I am awaiting the beginning of my orientation with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). This past week, I took advantage of my time off to explore the city further and make some more professional connections.
On Tuesday I met with Tara Sonenshine at her office at George Washington University. She and I discussed her career path; from writing for her school newspaper in College at Tuffs to becoming the Undersecretary of Communications for President Clinton in addition to my career aspirations and how I could make connections to help me to help me to learn about different career paths that are related to my interests.
After I got over my initial star struck of meeting this amazing woman, she introduced me to Taylor Cook, who works for Planet Forward. Planet Forward is a group of Universities – including Drake – that works towards increasing equality for many I different individuals. The only place that they do not have anyone focused on is the environment and People with Disabilities.
After learning this, Mrs. Sonenshine and I discussed how often times, natural disasters have more of a profound effect on the Disabled community then is often times portrayed in the media. Our discussion concluded with Mrs. Sanenshine offering to help me to become further connected to a variety of disability advocacy groups in Washington, D.C. After this, Mrs. Cook and I discussing the Drake community over coffee.
On Thursday I met with Erin Hennessy who is a consultant for an organization that helps to increase the ability of University Presidents – including David Maxwell – to be more approachable by both students and the press. During our meeting, we discussed my vision to see the college experience more attainable by students with Disabilities. I brought up the fact of how, currently only 15% of blind people are in some form of post – secondary education program or job opportunity and how I see this as a large obstacle to seeing People with Disabilities succeed in society, because it is hard to get ahead in society today without a college degree.
I added my personal experience to the conversation. While I was looking at colleges to attend, I physically had to travel to each school I was looking at to see the education accommodations they were able to give me in order to help me to succeed in my classes. I personally was not able to find the academic accommodation information that I needed through Internet searches or phone inquiries. I see this as an extra deterrent for a student with Disabilities to want to attend colleges, because the process to find etiquette accommodations makes the college search experience exponentially harder.