Students with disabilities work in accessible lab during Purdue summer program

Program in 3rd year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University is giving six undergraduate students with physical disabilities a rare opportunity to work in labs with tools and equipment that have been modified to meet the challenges they face.

Recent Cornell graduate Zachary Mason is mostly blind, so relies on audio cues to keep his lab work organized.

"I can see shape, color and contrast, but what I have a difficult time with is depth perception," Mason said.

In the past, Mason's physical disability has kept professors from hiring him in their labs, but that's not the case at Purdue.

Arizona State's Ashleigh Gonzales didn't start going blind until she was a freshman in high school.

"I had to go through a lot of testing to even figure out what was going on, and on top of that I had to try to do my school work without being able to see it," Gonzales said.

Brad Duerstock, the director of the program, said the students aren't the only ones who benefit from participating.

"These are challenges that they've faced their whole life, and being able to be a part of that to help them is very gratifying," Duerstock said.

The program is in its third year and is supported in part by a $2 million national grant awarded to Purdue in 2011. 

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