Teaching Helped Fuel Senior’s Passion For Advocacy

May 2, 2023 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Alumni, Arts and Letters, Honors
By Brooke Schmitz

Isabella Garza, a double major in disability studies and special education with a minor in Spanish, will be graduating with departmental honors this spring. Before she concludes her college career, she will be presenting her research at an international conference, “Including Disability Global Summit” at the University of Maryland this spring.

 Garza is passionate about accessibility, as it enables more people to make decisions for themselves and participate in their communities. She has always had a strong bent for helping people, but through teaching dance she found her calling in a lifelong career of aiding people with disabilities.

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CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2023 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at spring commencement.

“After accepting a position to teach dance to people with disabilities, I fell in love with teaching, especially to people with disabilities,” Garza said.

Two weeks before starting her freshman year at UToledo, Garza officially changed her major to disability studies.

During her time at UToledo, Garza conducted a rigorous review on accessible writing aimed at increasing understanding for people with intellectual disabilities. Garza’s research began as a USRCAP (Summer Research and Creative Activities Program) -funded project the summer of her junior year. She then continued her research during the school year as an independent study. Her work was recognized as an awards finalist at the Fall 2021 Undergrad Research Exhibition.

During her senior year, Garza defended her honors thesis, “The Impact of Plain Language and Easy Read for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.” Her work has filled a substantial gap in the current literature on accessible writing. Garza’s research is praised for its complexity, professionalism and contribution to the disability community.

As she concludes her time at UToledo, Garza is continuing to fuel her passion to work with the disabled community. Recently, she began an adaptive fitness class for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Isabella Garza, a double major in disability studies and special education with a minor in Spanish


Dr. Rebecca Monteleone, an assistant professor of disability studies, praised Garza for her intelligence.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Isabella both as a student and as a researcher over the past three years, and without a doubt, she is one of the most impressive students I have ever worked with,” Monteleone said. “Between her coursework, her honors thesis and her external community service, she has proven herself to be an exceptional scholar with a clear passion for disability rights and inclusion.”

In fall, Garza will continue her education at UToledo through the Judith Herb College of Education’s Licensure and Master’s Program (LAMP) in special education.

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