A recent New York Times article highlighted the assets that people with disabilities can offer employers. The article, written by leadership consultant Peggy Klaus, described her experience giving a lecture to students in the Disabled Students’ Program at the University of California at Berkeley. In the article, she explained that while she was delighted and flattered to be invited to speak, she was also nervous. This would be her first time speaking to an audience made up entirely of people with disabilities. Furthermore, she had always felt uncomfortable around people with disabilities and was concerned she may say the wrong thing or would come off as insensitive.
She sought guidance from Paul Hippolitus, the program’s director. Hippolitus spent 30 years at the U.S. Department of Labor before coming to the university. He knows about the challenges his students face as they prepare to find work.
The Ticket to Work team talked to Hippolitus to find out more about what is being done to promote careers for students with disabilities. He has just started teaching a course, called Professional Development and Disability. The course focuses on:
- History, law, and policies that impact people with disabilities
- Learning about career paths for people with disabilities
- Workplace accommodations
- Setting career goals and a plan for getting there
- Becoming a leader inside the classroom and in the workplace
Hippolitus refuses to watch these talented students become discouraged about their career possibilities. He believes that with the proper tools, they have great potential.
In the end, Klaus’ lecture went well and she found there was no need to have worried. The students put her at ease and embraced the mainstream discussion on employment. Students saw that they could present their disabilities as assets in the workplace.
Programs like the UC Berkeley program are becoming more common. Colleges and universities across the country are reaching out to motivated, career-focused students with disabilities. For additional postsecondary resources for students with disabilities, check out:
- HEATH Resource Center http://www.heath.gwu.edu
- COSD - Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities http://www.cosdonline.org
- AHEAD - Association on Higher Education and Disability http://www.ahead.org
Read the full New York Times article.