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Customized lab offered disabled college graduates new jobs

Despite signs of recovery, finding a job in the current economic climate can be a challenge. When a recent college graduate also has the extra consideration of disability accommodations to worry about, that search may prove to be a long one.

Fortunately, a recent profile of six disabled college graduates illustrates that even individuals with a physical disability might find ways to apply their skills and abilities in a work setting. The employer is Purdue University, and the six new recruits are graduates from various colleges around the country.

According to the program's director, the labs where the disabled new recruits will be working have been modified. The customization was made possible, in part, by a $2 million national grant. Although the size of that grant may seem high, substantial funds were needed so that lab equipment could be customized. For example, one recent graduate is almost blind, so his lab work organization is dependent on audio cues. 

For each individual, an examination of particular challenges and limitations was required. Admittedly, not every employer may have the funds to examine the particular challenges and limitations presented by a worker's disability. Under federal law, employers are generally required only to make reasonable accommodations to disabled workers -- and $2 million in customizations probably exceeds the scope of that definition.

Nevertheless, although the lab may be unique, it also gives hope to disabled individuals about the potential future applications of technology. Although some impairments may prevent an individual from performing any type of work -- possibly necessitating Social Security disability insurance benefits -- advances in technology may soon permit other disabled individuals to continue working.

Source:, "Students with disabilities work in accessible lab during Purdue summer program," Chance Walser, July 11, 2013

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