Wisconsin student with disability pursues veterinary career

A frequent topic in this Wisconsin employment law blog is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This federal law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a person because of his or her disability. In fact, it even requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations when a physical or mental disability makes a work activity difficult or impossible.

This law paves the way for many here in Wisconsin to live life to its full potential. A recent article about disabled veterinarians and veterinary students highlighted just that. The piece includes the story of a University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine student who is not letting spina bifida get in the way of her dream to become an animal doctor.

The young woman is reportedly the first wheelchair-bound student in Madison’s program, and the university consulted with the student after she was admitted, and with other schools who have had similar students, in order to provide a suitable learning environment.

While this student has stated that some days her disability makes schoolwork frustrating, there are many examples of disabled veterinarians who help her maintain confidence.

In fact, the same article mentions a veterinary medical director who lost her arm while she was in college after being diagnosed with bone cancer. She ultimately became very successful, and explained that she can do almost everything two-handed doctors can do, and when she does need a left hand, technicians and other doctors can offer her one.

The article also mentions a veterinarian who was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder in the 1980s before the ADA was enacted to prohibit disability discrimination. Because there was no such protection in existence, the woman became self-employed in order to offer herself accommodations needed to thrive in the workplace.

Of course, most people do not have the resources or are not in careers that permit moving to self-employment, and the ADA now provides vital employment protections for these people.

However, while the ADA has been around for more than 20 years now, some employers still fail to give disabled employees a chance to exercise their abilities. When disabled workers are discriminated against, or accommodations are refused, it may be wise to seek legal counsel to have one’s rights restored and hold the employer accountable.

Source: VIN News Service, “Veterinarians with disabilities: Practicing a full life,” Phyllis DeGioia, Oct. 1, 2012

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