Dogs for Diversity

By Joe Ramp: For Complete Post, Click Here…

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To embark on a neuroscience degree in my mid-40s was challenging enough. Doing so after becoming disabled following an accident in 2006, which left me with 23 broken bones, fractured vertebrae, nerve damage, a head injury and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), made that task even more arduous. However, the biggest obstacle I faced during my entire time in academia was not the coursework or the rigorous schedule of research, but the fact that I was a student with a disability and a service dog (SD) handler.

For more than a century dogs have proven successful as assistive devices for people with disabilities, dating back to the start of the modern-day guide dog. An SD is considered medical equipment and helps its handler lead an independent life. Over the last four decades there has been a steady increase in the use of SDs to mitigate various disabilities, as well as a steady increase in students registering for disability services at university level.

Access to hands-on laboratory experience is crucial to earning an undergraduate degree in STEM, yet SD handlers are frequently barred from these opportunities. As the number of SD handlers in our communities increases and the number pursuing STEM degrees on university campuses rises, it is important to develop inclusive laboratory SD policies.

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