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Shelby Lee


  1. When did you graduate? What was your major?
  2. Are you currently in school or working?
  3. Can you explain Occupational Therapy?
  4. How did the certificate program impact you? What did you learn through the certificate?
  5. What are your goals for the future?
  6. Why do you think students at UGA should take disability classes through IHDD?
When did you graduate? What was your major?

Graduated May 2019; Major: Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) and received a certificate in Disability Studies through UGA's Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD).

Are you currently in school or working?

I’m currently in graduate school at Augusta University working towards a Master of Health Science in Occupational Therapy. Also, due to COVID-19, our classes have been transitioned to an online format through the summer, so I have some extra time on my hands. With hopes that the quarantine comes to an end soon, I plan to gain some additional clinical experience at a facility located where I am currently living, just to further my clinical knowledge and fill my time in a beneficial way.

Can you explain Occupational Therapy?

I could write an entire page about what Occupational Therapy (OT) is, but I will try to condense it as much as possible! When I think about what OT is, I think of functional independence. OT can range from NICU intervention, to post-surgical cardiac intervention in a hospital, to home health, to low vision rehabilitation, to hand therapy- and everywhere in between. Whether a client is a child in school, an adult with a developmental disability, an older adult diagnosed with macular degeneration, a young adult with an obtained spinal cord injury or TBI, or a football player who fractured his finger, an OT can help; we are a client-centered practice, meaning that we look at each specific client’s occupational roles (student, employee, caretaker, parent, coach, son/daughter, etc.), what is important to them, their deficits, and how to re-gain as much functional independence as possible within their daily occupational roles.

How did the certificate program impact you? What did you learn through the certificate?

Through the Disability Studies Certificate, I was able to expand my knowledge as a future OT, as well as modify my perspectives in order to become a more beneficial and compassionate member of society. Growing up, I was not exposed to very many individuals with disabilities, and like many others was very sheltered from this part of society due to a lack of conversation around the topic. I have never necessarily felt intimidated or uncomfortable around individuals with disabilities; however, I was very unsure of how to interact with and support these individuals. It did not take me long after my first disability studies class with Tracy Rackensperger to realize that individuals with disabilities want to be talked to and treated like any of your other peers. Through the process of obtaining this certificate, I learned the importance of advocating for disability rights, expanding access to buildings and public places past just what the ADA requires, and never underestimating someone on the basis of their external appearance.

What are your goals for the future?

Thinking about the next few years, my goals are: to graduate next May with a MSOT, take our National Boards Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), and get a job. As of right now, my interests are acute care rehab (hospital setting) and hand therapy (outpatient rehab setting). Ideally, I would love to work full time at an outpatient hand therapy clinic to work towards obtaining a hand therapy certification (CHT), while working PRN at a hospital to gain experience in a couple of different OT specialties.

Why do you think students at UGA should take disability classes through IHDD?

Educate yourselves! If there is one thing I have learned through my almost five years of college, it’s that you can never educate yourself enough. Taking these IHDD classes has definitely helped me become more compassionate by understanding that each person is different, but oddly similar; we are each just trying to live our lives in a way that makes us happy. These classes helped me understand how I can help or support these individuals with disabilities that are often under-recognized, as well as made me realize that it is my responsibility as a member of society to do everything I can to make sure they are supported in ways that I, myself, often take for granted.

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