story by Claire Miller
Colleges and universities across the country have disability services coordinators on staff to ensure students with disabilities are given the necessary supports and accommodations to successfully earn a college degree.
Tina Aldridge (M.S. ’06) got to know the position well when she was a student at Georgia Perimeter College (now Georgia State University’s Perimeter College).
Aldridge, who was diagnosed with Stargardt disease at age 27 and slowly lost her vision, was grateful for the guidance and mentorship she received from her disability services coordinator, Mavis Clarke. She transferred to Georgia State to finish her degree and after graduation, she took over the disability services coordinator role following Clarke’s retirement.
Her main goal was to give the same level of support to students with disabilities that she’d received while in school.
“I watched my students progress from needing accommodations to graduating with their degrees. It was the most rewarding experience,” she said.
Aldridge went on to earn her master’s degree in the College of Education & Human Development’s rehabilitation counseling program in 2006 and has since built a successful career as a rehabilitation counselor and advocate for people with disabilities.
She’s offered her expertise to government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private entities and established her own company, Education & Employment (E&E) Consulting Solutions, in hopes of supporting people with disabilities and increasing their numbers in the workforce.
Aldridge was also appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to serve on Georgia State Rehabilitation Council, a group of people who collaborate with the state’s vocational rehabilitation agency in “planning and providing comprehensive and effective services that assist individuals with disabilities to achieve their employment goals and contribute to Georgia’s economy,” according to the state of Georgia’s website.
“Most people aren’t able to speak for themselves or don’t know where to find the policies around disability,” she said. “We bring up issues and concerns that citizens have brought to our attention and make sure Georgians with disabilities are given the services they need.”
Aldridge is passionate about her work and hopes to see more people join her in the vocational rehabilitation field – particularly those who are trained to work with people who are blind.
Currently, there’s a national shortage in blind rehabilitation professionals and Aldridge wants to see more colleges and universities add coursework in this specific area.
“We have a limited number of providers who can offer those skills. We even have vendors who are driving from Alabama to Georgia to provide their services,” she explained. “We have to bring awareness to this particular profession. It’s a hidden gem and it’s a very specialized field, but it’s very rewarding.”