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Helping People with Disabilities Find Employment

By ECNV Communications Manager, Amir Rahimi

I vividly recall the accident that took place on the morning of September 2nd, 2009. I was in my bedroom getting ready for the start of my senior year of college, when I tripped over a laptop cord and my right eye collided with the edge of my desk. I was rushed to the hospital, where I was told I had a ruptured cornea, a detached retina, and that I needed surgery immediately. The doctor went on to explain that, even after surgery, I would not regain use of the eye. This news was especially devastating because I was already blind in my left eye due to complications from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder also known as “brittle bone disease”. I was going to be blind in both eyes for the rest of my life. I felt helpless. I felt defeated. I felt like all of my dreams and aspirations had been stripped from me. Graduating from college and being employed now seemed an impossibility. As far as I was concerned, my life was over.

Of course I sit here today at my work cubicle, and I’ve never felt better in my life! I feel great not because I was able to regain my vision, but because I’m finally employed – Working for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV), and doing something that makes me truly happy. ECNV’s mission is to END dependence by empowering people with disabilities to live independently. We are a cross-disability organization and work with people of all ages who have every type of disability.

Finding a job wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work and perseverance on my part. To gain employment, I had to overcome barriers such as misconceptions towards blindness, and the lack of reasonable accommodations – Something that many of my friends in the disability community are aware of too well.

ECNV’s monthly EXCEL Employment Seminar is designed to remove such barriers by educating people with disabilities, and providing resources to help them find meaningful employment. In the past, I’ve invited recruitment specialists and HR managers from corporate agencies to speak about employment opportunities at their companies, resume building tips, preparing for interviews, as well as asking about accommodations. We’ve also hosted individuals from Federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor to speak about their apprenticeship programs, schedule-A letters, as well as landing that perfect government job. ECNV has also invited experts to speak about networking skills, setting up informational interviews, and using LinkedIn to target potential employers.

Recent EXCEL Workshop hosted by PwC

Most recently, ECNV invited Talent Acquisition Manager Anthony Jablonoski, and Human Resources Manager Carrie Schroeder, from PricewaterhoouseCoopers (PwC). This was the largest and most exciting EXCEL event since I started working at ECNV two and a half years ago. “It was a pleasure talking to the participants of last month’s EXCEL Employment workshop. We covered topics that ranged from what does PwC doto ‘what accommodations we've seen asked for during the interview process.’ Participants were engaged and asking great questions! It was great talking to everyone and we look forward to a continued relationship between PwC and ECNV.” Said Carrie Schroeder.

Working at ECNV and running the EXCEL Employment program has been an incredible treat for me. There’s nothing in this world that brings more enjoyment in my life than seeing individuals from our community find their dream job and continue to live their lives with a sense of purpose. I look forward to continue using my life experiences and resources at ECNV to make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

You can visit www.ecnv.org to learn more about our programs and upcoming events. Please feel free to email me at amira@ecnv.org for any further questions or comments.