The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

Volume VIII, Issue 5, November-December 2007,  Editor: James Walborn



Able Trust has provided a grant for $41,960 to assist FAU students with disabilities transition into the workforce.  The grant, which was co-written by Stand Among Friends and the OSD, will fund the position of Employment Coordinator/Job Coach.  This person will help develop the employability skills of students with disabilities, and provide an opportunity for prospective employers to become cognizant of the nature of accommodations and employability of individuals with disabilities.
      “Lack of experience and ongoing employment support hinders many graduates with disabilities in their attempt to transition into the work environment,” states OSD Director, Nicole Rokos.  “By developing a stronger system of support, workers will keep their jobs longer and become more successful.”  “Individuals with disabilities have unique needs that must be addressed in order to gain full access to employment opportunities,” Nicole states.  The OSD has long recognized the issues that students with disabilities encounter upon graduation and entering the job market.  The office has been searching for a grant for the last five years to fund the employment specialist position, but success came with the involvement of Stand Among Friends.


“Quite often disabled graduating students get discouraged when they try to enter the job market, even though they are well-qualified to work,” says Shawn Friedkin, president and founder of Stand Among Friends.  “This grant will help prepare both the student and the employer for a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”  The grant money will fund a comprehensive program providing job skills courses, job placement, and supported employment services.
Housed in the FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing building, suite 120, Stand Among Friends is a private, non-profit organization that promotes opportunities for people with neurological disabilities to live a life without limits and experience the highest degree of independence and success in their communities.
Executive Director of the Center, Sue Folden, Ph.D., states, “Not only do students sometimes need help with their job skills, employers also may need help accommodating new employees with disabilities.”  The Employment Coordinator/ Job Coach will help co-workers and management to understand their new employee while advocating for the individual to ensure that the client is being treated fairly in the workplace. 


The Able Trust, also known as the Florida Governor's Alliance for the Employment of Citizens with Disabilities, is a public-private partnership foundation established by the legislature.  Its mission is to provide Floridians with disabilities fair employment opportunities through fundraising, grant programs, public awareness, and education.


The newest addition to the OSD family is Andrew Auster, born October 14th to OSD Testing Facilitator, Carolina Auster.  The happy mother and child are doing great.


The OSD won first place in the Homecoming Office Decorating Contest.  Kudos to Michelle Shaw and her crew of staff, students, and friends who donated weekend time for the project.


OSD Director, Nicole Rokos, has been inducted as a honorary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.  Also, OSD student David V. was inducted into the society because of his high GPA. 


The U.S. Census for the most current year available (2005) reports that 88% of the general adult population (21 to 64 years of age) were employed at some time during the year, while this number for people with severe disabilities was  43% (note: only 13% worked the whole year).


Former OSD student, Zahra J., who graduated FAU in December, 2006 with a BS Degree in Computer Science, was finally able to find employment in her field.  Ten months after graduating she was ultimately able to find part-time employment as a Junior Systems Engineer.  “It was really difficult to get hired,” she admits. 


The OSD would like to congratulate all of the students who are graduating this December, including those with disabilities.  Here are the experiences of 3 students which we think you will find interesting.


Larry M. is graduating with his BS degree in Social Work.  While eventually he hopes to return for his Master’s Degree, right now he is very interested in working for a substance abuse center.  
Larry has undergone many medical procedures for his psychological impairment, which has affected his short term memory.  He is highly appreciative for the assistance provided to him by the OSD while earning his degree.  He advises other students, “no matter if someone has a disability or not, they should strive their hardest to do what they can to succeed in life.”


This student with Asperger’s Syndrome has over a 3.9 GPA and is graduating with a BS in Biological Sciences and a minor in Graphic Design.  In the fall this bright student would like to go to school to become a pharmacist.  In the meantime he would like to work in a pharmacy.
This unique student is proud of what he has achieved but he doesn’t wish it to be known that he has a disability.  He is a member of the National Society of Intercollegiate Scholars, Golden Key Honour Society, and has been inducted into the honor society Phi Kappa Phi.  He has tutored OSD students in Science and Chemistry. 

Someone with Asperger’s syndrome is high functioning, but whose disability may create developmental effects.  It is a social disability which makes it difficult to make a lot of friends.  These individuals may be affected in their ability to understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others.  They may also be prone to react strongly to loud noises, blinking lights, large crowds, etc. as assaults on their senses.

Likes:  This student likes to draw and paint in his free time.  He likes sports, especially hockey.

Anything unusual in the refrigerator:  “A lot of frozen dinners.”


OSD employee, Stuart graduating with his BA in Psychology.  Legally blind with macular degeneration, Stuart is currently employed as an Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist at both the OSD at FAU and Disability Services at BCC.  He plans on earning his Master’s Degree in Counseling while continuing to help others in the AT field. 

He cannot see the visual learning tools in the classroom, such as the white board or screens, but utilizes AT Lab accommodations like the ZoomText magnification system, Kurzweil 1000 to scan and read text materials, and textbooks in electronic format. 

Born an English citizen, he worked his way around the world in his teenage years, finally settling in the United states.  In a few months he and his wife are expecting their first baby (we hope it’s not something in the water at the OSD).

Likes:  “I still use my peripheral vision to bicycle around, I love photography, and of course I like the new technology stuff.” 

Any dislikes:  “No, not really.  But boredom would really bother me.”

Any Advice:  Stuart advises professors to try to make the curriculum as multidimensional as possible in order to inspire all facets of learning.  He advises students to be active and give back to the University and not just passively absorb information - he believes, “that’s what makes a great University.”  

Anything unusual in the refrigerator:  “Yogurt, fruit, and vegetables.”


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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.

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