Saturday, May 17, 2003

Advocate for disabled winds up eight-year degree pursuit

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Carol Maschinot may be only 3-foot-2, but when she speaks up for the disabled, her message resonates across Northern Kentucky University's campus.

Since 1995, Maschinot, 48, has worked to earn a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in television and radio. Despite limited mobility and a hearing impairment, she has become one of the most outspoken advocates for accessibility on the campus of 13,754 students.

Today, after eight years of hard work, the Fort Thomas woman will don a cap and gown along with 1,165 other graduates in U.S. Bank Arena to receive that degree.

"Carol is one of the most inspiring students I've ever come across," said president James Votruba. "She is such a strong, resilient person. It's going to give me great pride and great joy to give her her degree."

Maschinot has come a long way since doctors told her parents she wouldn't live a month. She was born with a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), which literally means bone that is imperfectly made from the beginning of life.

What: Northern Kentucky University commencement.

When: 10 a.m. today.

Where: US Bank Arena, downtown.

The disorder is characterized by bones that break easily for no apparent reason. A person with OI can break a rib by coughing or by rolling over in bed, Maschinot said.

There is no cure.

The day Maschinot was born, doctors counted 13 broken bones. In the United States, an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people have the disorder.

Despite countless broken bones throughout her life - her left leg alone has been broken four times - the disorder never stifled Maschinot's ambition. She did clerical work for the Internal Revenue Service for more than 17 years before she decided to return to college.

Dale Adams, director of testing and disability services at NKU, remembers the first time he met Maschinot, a timid woman who was unsure she could make it in college.

But soon, she built up her confidence.

"She's going to be missed," Adams said.

Votruba appointed Maschinot to an advisory committee for students with disabilities during her college tenure. An e-mail he received from her about a week ago shows just how far NKU has come in making the campus more accessible, he said.

"She talked about what a wonderful experience she had had and how the university had evolved to be such an inviting and welcoming place for students with disabilities," he said.

Maschinot hopes to write short stories and poetry, as well as find a job doing voice-overs for television and radio commercials. She might even write a book about her experience.

"I feel like I'm dreaming,'' she said "I can't believe it's real."


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