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Dan Standage is the national authority on Disability in the student veteran space. His experience as a campus Chapter leader, student veteran resource center director, and project coordinator for congressionally-directed research on veteran reintegration, provides a level of expertise that is both unique and valuable. As Director of Disability in Education for Student Veterans of America (SVA), he has been working to change the landscape of disability design in higher education for veterans. Creating course modules to educate veterans, medical practitioners, case managers, veteran resource center personnel, campus disability services staff, and general veteran supporters on unique issues pertaining to veterans with disabilities. In addition, he is collecting data and conducting primary-source research on student veterans to determine risk factors associated with disabilities and persistence rates for student veterans with disabilities.
As a Chapter leader and veteran resource center director, he identified a problem in which he couldn’t properly justify a resource center expansion. He designed a sign-in system that operates autonomously, which collects visitor usage data. In it’s earliest form, the system reported only a handful of visitors each day. As word got out about the resource center, the system recorded increased usage. The data showed a correlation between the the size of the resource center and the number of visitors frequenting the center. The system has logged almost 90,000 entries over the course of eleven semesters, allowing the center to expand four times from a 400 square foot office, into a 3,000+ square foot center, which logs up to 200 visitors on any given day. The longitudinal nature of that data has allowed Dan to work with currently-enrolled student veterans to do research on the effectiveness of veterans resource centers for women veterans in college. However, his expertise is shaped by adversity as well.
As the youngest child in his family, Dan was only one of two siblings to graduate from high school, the only one to serve in the military, and the first to go to college. Never understanding the importance of a college degree, he declined the Montgomery GI Bill. After serving ten years in the Marines, he was forced to leave the military in September 2001, as he was slowly losing his eyesight. He relocated with his two sons to Arizona to be closer to family. While receiving blind rehabilitation training, he found his calling through servant leadership and continued service to veterans. He was able to go to college using vocational rehabilitation, getting a bachelor of science in Rehabilitation and a master of arts in Blind Rehabilitation. Having a sensory disability and pursuing a degree in higher education, he was indoctrinated into the subtle discrimination that accompanies disability, from social interactions to employment. The problems that he encountered along the way have turned into the goals he seeks to accomplish in his lifetime. Dan credits technology for his ability to keep pace and sometimes surpass his peers. Whether it was using his computer’s screenreader to proofread his written work, or listening to his books on his phone while walking his dog, Archimedes, thoughtful design has become a systemic constant in his life.