The Other Side of Disabilities
The Office for Students with Disabilities
Division of Student Affairs
Volume IV, Issue 1 January-February 2003 Editor: James Walborn
ENCOURAGING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) and Career Development Center (CDC) hosted the interviewing of 27 FAU students On Tuesday, Feb. 4th, and Wednesday, Feb. 5th for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). This is a nationwide program designed to provide employment opportunities and summer internships in the federal and private sectors for qualified college students with disabilities. Co-Sponsored by the U. S. Department of Labor and the U. S. Department of Defense, the WRP works by sharing information about students in the data base with employers who might be interested in hiring them. While the OSD recommends students for the program, the CDC assists them in developing their resumes and interviewing skills.
After completing a successful internship last summer, Electrical Engineering student Angel Rodriguez notes, “Hopefully more and more students will consider the WRP internships, and take advantage of it, as they will learn a lot. As for the employers, I wish that they’d take the time and grab at least one intern. Young people with young ideas can really help a company out.”
“At birth doctors only gave me less than a year to live,” notes Angel Rodriguez. He’s a 24 year old resident of Pompano Beach attending the FAU Electrical Engineering program. He has Jarcho-Levin syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the trunk of his body is undersized. His lungs have only about half the capacity of others his age. The 4' 10" college student must utilize his waist to turn his body as his neck and backbone are fused together.
This past summer Angel interned at Bollings Air Force base in Washington D. C. While the Electrical Engineering curriculum at FAU requires three internships, he was chosen for this one through participation in the WRP. He met interns from across the U. S. Who were completing summer internships in the Washington area. They toured the Capitol, the White House, and other Washington landmarks.
“Where I interned they did not isolate me because I was a college student with a disability. On the contrary, they included me in the decision making process. I was part of the Air Force,” stated Angel.
“I was excited to go, but I was also afraid what to expect,” Angel confides. “I can say, it’s like another door opening. I was grateful that I did take the step and go forward. I had a wonderful experience. Never be afraid to pursue something that you want.”
Like most teenagers, Angel had planned to learn how to drive. “Because I could not turn my neck the DMV told me that I would not be able to drive. I said ‘I am going to drive’.” They made him take a physical exam, and then road tested him three times longer than anyone else. Even after passing with flying colors they withheld giving him his license for several days. “Yes, I had to go through more stuff, but it felt good knowing I’d proved them wrong.”
He has since convinced others with disabilities to go for their licenses, too. “There’s a lot of people out there who are scared, who don’t even know what they can do. I tell them, ‘just do it’.”
“I went for flying lessons, and flew. But, with all that happened last year (2001), my parents were scared so I told them that I’d drop it,” Angel admits. “But, I had the opportunity to fly a plane,” he beams.
Angel can inspire people fluently in three languages: His native Spanish, English, and sign language. “My hearing-impaired brother was scared. He was afraid that people would walk up to him and just start talking to him and he wouldn’t know what they were saying. I told him, ‘Pen and paper. You can’t hear, but you can read and write’,” Angel states.
Anything unusual in the refrigerator? “Well, yeah. Any food that would normally be kept in a cabinet is in my refrigerator. Everything is at my height level. You learn to adapt. For example, often I have to stop while traveling between classes to catch my breath. But, if you are persistent there’s always a way to get things done.” Angel certainly lives up to is credo, “Never be afraid to pursue something that you want.”
SEMINARS A SUCCESS!
On January 16, the OSD hosted two low vision seminars on Macular Degeneration on the Jupiter and Boca campuses. Cardiologist Joseph Fontenot, MD talked about “Practicing Medicine Despite Legal Blindness;” Retinologist Jeff Pyne, talked about “Current & future treatments for Macular Degeneration”; and Scott Hearing, OD, discussed “Can Macular Degeneration be Prevented.”
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 living in the U. S. The tissue in the small central part of the retina, called the macular, degenerates, with abnormal small blood vessels growing into it, together with fibrosis.
The damage is progressive, but does not usually cause total blindness. However, there is sufficient loss of sight to affect independence and the quality of life. Although it is hereditary, development of the condition appears to be accelerated by a lack of antioxidants (e.g. vitamins C, E) and by cigarette smoking.
Recently, a new technique has shown success in slowing the degeneration in some cases. Photodynamic therapy using a photosensitizer, verteporfin, is injected shortly before a low-dose laser light is directed at the back of the eye. Because of the photosensitizer, the new blood vessels concentrate the light, so their is no damage to the neighboring retina.
You can now access the crisis line by dialing 211. “Centerline,” in Palm Beach County, and “First Call for Help,” in Broward county, provide information and referrals regarding health and human service agencies, as well as helping people in crisis.
As of January, 2003, perscription drugs, vision, hearing, and dental exams are no longer covered for the nearly forty million elderly and disabled Americans who receive Medicare health insurance.
Medicare comes in two parts: Part A covers hospitalization (which is usually free); Part B covers doctor visits ($58.70 is paid from the person’s social security check). For more information you can go to the Medicare web site at www.medicare.gov.
We want to encourage comments and contributions from our readers. Please address any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share this newsletter with friends and colleagues. Current and past issues are available at http://www.fau.edu/osd.
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.