The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume X, Issue 1 February-March 2009 Editor: James Walborn



Many students graduate college who never have obtained actual work experience. Unfortunately, OSD personnel are concerned as this number is much higher for students who have disabilities. To address this issue, in February the OSD invited a recruiter from the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities, who interviewed 19 students with disabilities for summer internship opportunities with the Federal Government and private sector employers. Previous participants enthusiastically encouraged other students to interview for the internships by sharing their experiences in an OSD workshop held in January. This is the ninth year OSD students participated in this program.


On January 1, 2009 the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 went into effect, making some major changes to the way the definition of disability has been interpreted in the past. The changes apply to both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Since the inception of the ADA in 1990, court rulings have been placing a narrowing interpretation regarding who is considered disabled. According to Congress, the ADA Amendments Act was passed “to carry out the ADA’s objectives of providing a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination and clear, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination by reinstating a broad scope of protection to be available under the ADA.” Since the purpose of the original ADA was to eliminate discrimination, Congress fixed the definition of disability to cover more people and as a result, prevent more discrimination. Who has a disability is no longer the main focus; instead, the focus will be on whether discrimination occurs.


This spring a commemorative silver dollar with a Braille inscription will be produced by the U.S. Government to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the creator of the Braille alphabet for the blind. The Mint will produce up to 400,000 one-ounce coins, which will not be placed in general distribution. The “silver dollar” will actually cost $35-$45 and a portion will support programs to help the blind.


The marching band for the Ohio State School for the Blind has been selected to play in the Rose Parade next year. The band was created less than four years ago and is the first of its kind in the country. Only 20 other bands have been chosen for the 2010 New Year’s Day parade.


The Owls Supporting Diversity Club is having a busy semester. In February, members helped honor “Black History Month” by distributing information on the breezeway centering around the theme, “Disability Does Not Discriminate.” Information was presented about famous black Americans who have disabilities, as well as interesting articles and other information. Celebrating Valentine’s Day, members raised funds by selling handmade soaps (a free Valentine’s Day card was provided with every purchase). On the 25th, the big bargain book sale was held in which all types of literature were sold at rock bottom prices.

In January, Club members participated in “Race for the Cure,” walking with a group named Annie’s Angels, in memory of a Club member’s acquaintance who died of breast cancer. Ann Marie B assures us, “I had a good time. The walk in 40 degree weather didn’t seem like three miles. I’m going to do it again next year.” David V, whose mom is a breast cancer survivor, acknowledges, “It was cold, but a good day to walk.” Annie’s Angels raised almost $5000 for cancer research.


Students who have print disabilities due to a visual impairment, physical impairment, or learning disability may require textbooks in an alternate format as an accommodation. Publishers vary widely in their ability and policy for producing their textbooks in an accessible electronic format. The OSD Counselors assist the students by ordering the textbooks, when available, and following the publisher’s requirements for this process. Publishers that can offer an electronic version require the student to have purchased the hard copy of the textbook and seek confirmation from the OSD verifying the student’s reading impairment. Unfortunately not all publishers make this option available. We give kudos to the Pearson Publishing group, and their many associated publishing houses, for their excellent support in this matter (turnaround is often within 24 hours). Faculty wishing to take this into consideration when choosing textbooks can email or contact the OSD for information about cooperative publishers.


Former OSD student, Janine Ficarra, who graduated FAU in 2008 with her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, is now employed by the Center for Independent Living of Broward as the High School High Tech Program Youth Specialist. “I was ready to drop out of college,” Janine admits, who suffered with major anxieties both in the classroom and during testing. “But, when I came to FAU, Amy Parker (OSD Assistant Director, Davie Campus) really helped me out and I got the services that I needed. It made a big difference.” Now she is obtaining her Master’s Degree from Nova Southeastern.

She works with the ESE students of 8 high schools in Broward County, having ‘club meetings’ with students with varying disabilities, teaching them both independence and networking skills. Acquiring summer internships and job shadowing are also part of the Program.

“I enjoy making a difference. Everyone wants to put a label on them and think that they can’t do anything, yet they have so much potential,” Janine explains. “They always look forward to me coming to their school–to see their smiles... I can’t even put [the feelings] into words.”

Her advice to others is, “Never give up on your students. We all have issues, whether it’s internal or external. With these kids, you never know what they are going through as they fight every day to fit in. Just get away from the label and stigma and believe in people more. Without the guidance and tools I received, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am now.”

Anything unusual in your refrigerator? “Yes. People would find it unusual because it is clean. Both me and my mom are neat freaks so you could eat right off of our refrigerator. It’s clean and organized, and that’s how I am.”


The OSD staff is delighted to have a mascot. Peggy, a Goldador (Golden Retriever/Lab mix), is a puppy in training to be a service animal. The Southeastern Guide Dog School places puppies in the hands of dog lovers who raise and socialize them until they are 1½ to 2 years old, then they’ll be sent to school for training to be a service animal.

Peggy is being raised by Dan R, an FAU student. Staff members take delight in “puppy sitting” Peggy while Dan attends classes (Note: by law, service animals are allowed to go where their humans go, but puppies in training do not automatically have this right). Months ago, when Peggy first started coming to FAU, she was a rambunctious pup. “But now,” according to the OSD Director, Nicole Rokos, “We can tell Peggy to sit and stay; we throw the ball and she watches it bounce down the hallway until the command, Okay.” Socializing the dog is key for future success, and institutions such as FAU and the bus system are encouraged to assist in this manner by allowing the dog access.

The Southeastern Guide Dog School is looking for people to raise puppies or acquire the trained service animal. Upon training, Peggy will either be a dog guide for the visually impaired, be a specialist in search and rescue, narcotic, or arson detection, or other specialized career. To receive a dog guide, the visually-impaired individual spends 26 days being paired and trained with the service animal at no expense to the individual. However, the school spends $60,000 per dog for training, equipment, and medical expenses (it is a non-profit charity). For more information please contact the school at 800.944.3647 or go to their website at


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This newsletter is available in alternate format upon request from the Office for Students with Disabilities. Boca: SU 133; phone 561.297.3880, TTY 561.297.0358. Davie: MD I, Room 104; phone 954.236.1222, TTY 954.236.1146. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

FAU Campuses: Boca Raton/Davie/Dania Beach/Fort Lauderdale/Jupiter/Treasure Coast Boca Raton Campus Danie Beach Campus Davie Campus Fort Lauderdale Campus Harbor Branch Campus Jupiter Campus Treasure Campus
 Last Modified 8/27/15