FAU Researcher Seeks to Help People with Disabilities
By Bethany Augliere
Jennifer Sánchez, Ph.D., dropped out of high school, and worked at a bar as a single mother. She wasn’t sure where her path would take her. Years later, she’s a rehabilitation psychologist at FAU on a mission to help others.
Sánchez, an associate research professor in the College of Education, is particularly dedicated to helping the most vulnerable people in our society. “We are all human, and if we are lucky to live long enough, it’s expected we will develop some kind of disability, such as dementia,” she said.
One in five people have a disability and more than 90% of those are invisible, according to Sánchez. “Most people with disabilities do not disclose their disability due to societal stigma, which can actually cause additional stress and adversely affect their health, functioning and disability,” she said.
Sánchez studies how people with disabilities find success through self-employment, which can be a great option for them to overcome societal barriers to traditional employment, she said. To do this, she analyzes data regarding persons with disabilities and job placement and success through the U.S. federal/state vocational rehabilitation (VR) program. In a recent study, for example, she proposes that efforts should be made to increase competency in self-employment of VR counselors and promote self-employment within the VR program.
Sánchez earned her bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education in rehabilitation and mental health counseling, both from FAU. She then moved north and earned her doctorate in rehabilitation psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she focused on studying how to improve participation and quality of life in adults with severe mental illness.
Before joining FAU, she worked as an associate professor in the department of rehabilitation and counselor education at the University of Iowa. Throughout her career she’s worked in settings such as, inpatient psychiatric facilities, veteran administration, state hospitals and agencies, K-12 schools and community mental health centers. However, Sánchez has “always had the desire to come back to FAU,” dding she was thankful for the opportunity to join FAU as faculty in July 2021.
“I want to be part of the solution – to ensure people with disabilities are able to have access to the same opportunities as every other person,” Sánchez said. “There are many options for work and advancement, the possibilities are endless.”
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