The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume I, Issue 1 September 2000 Editor: James Walborn



The staff of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) wishes to give a hearty welcome to all of the new and returning students of Florida Atlantic University. We are located in Library Room 175, and our phone number is (561) 297-3880.  

The mission of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) is to support students with disabilities in their pursuit of equity and excellence in education. The OSD works with the faculty and staff of FAU to ensure that reasonable accommodations are utilized which allow this population of students an equal opportunity to learn in the classroom, and to have access to all areas around the campus. The goal is to empower students. An old Chinese proverb notes, “Give a man a fish, he can eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.”


Last spring Miriam Firpo-Jimenez was named the new director of the OSD. She is an alumnus of FAU with her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She has an extensive background in teaching disabled students, plus private mental health counseling experience, as well as her first hand knowledge gained as a former OSD Coordinator on the Davie campus. She describes herself as a very proud mother of three active children; enjoys reading and travel, but has little time for either; and yet volunteers her Saturdays helping others at a community counseling center.

Ms. Firpo-Jimenez has big plans for the direction that the OSD will take in the future. She hopes to increase the lines of communication between the faculty, the OSD, and students who have disabilities. She wishes to find funding for the testing and evaluation of students who believe that they have a disability, but have a financial hardship. She would also like to see the educational process solidly linked together with the local community employment prospects. She assists in the development of the students’ marketable skills. A step initiated this semester to prepare students for the future is computer orientation and training for every student with a disability.

She believes that the OSD is a collective team effort, whose major impetus is the education of the FAU students, faculty, staff, and the community. When asked the all-important question, ”Anything strange in your refrigerator?” Miriam acknowledges that everything has taken on the pleasant sweet smell of her guava fruit.


Of the 1200 students who recently graduated this past August, 15 students had self-identified to the OSD as disabled. While some of these students are moving into the job market, many plan on returning to FAU to continue their education. One such proud, recent graduate, is this editor. I am James “Jim” Walborn, the newest Coordinator at OSD.


Thanks to the efforts of the Campus Volunteer Center (CVC) those who volunteer for tasks in and around the University now receive those hours documented on their official transcripts. Students with a visual or learning disability may have to rely upon the classroom notes of other students. Those who volunteer their notes for this purpose can have their time officially acknowledged as a part of their permanent records. Last year 123 students volunteered 5,535 hours on behalf of disabled students at the OSD.


The Federal Government has identified 43 large categories of disabilities. However, even individuals with similar limitations may not be impaired in the same manner. The University is concerned how the individual student is affected academically. There are about 500 FAU students registered with OSD. Two students have agreed to be interviewed as a way to help others comprehend what they are experiencing.

Rick is a visually impaired junior who transferred from BCC. His condition, Leber’s Disease, is so rare that only five people in five years have been diagnosed with this condition. He is an otherwise healthy 24 year old male who lives off campus with friends. His condition impacts his whole life, especially his ability to read, write, and travel. He uses a screen reader program named JAWS (Job Access With Speech) which reads what’s on his computer screen. He has also volunteered his time teaching visually impaired children how to use JAWS. He may consider teaching or counseling as career choices. He likes football and most other sports, hanging out with his friends, and chasing women. When asked our hard-hitting journalism question, “Is there anything strange in the fridge,” Rick replied that the only thing strange would be if there actually was food in there.

Michelle is a 28 year old junior who has been diagnosed with manic depression since the age of 12. This condition encompasses her life quite completely. Her mood swings can become severe.

In her manic phase her thoughts can become psychotic, she cannot sleep for days, and her thoughts race. She describes this feeling as if all the TV sets in Circuit City were turned to different channels and on fast forward. The flip side of the cycle is deep depression in which she experiences anger, profound sadness, and thoughts of suicide. Although she can sense the mood swings coming on, she has little control over their severity. Michelle says, “You don’t know if this is the time you are going to kill yourself . . . . You are a slave to your emotions.” Medications help to a degree. ”It’s very hard to work, or go to school. It’s very hard on relationships; anything that requires stability.” She is learning how to play the piano, enjoys reading and writing, and outdoor hobbies such as swimming and kayaking. “My refrigerator is full of strange things. I have these--well, there not even bowls anymore. They have kind of morphed.”

Many thanks to both Rick and Michelle for sharing part of their lives and helping us increase our awareness.


There are several scholarships available for students who have disabilities. The applications will be available in the spring. This year 40 students are receiving scholarship monies from 5 different sources, ranging from a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars. We would like to encourage applications from all who are eligible.



We want to encourage comments and contributions from our readers. Please address any comments to Feel free to share this newsletter with friends and colleagues. Current and past issues are available at

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