The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume X1, Issue 1 January-February 2010
Editor: James Walborn

Click here to listen to the audio version


Myths, stereotypes, and misconceptions about people with disabilities often stand in the way when they look for jobs, resulting in a high rate of unemployment. Thus, the importance of student participation in internships cannot be overstated as this provides a great experiential opportunity for both the students and employers. Four FAU students with disabilities have been offered full-time employment with the Federal Government as a direct result of their Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) internships last summer. Students from universities nationwide are interviewed in the spring and their information is placed in a data base which is accessed by cooperating government and private agencies. This spring the students at FAU will be interviewed on February 11th and 12th, and there will be 22 interview time slots that can be filled. The students are required to participate in at least one activity from the Career Development Center such as resume writing or participation in mock interviews in order to better prepare for their interviews.


During a WRP Informational meeting this January, students shared their previous internship experiences with those preparing to be interviewed this year. Information contributed included the following: Internships may be offered all over the country, with the majority of them in the Washington, DC area. This city has a very good metro system and a temporary disability pass is available so students should bring current documentation. They should buy their professional clothes at home, not in Washington. The students have to provide their own housing but the employer and WRP representative may have suggestions. Students are contacted regularly to make sure that their needs are being met, and often they are provided tours of local landmarks and museums by the WRP representative. Interns experience a friendly environment in which the employer makes them feel welcome and needed.
While the employer chooses a student who has a specific academic background, they should be prepared to “work outside the box,” as they are given projects by the agency that are needed at the time. One student with an Accounting degree was doing criminal background checks, while another with an Environmental background was reviewing websites and making suggestions for standardization.


Students sharpen their interviewing skills during the one-on-one interview with the WRP recruiter. This program is an excellent way for students with disabilities in all fields of study to market their abilities to a wide variety of potential employers across the U.S. The internship provides students with paid job experience in a protective environment. It’s a good opportunity to market skills to potential employers, and provides marketable employment experience for the student’s resume. The contacts and networking that the students establish through their internships may lead to a full-time position.
While the interns are paid on average $13 to $18 an hour, this results in a savings for the employer who has the choice of qualified pre-screened job candidates who can fill temporary positions. This allows them the opportunity to identify outstanding interns for permanent staffing needs. Also, the WRP will help the employer gain the necessary knowledge and assistance in acquiring the assistive technology that an intern may require.
The WRP is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Students gain confidence and valuable paid work experience; employers profit from the work of eager young minds; and the myths and stereotypes about disabilities disappear.


Ana B is completing a 600 hour internship at the OSD this spring. She is a senior in the Rehabilitative Services and Counseling program at FSU. A south Florida resident, Ana plans to obtain her Master’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at FAU after completing the necessary prerequisite coursework. Her internship stipulates that she provide direct services to students, which keeps her quite busy as the OSD front office assistant. “I’ve learned a lot about working with different types of disabilities, and working here allows me to apply what I have learned. Every person is different, with their own personalities and their own ways of doing things,” Ana acknowledges. “This is a place where they feel safe and where they want to be, and that’s really great.”
Likes: “I love going to the Comedy Club, watching movies, and attending rock concerts.”
Dislikes: “I’m traveling about an hour to come to FAU so now I know what everyone means about the I-95 traffic. That’s difficult to deal with.”
“I’ve always wanted to be in the helping professions,” Ana explains. “Because I had played a lot of sports when I was younger, I would get injuries and have to go to  a physical therapist, which was my original goal [as a profession]. My education has allowed me to have a general knowledge of different disabilities and I’ve found that I really want to specialize in Speech Language Pathology and be a teacher.”
Her advice to other students: “If you get the opportunity for an internship you should always take it because you get such valuable experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Definitely take advantage and learn all that you can.”
Anything unusual in the refrigerator: “Many bottles of Perrier carbonated water. I’m really obsessed with water and have different flavors. I really don’t see too many other people who are drinking carbonated water regularly.”


Farley Leiriao, who is the interim Diversity Student Services representative for the Jupiter Campus, has a wide range of experience working within Student Affairs. Before coming to FAU as a Counselor at the Career Development Center four and a half years ago, he was employed at the Dean of Students Office at U of F, working with a variety of programs. In this position he will be representing students with disabilities, ISSS, and Multicultural Affairs.
Farley  is an FAU alumnus, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Accounting at FAU, (and a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance at U of F). “I really enjoy working with students. Yes, I have worked in the business world for awhile, but I really do enjoy the University type of setting.”
His advice to students is not to give up. “There is always some way to overcome an obstacle and face it head on, not having to turn back away from it. If you have a certain goal that you set out to do, don’t stop it–go and achieve it.” His positive assertion is that, “when any student comes to my office I will do my best to make sure that I can meet their needs if this is possible.”
Likes: “I do enjoy time at the beach; I find it very relaxing. Also, I am a big movie buff. I am someone who enjoys life.”
Dislikes: “I don’t like being cold; I enjoy staying warm.” 
Anything unusual in the refrigerator: “In my freezer I have “Gator” ice cream. Yes, there is University of Florida Gator ice cream that I have specially shipped to me.” [editor’s note: Oh, oh. I guess we had better invent frozen Owl Pops]


The Social Security Administration lost a four year court battle, and now is required to offer its correspondence in an alternative format for the visually impaired. This is a major victory for the disability rights movement, and it sets a precedent for the obligations of other governmental agencies.


Kim Peek, the autistic savant portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” died at age 58. Doctors told his parents that their baby probably would not walk or function in a normal capacity. However, at age 6 he had memorized his family’s set of encyclopedias and it is believed that he has memorized over 12,000 books in his lifetime. Kim was such a stickler for accuracy that his parents stopped going to Shakespearean plays and musical compositions because he would stand up and correct the performers.


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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: LA 240; phone 954.236.1222. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

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