Employment: A Strategy to ‘ENDependence’

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Photo of Amir Rahimi walking with a colleague.Employment: A Strategy to ‘ENDependence’
By Amir Rahimi

I vividly recall the accident that took place on the morning of September 2, 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.” Now, 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 seemed an impossibility. As far as I was concerned, my life was over.

Today, as I sit here at my work cubicle, I’ve never felt better in my life! I feel great, not because I was able to regain my vision, but because I’m 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—people like me—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. I had to overcome barriers such as misconceptions towards blindness, and the lack of reasonable accommodations, challenges that many of my friends in the disability community are aware of all too well. One of the best parts of my job is working to remove such barriers.

One way we work to do this is through ECNV’s monthly EXCEL Employment Seminars, which are designed to educate job seekers with disabilities and provide 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 apprenticeship programs and special hiring authorities such as Schedule A that can assist in seeking federal employment, something many of our consumers are interested in given our location just outside of Washington, D.C. ECNV has also invited experts to speak about networking skills, setting up informational interviews and using LinkedIn to target potential employers.

Most recently, ECNV hosted 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, and apparently PwC felt the same. “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,” said Carrie Schroeder.

Working at ECNV and running the EXCEL Employment Seminar series has been an incredible treat for me. There’s nothing in this world that brings me more enjoyment than seeing individuals with disabilities find their dream job and continue to live their lives with a sense of purpose. I look forward to continuing to use my life experiences and resources at ECNV to make a difference in the lives of others with disabilities so that they can similarly pursue their own passion.

About the Author
Amir Rahimi is the communications manager at the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia.

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