“As much as we love our students, we want them to leave after they’ve been successful.”
The room filled with chuckles as university Disability Resource Coordinators resonated with Lynda Page’s statement.
The Disability Resource Center (DRC) university coordinator meeting on June 5th was a successful time of learning and sharing between the Foundation and various universities. The SUSF matching grant program proved successful this year with the collective universities meeting the challenge with a 99% match through the allocation of both internal and external funds. This is much improved from the 75% match the previous year. With the help of recruitment videos and increased understanding of the program, we hope to have 100% of the matching funds in 2016. These matching grants served as additional money on top of the $475,000 granted as a part of the Foundation’s core program to provide scholarships for students with disabilities and financial need who attend a state university in Florida.
Several coordinators commented on the fact that not only were their DRC programs growing, but so was the interest in the Johnson Scholarship. With such growth and interest, they see more students “self-identifying,” meaning that they are pursuing the individualized help the Resource Centers have to offer.
Such an increase made the Social v. Medical Model presentation from Adam Meyer, a UCF DRC coordinator, even more pertinent. All in all, we learned that when it comes to a person with disabilities, it is not the disability that’s the problem. It is the interaction between the individual and the nature of opportunity in the wider environment that becomes the problem. Discussion flowed between coordinators on how to create a culture of accessibility and understanding in the physical environments, policies, and attitudes of the universities as a whole. Bea’s presentation on Specific Accommodations sparked a similar discussion that allowed the universities to share best practices and creative solutions.
As a Foundation, we are determined that our grant making should be a catalyst to help our partners and their students become more independent and self-reliant. In other words, these programs and our continual efforts serve as a launch pad for students with disabilities to be able to enter their communities and the workforce with the tools necessary for success.
The Foundation partners with the DRC coordinators in their efforts to remove the barriers to education that those with disabilities face. Because of the work of the Foundation and the heavy lifting, diligence and creativity of the Disability Resource Centers, students have a higher likelihood of being successful in college so that they might be launched into the workforce.
Or, as Lynda so tactfully stated, leave.
NOTE: This month's blog was written by Tori Lackey, the Foundation's new Program Specialist.