services Building that opened in January 2020 with accessibility as a major focus. Under her direction, the Disability Resources team collaborates with faculty, staff and students to achieve an equitable learning environment for students with disabilities at Texas A&M with a focus on universal design, accessible classes and learning materials.
Disability Resources, part of the Division of Student Affairs, is continuing to provide support to students, faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent move to online classes and programming. Its staff has worked to move its services and programs office online with remote appointments available for students.
In addition to communicating to faculty about the need for accessibility and accommodations for students in the online environment, Disability Resources has also communicated to students their continued right to an accessible education and provided many resources on its website. Disability Resources will continue to work with faculty moving forward with how to have more accessible online classes for the summer semesters.
After graduating from Texas A&M in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Orr went on to get a master’s degree in counseling, clinical and school psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She returned to Aggieland in 1998 to join the Disability Resources group and in 2003 received a Ph.D. in school psychology from Texas A&M.
Orr is serving a two-year term as president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability and is a member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability in Texas. She frequently provides peer workshops, lectures and external reviews.
The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities handles issues regarding access, communications, education, emergency management, health, housing, recreation, transportation, veterans and workforce. The 12-member group was created in 1950 and works to enable people with disabilities to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity and self-determination. Committee rules require that seven of the 12 members are people who live with disabilities.