Resource center aids UI students

By Wesley Deberry

Butterflies filled the stomach of University alumnus Joshua George as he entered the Washington D.C. studio of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” for his summer internship. George had a number of responsibilities on the show, from doing voice-overs to throwing around ideas for the show.

However, before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed, it is possible that George would not have been allowed in such an environment because he uses a wheelchair.

“When someone used to see a person with a disability, they immediately thought they were completely different,” George said. “Not that they were just unable walk, but that there was something mentally deficient about them as well.”

Through the efforts of programs like Disability Resources and Education Services, George said, these types of situations almost never occur.

Since opening in 1948, the Disability Resources and Education Center at the University has been a trendsetter in post-secondary support services for students with disabilities. Today, the center also helps students prepare for careers. Working together with the Career Services Center, the center provides students with information about job fairs and recruiters visiting the University.

“What we try to encourage on this campus is for students with disabilities to actively utilize the different departmental career service offices, just as any other student would do on campus,” said Susann Heft, the center’s disability specialist.

While Heft admits that the career services office is a good resource, she said “there are certainly things that are specific to an applicant with a disability that they need to think about as they are preparing for the transition into employment.”

Needs include confidentiality of a disability and accommodations for a disability,

The Disability Resources and Education Center also offers workshops, where staff members of the Career Services Center critique resumes and answer questions.

Margaret Schrock, assistant director of the Career Services Center, said that it is important for students with disabilities to be made aware of their rights in the workplace when it comes to issues like confidentiality and accommodations.

“Our students are an extremely talented pool, and a good share of them get their internships without actually disclosing that they have a disability,” Heft said.

In cases when a student with a disability decides to disclose that information, Heft said they help the student find the “most productive and effective way” to do so.

While the Disability Resources Center does not sponsor any internships, it has built relationships with several employers, including IBM, Procter and Gamble, and SPR, Inc.

Although the Disability Resource Center did not directly secure George’s internship, it would have been unlikely without the institution’s sports program, which was designed for students with disabilities. He obtained his position at “Pardon the Interruption” through his connections with the wheelchair basketball team.

“It’s great what DRES has done, creating that type of atmosphere where you get over the whole cultural stigmatism of people with disabilities,” George said.