Deanna Ferrante '19, Developmental Disabilities and Human Services Program (DDHS) and Psychology, was honored with the first inaugural Kaitlin A. Geraghty Memorial Prize for excellence in disability inclusion by the National Organization on Disability (NOD). Named in honor of the late NOD intern who was much admired, this award is bestowed to an up-and-coming disability advocate who shares Kaitlin’s passion for working towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities. Ferrante was presented with the award at the NOD's Annual Forum and Dinner entitled Shifting the Talent Paradigm: Inclusive Culture for a Modern Workforce, held in Washington, D.C.
Ferrante has been involved in disability inclusion as an intern at the UMass Amherst Assistive Technology Center, where she created an accessible handbook of all the assistive tools that are offered to students. She also interned at NOD where she learned about the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the workforce. She helped to pioneer NOD's Campus to Careers program which supports college students with disabilities who are looking for internships and full-time positions. Currently, Ferrante is working on her senior thesis which focuses on disability inclusion in the U.S. workforce.
The DDHS program granted her the opportunity to think critically with peers about the stigma that people in the disability community face. Through this program, she also interned with faculty and staff on campus who are interested in helping college students with disabilities to succeed.
As a student with a disability, she recognized the lack of conversation around disability at UMass Amherst and decided to break this silence. Inspired by her internship experiences, Ferrante became a founding member of the Alliance Against Ableism, a UMass student organization that supports students facing ableism, a form of discrimination against people with disabilities. The organization meets weekly, providing a safe place for people to share their experiences. Members also strive to raise awareness of ableism, and how it can present itself in everyday life.