Deidra Ashley, Show Me Mizzou
Department of Biological Sciences

As part of Disability Culture Month, 12 forward-thinking members of the University of Missouri community, including an A&S faculty member and two students, have been recognized for their achievements in advancing accessibility. The Lee Henson Access Mizzou Awards, named after a former Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator at MU, honor students, faculty and staff work who make the university of more inclusive place for people with disabilities. This is the tenth year Mizzou has celebrated the award.


Amber Cheek and Gabriela Ionita photo

Amber Cheek, MU/UM System Director of Accessibility and ADA Coordinator, and Gabriela Ionita, senior, Biological Sciences


Student award: Gabriela Ionita

Gabriela Ionita, a senior majoring in biological sciences, works in the Digital Media & Innovation Lab, where she makes websites and maps more accessible.

“Gabriela is committed to making Mizzou a better place for everyone: she's been working on this project for a while to improve it, researching color accessibility designs, and working with her supervisor to change the entire website design,” said senior A.B., who nominated Ionita.

“Maps are meant to guide you, not confuse you,” Ionita said. “I wanted to create something that would make people smile and ease their everyday lives. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to express my ideas and make Mizzou a better place for everyone.”

Amber Cheek with Jia Wu photo

Amber Cheek, MU/UM System Director of Accessibility and ADA Coordinator, and Jia Wu, Ph.D. student, TAM

Student award: Jia Wu

Jia Wu is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM), where her research focuses on functional clothing for people with disabilities.

“Jia's commitment to developing functional and accessible clothing solutions addresses the specific needs and challenges faced by disabled students, enhancing their overall college experience,” said Assistant Professor Li Zhao, who nominated Wu. “Having access to adaptive and inclusive clothing is crucial for promoting comfort, confidence, and overall well-being among individuals with disabilities.”

"A lack of inclusive apparel is truly an act of injustice," Wu said. "People with disabilities need more options in fashionable and adaptive apparel to express themselves and to fully participate in society."

Amber Cheek and Kerri McBee-Black photo

Amber CheekMU/UM System Director of Accessibility and ADA Coordinator, and Kerri McBee-Black, TAM Assistant Professor

Faculty award: Kerri McBee-Black

Kerri McBee-Black, an assistant professor in TAM, explores the intersectionality between apparel and disability by identifying the apparel barriers that limit the ability of people with disabilities to fully participate in society.

“Dr. McBee-Black incorporates disability and accessibility issues in everything she does: teaching, research and service,” said TAM Professor Jung Ha-Brookshire, one of the nominators. “She offers workshops in our professional organization to encourage other faculty members to think about and incorporate disability and accessibility.”

McBee-Black said she was honored to receive the award. “I believe that to make a change in the apparel industry, we must educate the next generation of designers to understand the need to design with people with disabilities,” she said.