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Fulbright Scholar Will Study Employment Opportunities for the Disabled in Russia
For release: Aug. 23, 2005
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Dr. Erin Martz, assistant professor in the rehabilitation counseling program in the University of Memphis' College of Education, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research in Russia during the spring 2006 semester.

Martz will be based in Saratova, where she will examine employment barriers and accommodations for disabled individuals in five Russian cities. She will work with Perspektiva, a disability organization based in Moscow, to collect data and develop an understanding of the employment situation for the disabled in Russia. She made her first trip to Russia in 2004, when she began collaborating with Perspektiva and the World Institute on Disability.

"Nowadays, many people in Russian society are struggling to make a living," Martz said. "I saw this first-hand last summer when I was in Moscow. Women who looked to be 80 years old were selling flowers at 11 p. m. in the subway. I would often talk to them, and I learned that many of them grow and sell flowers to supplement their meager pensions. "Given this environment, in which many people struggle to survive financially, individuals with disabilities have difficulty in obtaining a competitive job. Employers may view an individual with a disability as a liability or as not being able to contribute anything in the workplace.

"My study will be one of the first independent research projects that will collect empirical data on the barriers and accommodations that Russians with disabilities have at work. We know the situation is not favorable for individuals with disabilities, but it has been slowly improving."

Knowledge gathered in Russia will be the first step toward breaking down barriers for the disabled, Martz says. "Having a disability should not preclude anyone from work as long as they have skills and abilities that can be used on the job. Stigma and prejudice often block individuals with disabilities from getting jobs and providing for themselves."

Her other research interests include psychological adaptation to and coping with chronic illness and post-traumatic stress reactions after disability, attitudes toward disability, and international rehabilitation. Martz is co-editing a book on coping with chronic illness and disability; it will be published in 2007.

Martz taught rehabilitation counseling at the University of Missouri for three years before joining the U of M this year. She earned a bachelor's degree in Russian studies from the University of Arizona, a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from California State University-San Bernardino, and a doctorate in rehabilitation education and research from the University of Arkansas.

Some 800 United States faculty members and professionals will travel abroad to 140 countries through the Fulbright Scholar program. Established in 1947 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program is meant to build mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries.

America's flagship international educational exchange, the Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.

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