Access for all — an FGCU student turns challenges into change

4 – minute read

A man with glasses and a moustache in a blue, short-sleeved shirt sits in a wheelchair
Volunteering as a patient in Marieb College of Health & Human Services classrooms has helped Keith Goldberg advocate for people who use wheelchairs — like him.

Florida Gulf Coast University introduced Keith Goldberg to an unconventional avenue for personal and professional growth beyond his chosen major, resort and hospitality administration. Volunteering as a patient in Marieb College of Health & Human Services classrooms has helped him advocate for people who use wheelchairs — like him.


Goldberg’s mother, Lynn Jaffe, is an FGCU professor emeritus and was the program director of FGCU’s occupational therapy (OT) program before her 2022 retirement. Goldberg volunteered as a stand-in patient for students in OT classes, drawing from his personal experiences in a wheelchair and presenting his medical history in a simulated occupational therapy clinic.


“Because I’ve been in the shoes of the patient,” Goldberg says, “I know what to tell [OT students], to give my feedback on things they could improve.”


He continues to earn service-learning hours by providing feedback to occupational therapy students in graduate courses taught by associate professors Denise Allen and Ed Myers.


Students get that real-world involvement of what works and doesn’t work for Keith, and they learn how to approach people that have a disability or some need for an assistive device,” Myers says.


He appreciates that Goldberg talks frankly about his challenges as someone with a disability. In Myers’ “Technology in Practice” class, Goldberg helps occupational therapy students understand the process of being evaluated for a wheelchair.


“It’s an absolutely important device to be measured properly,” says Myers, who performs 50% of all adult wheelchair evaluations for Lee Health City Center’s outpatient rehabilitation facility. “Keith goes through what he’s looking for and how to help someone select something that is a part of their life all day.”


Goldberg also allows students to transfer him from a wheelchair to a bed or chair, for instance, and critiques their safe patient handling technique — a major learning outcome for OT students. He additionally provides suggestions to students that they can apply in their field work or clinical environments.

But FGCU isn’t the only place Goldberg has provided feedback to help others uncover accessibility issues.


In spring 2023, when he applied for an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, the resort and hospitality administration major focused on his qualifications and passion for working in the industry. “I didn’t mention I was in a wheelchair because I didn’t want that to impact my interview process,” says Goldberg, who says he experienced difficulty finding a job when he moved to Estero despite holding a culinary arts degree.


Less than two weeks after his second Disney interview, Goldberg received an official offer via email. The offer included his assignment and the process to request any medical accommodations.


“Originally, they gave me a job I couldn’t do — a houseperson job, which I knew I couldn’t do. I know my limitations, and I knew I couldn’t fit in every door.” After completing the medical accommodations form, he had a follow-up conversation with a Disney case manager and was subsequently offered a different position — character attendant.


“That was the role I really wanted to do because I grew up with all these characters,” Goldberg says. 

A man with Disney ears, glasses and a moustache in a blue, short-sleeved shirt sits in a wheelchair, smiling and holding up a Disney nametag with the name Keith and the hometown Florida Gulf Coast University
Keith Goldberg proudly displays his Disney nametag, listing his hometown as "Florida Gulf Coast University."

A character attendant’s responsibilities include providing audience control, ensuring the safety of character performers and guests, and maintaining show quality and character integrity, according to Disney’s website.


While Goldberg was assigned to Hollywood Studios as his home location, he had a few opportunities to trade shifts with interns in other areas. He was also asked to serve on Disney’s safety committee after identifying a potential issue that was promptly resolved. Just as he’d done for the occupational therapy students at FGCU, he provided the committee with feedback aimed at enhancing accessibility for himself and others.


It’s that lifetime experience,” Myers says, emphasizing that Goldberg’s firsthand perspective cannot be replicated by videos or lectures. “Meeting with somebody who has had that lived experience really shows the humanity behind the diagnostics, the real person behind the stories.”


Goldberg will graduate in December 2024. What’s his dream job?


“It’s at Disney,” he says. “I want to be a character attendant again, but I also want to try out guest relations and maybe sales or the tour groups, although I’m unsure if I can do that knowing I can’t do every ride or experience. But I want to add to my Disney résumé.”

A man with Disney ears, glasses and a moustache in a blue, short-sleeved shirt sits in a wheelchair outdoors
Resort and hospitality administration major Keith Goldberg hopes to add to his Disney résumé.
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