October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! CILO’s Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist, Patrick Ober, asked our new CILO intern Anne Stevenson a few questions about jobs and careers for people with disabilities. Anne shares a bit about herself and her career aspirations, as well as offers advice on the benefits of including people with disabilities in the workplace.
Patrick: Hello Anne! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Anne: My name is Anne Stevenson. My hometown is Louisville, KY. I’m 21 years old and in the Transition Access Program (TAP) at the University of Cincinnati. I have Non-Verbal Learning Disorder which is on the autism spectrum and Neuroblastoma Amplified Sequence. It’s an extremely rare genetic syndrome that started among the Yakut tribe, a group of people in the Sakha Republic in Siberia. Because of my life-threatening symptoms related to my genetic malfunction, I’m a lifelong patient of Cincinnati Children’s. I was the first to be diagnosed with the syndrome in the United States.
Patrick: That is amazing how rare your syndrome is! You mentioned being in the TAP program at UC, how has that program helped you develop job and life success skills, how have you been able to explore career interests?
Anne: The Transition Access Program has helped me develop job skills by having me in the driver’s seat. I have been receiving support from my job coaches for the three years and meeting with my Vocational Coordinator every semester. Diane Clouse [staff member at UC] is the one that creates job suggestions and builds networking for us to start on so we can research jobs we are interested in town during the full college duration.
The program has helped me develop life success from the life skills courses I take for the four years – particularly Self-Determination and Individual Achievement Support. If it weren’t for these life skills classes I wouldn’t be a successful young adult. And I really am grateful for my professors that provide patience and inclusion towards us as students with disabilities.
My favorite TAP course I took freshman year was Writing Basics as I love to write and use expressive language. I think the founders of TAP really knew how to properly build evidence-based curriculum for those with I/DD extremely well. If I could take another writing course outside of TAP that’s an elective, that would be super cool!
I have been able to explore career interests by using my LinkedIn account and Google Search jobs in town considering what I have learned from Valerie and Meg who have both been my career professors in the disability program. A strong interest of mine for next spring is landing an internship with the EPA here in town since I am interested in environmental law.
Patrick: It sounds like you have worked very hard to identify your job and career goals and work on skills to make those goals happen! Let me ask you, what do you think is important for others to know about jobs and careers for people with disabilities? Are there challenges they face that others do not? Do you think people with disabilities have skills or perspectives that would be valuable to a workplace?
Anne: Important points others should know about people with disabilities are that we extremely hard-working people and we have strong work ethics that employers would want in their companies. And as for job careers, we tend to be very creative and think outside the box. Jobs I highly recommend are a college bookstore as well as an art museum.
Challenges some of us face can be in social skills as well as communication with coworkers and clients since with many disabilities people may differ neurologically speaking. Which is why we need a team of supporters to better our skills in the workplace.
I do think people with disabilities have perspectives that would be valuable to a workplace, because we can help the world be a better place and provide inclusion to all human beings. We just have to be accepted in society to do so successfully. We can teach the neurotypical world what we are like internally and externally so the environment can be accepting overall.
Patrick: Thank you so much, Anne!
(Our Message from the Executive Director will be back next month!)