Office dedicated to helping disabled celebrates 40 years

By Charlotte Jenkins, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 5, 2014

The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a series of presentations. SSD collaborated with the Career Center Wednesday to present “Navigating the Road to Work: Making the Connection Between Students with Disabilities and Employment.”

The event, which was held in Hatcher Graduate Library, featured panelists from the University and companies to advise students with disabilities.

Ashleigh Maynor, career consultant at the Career Center and liaison between SSD and the Career Center, helped initiate the collaboration between the two offices.

“I noticed students coming into the Career Center with a lot of questions about talking about disability with an employer,” Maynor said.

Maynor said she hopes the event will begin a collaborative initiative that will educate the University community about an increasingly common issue.

She added that the program aims to ease students’ fears about having a disability by educating them about available resources and how to navigate finding a career after graduation.

The question and answer portion of the presentation demonstrated this anxiety. One student asked whether he should disclose his ADHD when applying to jobs. Another student asked how he should handle his dyslexia if he is asked to read or use numbers suddenly during a job interview.

SSD was established in 1974 following the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 of that act states any institution that receives any federal funding must provide accommodations for students with disabilities.

Caleb Adams, career-planning coordinator at Peckham, Inc. in Lansing, said it is important that students learn how to navigate the job pool with a disability.

“There is a growing number of employers now who are actively recruiting people with disabilities,” Adams said. “Right now, there is a mismatch in supply and demand.”

Adams added that the stigma of disability is decreasing.

“Most employers are realizing they already employ people with disabilities,” Adams said. “It’s nothing new or different than what they’re already doing.”

SSD Director Stuart Segal said the job of SSD is to serve both the institution and the students.

Segal said he is concerned that students who have disabilities are unaware of the office and that they might be entitled to academic accommodations that they're not receiving. The greatest challenge for these students, he said, may be the fear of discussing their disabilities because they think that they will not be accepted.

Adams said this fear should ebb as disability becomes less of an issue in the future.

“I am hoping that within 10 years, the question about why should an employer hire a person with a disability will be absurd,” Adams said. “It will be ridiculous to question that and select someone out of a job because they have a disability.”