The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) will hold its first Disability Disclosure Panel this Thursday, where speakers from multiple employers and organizations will discuss employment opportunities and accommodations for disabled students, graduates and alumni.
The panel will take place at 5 p.m. in Student Union Room 304C.
Katie Halbruner, CSD disability specialist, and Monique Cooper, Center for Career Development (CCD) career consultant, collaborated on plans for the event.
“Students with disabilities, in research, typically have lower rates of employment upon graduation than their non-disabled peers,” Halbruner said. “It’s important for us to consider what we can be doing (about that).”
The panel’s purpose is to provide information to students about disclosing their disabilities to future employers as they apply for jobs after graduation, she said.
The panel will include representatives from Aetna, Stanley Black & Decker, Travelers Insurance, the Connecticut Business Leader Network and the Connecticut Bureau for Rehabilitation Services, Halbruner said.
“The panelists will introduce themselves, talk for a couple minutes about who they are, their background with disability and employment and talk about their employers,” Halbruner said.
Halbruner said Ryan Martin, who pioneered the wheelchair basketball program at UConn and runs the Ryan Martin Foundation, will moderate the event. His foundation provides athletes with disabilities the opportunity to obtain skills that will help them on and off the court.
Halbruner said that after the panelists speak, the discussion will become an open forum for students to ask questions to the representatives.
“We are also going to be using a technology called Mentimeter, where students can ask questions anonymously through their phone, so that if anyone is sort of hesitant or has a hard time engaging socially, they’d still be able to ask their questions,” Halbruner said.
Cooper said one of the panel’s discussion points will be the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).
“(The WRP) is a federally-run program that acts as a recruitment and referral tool for students,” Cooper said. “They take employers from both the federal sector and the private sector and connect them with students with disabilities.”
Cooper said to be eligible to apply for WRP, a student must be registered in an undergraduate or graduate program at UConn. They can also be an alumni who graduated after 2016.
“WRP is really looking for highly motivated college students or recent graduates with disabilities, and it connects them (to job opportunities) based on their abilities and their interests,” Halbruner said.
Students who apply to WRP complete phone interviews with workforce recruiters, Halbruner said. If they are accepted into the program, they are connected to various employers.
Halbruner said she believes that Thursday’s panel will simplify the WRP application process.
“The panel will provide (students with disabilities) with the opportunity to ask some questions about disclosing their disability within the application process and during the interview,” Halbruner said.
Halbruner said she hopes this event will become something that occurs each semester.
“I think it will be even moreso important in the spring, as students approach graduation and look toward future employment,” Halbruner said.
Halbruner said she believes the most valuable part of Thursday’s panel is that it will provide students with the opportunity to ask questions to individuals who fully understand the application process and disability disclosure.
“These are people with disabilities themselves, people in disability resource groups at these employers and organizations, so they can actually talk about the real-life experience of requesting an accommodation in employment,” Halbruner said.
Cooper agreed that access to these employers and their personal experiences is invaluable, because the job search can be overwhelming.
“I hope that it empowers (students with disabilities) to feel like they are supported and that they can really go out there and do whatever it is they want to do,” Cooper said.
Halbruner said she hopes these students will feel more comfortable making an accommodation request after hearing about the panelists’ experiences.
“We can talk to them ad nauseum about what the process will look like in employment,” Halbruner said. “But I think having those conversations with the employers themselves and people that have gone through this before is much more powerful.”
Annie Stachura is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.