Graduate fights for equal treatment of students with disabilities
A 1998 Central Michigan University graduate is fighting to ensure what he claims should be equal treatment of all students at the university.
Andrew Helmboldt, in a recent letter to Central Michigan Life, said teacher education student Kelly Laatsch is on track to receive her diploma in May. Laatsch, a Freeland senior, is working on completing her student teaching requirements but has a disability that entitles her to an interpreter that translates English using American Sign Language.
Helmboldt said Laatsch requested an interpreter and was told by Karen Edwards, director of student teaching and Susie Rood, director of Student Disability Services, that if she were to implement use of her mandated reasonable accommodation, she would not successfully pass her student teaching requirements.
When contacted, Helmboldt said Edwards and Rood said a section of the Michigan Department of Education Teaching Technical Standards indicates (students) should “understand and speak in English.”
Laatsch can do so, he said, but needs the assistance of an interpreter.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights website, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects disabled students from instances such as this.
“Section 504 forbids organizations and employers from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in, and have access to, program benefits and services,” the website states.
Edwards acknowledged the incident when contacted but declined comment. Rood did not return messages by time of publication.
Helmboldt said numerous alumni are concerned about this instance.
“Kelly’s situation was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who works as an interpreter. He asked that I write a letter to bring attention to the issue, and I believe numerous people have written to CMU about it,” he said. ”Hopefully we can get this resolved.”
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