Student employees learn working with students with disabilities

Lisa Dreher

About one in five people report having a disability, and of the types of disabilities, the most commonly reported are invisible and go unnoticed to the human eye, according to the University’s Services for Students with Disabilities office.

Kristen Anton, a disabilities services coordinator who spoke during the presentation, emphasized how unrecognizable disabilities confuse people into thinking less obvious disabilities are not as hindering as they seem.

“More categories of disabilities are being more recognized,” Anton said. “Historically it was going to be more your visible things like mobility, deaf, hard of hearing or visual, but now categories have expanded to include [invisible] things like learning disabilities.”

The Student Employment Excellence Development program held a workshop Monday evening to teach student employees how to approach students with disabilities and aid them in the classroom.

SEED was started in fall 2012 as a program to provide one-hour workshops where student employees in academic and non-academic settings, such as student tutors or technicians, can learn what to do in different classroom situations and learn ways to balance work and life.

The program “is designed to provide [students] with opportunities to enhance your skill set, knowledge base and leadership potential so you can excel in the student workforce and in your future career,” according to its website.

Ce’Nandra Franklin, a communications sciences and disorders senior, said she personally faced inappropriate language directed at her disability. 

Franklin is hard of hearing and needs a translator for her classes. In one of her classes, Franklin said her professor Harvey Sussman asked her why she needed more accommodation than another student who was visually impaired in front of the class.

“He said a lot of hurtful comments to me personally and also to this other student,” Franklin said. “He saw what I was capable of and completely disregarded me as a person.”

Changing how and what people say to people with disabilities puts them at ease in day-to-day conversation and tone. Anton also said to not overly pity them because it adds unnecessary emotion and makes them feel inadequate.

“Try to be natural about it,” Anton said. “Treat them just like how you would treat anybody else in your life.”

The student employees were asked which categories of disabilities, like visual and psychological types, they believed were most common. They also had to choose which seating accommodation was best, whether it be the handicapped seats in the back or among the general admission seats at a venue.

“What we really want to be doing is being inclusive,” Anton said. “Just because something is accessible doesn’t not mean it is inclusive.”