October27,2015

The Power of Image

Nadia Ibrahim, MA, LGSW

By Guest Blogger Nadia Ibrahim, MA, LGSW

Until the age of 12, I always had this idea that I would wake up one day and my disability would be gone. It’s funny how a young mind works. My family never really talked about the fact that cerebral palsy (CP), usually caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain at birth, would have a lifelong impact on me. We viewed CP as a normal part of life: an additional consideration, not a limitation.

One day in high school, a realization stared back at me as I looked in the mirror: my body and life are not average. Even in the most relaxed state, my arms and legs were stiff, so fitted clothes were difficult to put on. Scoliosis gave my body extra curves, meaning clothes off-the-rack didn’t always fit. Muscle tightness in my feet made wearing most shoes impossible. The only shoes that fit often looked like they had been borrowed from a child.   As a result, I spent most of my teenage years hiding in turtlenecks and baggy clothes.

When I entered the workforce, I came to two additional realizations: I had to be a self-advocate, and I had to make some difficult decisions about my personal care and beauty routine. Relying on others for assistance with daily activities meant that I did not have the luxury of spending a lot of time or effort on my appearance. Even though I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how I looked, I had a strong drive to be as independent as possible. Instead of being concerned with how someone else would fix my hair or apply my make-up, it was easier to do as little as possible, and trust that my work ethic and skills were most important in achieving independence and success. I received my first service dog, Tullis, at the age of 27, and quickly learned the importance of self-advocacy.   Even though Tullis gave me greater self-confidence when interacting with others, I continued to struggle with my self-image into my 30s.

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October22,2015

My Job Search: A Story of Solidarity in the Disability Community

Lindsey Teel, Policy Advisor, Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor

By Guest Blogger Lindsey Teel, Policy Advisor, Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor

If you asked me about my future career plans when I was younger, I would have told you I wanted to be a sociology professor. This was my goal because as a person with a disability, albeit a disability that may be hard to detect, I often felt like an outsider and found it easier to analyze social dynamics rather than actually participate in social life. Thus, I majored in the study of human interaction. Following college, I applied to graduate schools to continue my career pursuits, submitting a personal statement that described how I had overcome a visual impairment and become a better person because of it. However, since I graduated in December and had to wait to begin graduate school the next fall, I followed my best friend to Washington, D.C. to intern for our hometown Congressman in the interim.

Even though my Capitol Hill intern coordinator didn’t know what to do with me (I struggled to complete visual-centric tasks such as preparing binders for Members of Congress), I still felt like Cinderella walking through the marble hallways of the House of Representatives amidst such well-known, powerful people. I enjoyed it so much that after returning home to Texas and beginning my graduate program, I often dreamed of returning to the Nation’s Capital and assuming my destiny as a person who would change the world, making it a more equitable place for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. Upon completion of my Master’s degree, I took off to D.C. for a second internship in my Congressman’s office and began my search for a “real job.”

One day during my first week back in D.C., I went to a restaurant after work with my friends and had the opportunity to talk with a staffer who worked in a different Member’s office. He said he would be leaving his job soon and that I should apply for it, so I did. A month later, I started the entry-level Hill staffer job, quickly learning that I would either sink or swim. I essentially had to wear three hats: performing constituent services duties like flag and tour requests, managing and responding to all of the Congressman’s mail, and supervising student interns. These were no easy tasks; the pay was low and the hours were long. But, I developed several transferrable skill sets during the course of my time on the Hill, and felt ready to transition to a more complex role, hopefully in the field of disability advocacy.

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August10,2015

My Mom Wants People with Disabilities in the Workplace

Angela M. Hooker, Accessibility Specialist, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, U.S. General Services Administration

By Guest Blogger Angela M. Hooker, Accessibility Specialist, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, U.S. General Services Administration

The doctor should have listened to my mother.

I was barely a few months old, but my mother sensed that there was something wrong with my right eye. The doctor dismissed her as being an overprotective parent; however, she was correct. There was, in fact, something wrong with my eye. I was born with a benign pigmented growth on my optic nerve — well, as benign as it can be considering that I’m blind in my right eye.

Apparently, this is a somewhat strange and unique phenomenon because over the years when I’d go to different doctors — for ailments ranging from sore throats to sprained ankles to stomach viruses — they were fascinated not with the reason for my visit, but with what hindered my sight.

Some doctors and other people wanted and still want to discuss what they thought were limitations for me because of my eye. Enter my “overprotective” mom, again. My mother’s persistence and determination that I would not think of myself as a victim or an object of pity made me realize that I was and am capable of doing what I want and not allowing my disabilities to limit my goals. Had she not instilled these beliefs in me, it would be hard not to be overcome with self-doubt or allow others to define my capabilities.

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August04,2015

Get Noticed at Virtual Job Fairs

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

In this ever-changing world of technology, one of the best hiring opportunities for jobseekers with disabilities and other challenges is a “virtual” job fair.

The advantage of virtual job fairs and chat-based interviews is profound. First of all, you can attend with an Internet connection and you don’t have to worry about wardrobe, transportation or even leaving your home.

Secondly, recruiters cannot consciously or subconsciously discriminate against you if you have a physical or visible disability because they can’t see you; they can only focus on your abilities, what you type and your skill set.

Thirdly, employers who participate in virtual job fairs often may have work-at-home jobs, which can make returning to work that much easier for many jobseekers with disabilities.

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June19,2015

Mentor Guides Veteran with Disability to Small Business Success

Bridget Weston Pollack, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, SCORE Association

By Guest Blogger Bridget Weston Pollack, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, SCORE Association.

Fulfilling the dream of owning a business can be a difficult journey, but some entrepreneurs face more challenges than others. With perseverance and a supportive SCORE mentor, military veteran Al Kroell and his wife Christy found their path to success.

While serving in the Navy, Al Kroell suffered an accident leaving him with a severe disability. He lost the use of his hands and the military deemed him unemployable – his 20 year career was suddenly over. A few years later, his wife Christy also became disabled after a car accident. The couple struggled with finances and needed a plan desperately.

Through the hardships, Al found comfort in his hobby of scroll saw woodworking. He especially enjoyed making plaques for military friends. Then it hit him – why not turn his hobby into a business?

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