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Students look at 'U' disability efforts

By Charlotte Jenkins, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 26, 2014

At a Services for Students with Disabilities Student Advisory Board event on Wednesday, Business senior Rohit Kapur recited a Mike Myers quote that spoke to him.

“If I went by all the rejection I’ve had in my career, I should have given up a long time ago,” the Myers quote reads.

“These words resonate with me in not only in terms of rejection from the general public and members of the opposite sex, but from potential future employers as well,” Kapur said.

Kapur was one of seven students who discussed living with disabilities as part of the SSD Student Advisory Board event speakABLE at Hatcher Graduate Library where each student spoke individually about their experiences.

Kapur discussed his frustration with being rejected after 22 consecutive job interviews. As a Ross student, one of the top business schools in the country, Kapur said he realized that discrimination was playing a factor.

During a meeting with a representative from General Motors, the representative told Kapur that he had not interviewed someone in a wheelchair in the past 15 years.

“The University of Michigan emphasizes diversity,” Kapur said. “But I feel the University could excel more at teaching us how to deal with a world that isn’t as open to diversity as we would hope.”

Rackham student Alison Stroud, who is deaf, said that she felt comfortable coming to the University as a student with a disability, but thinks there are improvements that could be implemented.

Stroud said that as a freshman, she had some of the most difficulty when attending mass meetings and speaker events. She said she wants the University to consider making screens with transcripts, such as the one at the SSD event, present at most events.

Stroud added that she would like the University to expand its course offerings featuring disabilities, especially since the University does not have a disabilities studies curriculum.

LSA junior Ryan Bartholomew, chair of Central Student Government’s Commission on Campus Accessibility and Disability Affairs, discussed his experience as a transfer student living in North Quad with a roommate with a disability. He said they quickly became close friends.

Bartholomew said he realized the “deplorable” evacuation protocols for students with mobility impairment during an unplanned fire drill in North Quad last year. He said DPS did not have a realistic plan for evacuating students with disabilities, and the North Quad resident advisors neglected the issue. Bartholomew and his roommate met with University representatives, who were “shocked” at the state of the current protocols to reform the policies.

LSA junior Callan Luch spoke of her experience of being afflicted by previously undiagnosed schizoaffective disorder while at the University. She was diagnosed in Dec. 2013. The University was supportive and, since her return, she has seen a psychiatrist through the University Health System and a psychologist through CAPS.

Luch added that the University’s Office of Financial Aid awarded her a scholarship to cover her hospital bill of more than $11,000 after her initial stay.

Luch said that she wants to be an advocate for defying negative stereotypes about people with disabilities and mental illness.

“I am not what happened to me,” Luch said. “I am what I choose to be.”

LSA sophomore Drew Clayborn broke his neck while performing a back flip four years ago. He said that with the diversity present on campus, students can always find others they are similar to, but it is more difficult to find students willing to reach outside their comfort zones to people who are different from them.

Bartholomew discussed the theme of “otherness” and how society views people with disabilities fearfully as others. Bartholomew said this is a dangerous narrative.

Social Work student Lloyd Shelton said many view disability as a limiting term that assumes people with these characteristics are weaker and less than others.

“This is not what I saw of everyone who spoke today,” Shelton said. “When I look around the room I don’t see weakness … I see greatness and I see victors. I see champions.”

Clarifacation:A previous version of this article did not mention that LSA junior Callan Luch's schizo-affective disorder was diagnosed. It was initially undiagnosed during her time at the University. An updated version reflects that it was diagnosed in Dec. 2013.