Temple helps students with disabilities navigate the workplace

Services on campus accommodate students with disabilities seeking employment.


Disability Resources and Services and the Career Center collaborate to help students with disabilities enter the workforce.

Shannon Conklin, director of the Career Center, said students with disabilities often come to the center seeking help with employment. The most common question is how and when to disclose their disability to a potential employer, and how to request accommodations during the interview process.

The center also connects students to potential employers.

“It’s really important for [students] to realize that there’s employers that have a culture that is accommodating and can value what everyone brings to the table,” Conklin said.

In 2016, 30 percent of workplace discrimination offenses involved disability, according to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws.

Kristen Aronoff, the coordinator of assistive technology at DRS, said she has witnessed this type of discrimination.

“If your resume states that you have a disability, that will often get you kicked out of the running,” Aronoff said. “It’s unfortunate, and it shouldn’t happen, but it does.”

Aronoff believes there are ways that students with disabilities can navigate these issues.

“One thing that’s unfortunate but true is that in order to get a job when you have a disability, you should be very qualified for it,” Aronoff said. “You need experience, which of course is challenging as a student. So the big question is how you get that experience.”

Aronoff recommends that students find an internship during freshman year.

Jonathan Atiencia, a film and media arts major with a learning disability, believes support for disabled students begins in the classroom.

“Professors need to know what’s going on with their students with disabilities,” Atiencia said. “They need to be ready and prepared to have the best accomodations for them in the classroom.”

In 2017, about 14.8 percent of disabled individuals in the United States had a bachelor’s degree, as opposed to 34.5 percent of people without a disability, according to Cornell University’s Disability Statistics.

Individuals with bachelor’s degrees are half as likely to be unemployed as individuals who only received high school degrees, according to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, a research, policy and advocacy organization. This means a lack of accessibility in higher education can directly affect a disabled individual’s ability to become employed.

Atiencia, who is also the Disability Resources and Services representative for Temple Student Government’s Parliament, said he has never experienced discrimination in the workplace, but attributes that to the fact that he works at Temple’s Institute on Disabilities.

“I’m a coach. I make sure [students with disabilities have] support so they can become independent on their own. I’m there to guide them,” Atiencia said.

Atiencia said he hopes to establish a positive environment for disabled students through his work, and break the stigma of disability in the workplace.

“I have a learning disability and I’m not ashamed of it,” Atiencia said.

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