In a bright, cheerful room with decorated cubbies, lots of toys, tiny tables with chairs and toddlers all around, Rachel attends to one child and then in a flash she’s on the floor, preparing for a new activity where little children gravitate to her. As a 23-year-old college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in childhood development, she had spent a few months on her own looking for a job before she came to UDS Community Employment Services for assistance. She worked with an employment specialist who she says, “provided the motivation I needed to look for a job in places I never would have considered on my own.” Although her first job didn’t work out the way she had hoped, she continued her search and now loves being an assistant teacher at the Goddard School where she has been employed for a year.
Her supervisor Lisa Sondej says, “She has a great rapport with the kids and the parents. With a visual impairment, she needs to be up close and personal, engaging with the children. She gets down on their level and everyone loves Miss Rachel.” At 4’6” she isn’t much taller than the kids in the classroom and doesn’t hesitate to crawl around on the floor interacting with them. She says, “They bring me toys and climb on me and I love it.”
UDS Low Vision Services director and optometrist, Dr. Cheryl Reed, first met Rachel in the clinic when she was only three years old. When she started kindergarten, Dr. Reed provided a low vision assessment and recommended aids that would assist her in the classroom. According to Dr. Reed, “Rachel is small in stature but big in heart. Because of her quiet determination, she has overcome multiple obstacles including adoption and relocation to the United States from China, her severe visual impairment and the loss of her mother, who was her greatest advocate. Over the years, Rachel or her mother contacted me for guidance or assistance only when necessary, another testimony to her independence and determination.” Rachel credits Dr. Reed with helping her to be prepared in school and in life by recommending equipment like magnifiers, lighting and a monocular. Although she is legally blind, to look at her, you might not realize she has an impairment. She says, “I function pretty much like anyone else.” She lives in an apartment that she shares with her sister and enjoys playing video games and watching Japanese anime.
Big things really do come in small packages and Rachel is living proof of that. She believes employers should consider hiring people with disabilities because, “All people have different strengths and skills and everyone deserves a chance.” Her supervisor adds, “We couldn’t have asked for a better teacher who shines everyday in her passion for teaching.” People with disabilities have a lot to offer employers and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is celebrated every October to acknowledge their contributions to the American workforce and economy.
If you are an employer looking for good candidates or you want to learn more about receiving assistance as you search for a job, contact Kristen Campagnano at 330-762-9755, ext. 246, or contact us online.
For more information about Low Vision Services, aids/assistive devices or assessments, contact Dr. Cheryl Reed at 330-762-9755.
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