More people with disabilities are going to college today, including recent graduate Melissa Kelbley.
The 23-year old Fostoria native is a 2008 graduate of Calvert High School. She graduated from Wright State University this past summer with a degree in mass communication for public relations.
As stated from an article in the Dayton Daily News, WSU is considered among the nation's top disability-friendly schools. The university was serving students with physical disabilities through offerings such as personal assistance even before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, said Jeff Vernooy, director of the Office of Disability Services.
Roughly 550 students are registered with the disabilities services office, which assists those with physical and/or learning disabilities, according to the university.
There have been several elements from WSU that have led to Kelbley's success.
"First, I should mention their Office of Disability Services, which was a key element that allowed me to succeed in achieving my degree," she said.
Some of the other services available that Kelbley took advantage of were the personal assistance program, alternative books, test proctoring, in and out of class readers/writers as well as the career advising program through WrightChoice Inc.
"What sold me was WSU's academic buildings are uniquely connected through tunnel systems, which allow us students to pass from building to building without having to go out into the cold very often," Kelbley said. "This was something that definitely helped me because I am unable to drive my wheelchair very well after getting very cold. I could go to the first building in the morning and warm up there, then, I could go all day without having to go back outside during these cold Ohio winters."
Kelbley is looking for a full-time job, but in the meantime, she has been working as a customer service representative for Standard Register.
She said she believes it is more difficult for students with disabilities to get a job after college. She has been advised to wait until a face-to-face interview to disclose her disability, and she said it is important to prepare a list of what accommodations will be needed and how she can accomplish each task in the job posting.
"My experience at WSU was unlike anything else I could have ever imagined," Kelbley said. "I'm not going to lie; college at first was a culture shock. Coming from the Tiffin area and knowing that most people are middle-class, working people, I have to say it was difficult to realize that people have had different backgrounds than I, some better and some much worse."
Kelbley first heard about WSU during her junior year at Calvert. She began scouring the internet and attending college fairs and found most would point her toward Wright State's table.
"When I was looking at different colleges at the career fair, my family and I began to ask questions about accessibility and some of the accommodations I would have needed," Kelbley said. "I then made an appointment to tour WSU a couple weeks later and it was love at first sight. I loved everything about the university."
From a young age, Kelbley said her parents, Pam and Dennis, have been the sole inspiration to her and her sister Jessica.
Jessica is also in a wheelchair and now in her junior year at WSU, majoring in organizational leadership.
Kelbley said she will recommend WSU to anyone with a disability.
"WSU is somewhere where you don't have to worry about trial and error. They have already figured out all the details. If by some chance someone on campus has not had the same problem as you, they will work with you every step of the way to find a solution and to make it possible for you to succeed in your classes as well as in your social settings," Kelbley said.