AccessAbility Director Applies Personal Experience to Help Students
Photo by Connie Cheng/The Mercury
As a young girl, Kerry Tate received treatment for sensorineural hearing loss at UT Dallas' Callier Center for Communication Disorders. Today, Tate serves as the director of the Office of Student AccessAbility.
Kerry Tate’s parents recognized the slow development of speech in their young daughter when she was just 1.
The toddler’s speech was not developing on track and she was not responding to verbal cues. Tate was diagnosed with severe sensorineural hearing loss, a permanent hearing loss due to non-functional inner ear/cochlear sensory cells (hair cells).
Tate first came to UT Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders when she was 3 years old to get assistance with her hearing impairment. Her experience at Callier greatly improved her development and ultimately led her to her position as director of the Office of Student AccessAbility. The office enhances the quality of life for students by removing barriers for those with disabilities and by providing equal access to help them reach their academic goals.
When Tate was a young high school student, she said her school counselor did not believe she would succeed at institutions of higher education. She continued to go to the Callier Center for assistance through her high school and college years. Tate said the Callier Center offered insightful advice about how to handle the day-to-day communications with her teachers and professors.
“They were very good at working with our family,” Tate said. “I really had such a great outcome here.”
Tate has a master’s degree in special education and psychology from Texas A&M University-Commerce. She received her undergraduate degree from Cottey College and Texas Woman’s University and is working on an advanced degree at UT Dallas.
Tate said one of AccessAbility’s greatest successes was removing the word disability from the office’s name.
“We wanted to get the word disability out of the way,” Tate said. “We wanted it to be AccessAbility because it is access and ability.”
“We want them to feel empowered and ready to be leaders when they leave [UT Dallas].”
Tate said another success was establishing a chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, an international honor society that recognizes students with disabilities and their successes.
AccessAbility offers a supportive environment for all students. It teaches advocacy skills that will benefit them after they graduate from UT Dallas.
“We want them to feel empowered and ready to be leaders when they leave [UT Dallas],” Tate said.
The AccessAbility team offers encouragement to students who have not developed their ability to communicate their needs to others. Rebecca Jones, student worker at AccessAbility and a speech-language pathology and audiology sophomore, recommended that students reach out to the AccessAbility team for a support system.
“They’re really accommodating to every student,” she said. “The students feel really comfortable around Abby [Morris, assistant director at AccessAbility] and Kerry, and feel really at home here.”
Tate said she approaches students’ needs on a case-by-case scenario. Each student receives the personalized attention to best suit his or her situation. Tate said she strives to offer each student a personalized transition into college life.
“Disabilities are such a wide spectrum,” Tate said. “Even though the disability may be the same, their needs are going to be different.”
A version of this article by Madison McCall first appeared in The Mercury, the student newspaper of UT Dallas.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].