NDEAM 2018 | Ida’s Success Story—Knocking Down Barriers for Blind People Throughout New Jersey and Beyond

Ida and her service dog

Ida and her service dog

NOTE: October is Blind Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Ida is a senior at Drew University in Madison, N.J. where she majors in computer science with a minor in humanities. In addition to a recent paid summer internship and an offer of employment from JP Morgan Chase upon graduation next spring, Ida has had a range of exceptional experiences as she pursues her career goals.

In the summer of 2016, Ida studied abroad at Hannam University in South Korea as a Student Program Developer in the Robotics Program. In 2017, Ida spent the summer as a Research Assistant at Texas A&M University working on natural language processing and information extraction.

Ida is legally blind.

The Governor of New Jersey recently appointed her to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI).

The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) has been a constant presence in my life.

I clearly remember looking up from my plastic dinosaurs and seeing a friendly CBVI caseworker chatting with my kindergarten teacher. From then on, I was pulled out of class about once a week for games and exercises that taught me how to read braille.

As my passions, worldview, and eyesight changed, CBVI remained a steady current in the sometimes tumultuous waters of my adolescence. Like many visually impaired people, I ran into the pitfalls of denial, of trying to ‘pass’ as sighted. However, when I was finally ready to accept myself and embrace my disability, CBVI’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) program offered training, career counseling and referral services to get me up to speed.

I joined EDGE 2.0, a New Jersey pre-employment transition services program, and gained invaluable mentorship. I later joined EDGE 1.0, a similar program for high school students, as a mentor. I strive to make sure high school students have a head start and helping hand at one of the most pivotal points in their lives.

True to form, my greatest opportunity came wrapped in just a few kilobytes when CBVI’s Business Relations Unit emailed me a tremendous opportunity to apply for the We See Ability program at JP Morgan Chase through a Disability Mentoring Day event as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). I would have never spotted the niche event on my own and might have simply glazed over it in a list of hundreds of other intimidating corporate functions. However, my CBVI counselor encouraged me to apply and all it took was her gentle nudge to urge me into the next chapter of my life.

JP Morgan accepted my application, and CBVI helped me arrange transportation to a midtown Manhattan high rise. There, I went through four rigorous rounds of interviews, met hundreds of talented college students, and eventually received an internship offer. I was over the moon and my CBVI support network was equally—if not more—ecstatic at my achievement.

Throughout the internship, I received orientation and mobility training, counseling, and general support to ensure my success. I knew that CBVI was always just a call away and that they were invested in my development as a young blind professional.

Now that I have accepted an offer to return to JP Morgan as a full time Software Engineer, I realize that I owe my success to the passionate people at CBVI.

As a marginalized group, blind people like me need someone in their corner to encourage them to reach their true potential.

I believe that—especially in historically homogeneous fields like science, technology, math and engineering (STEM)—diverse perspectives breed innovation. Thus, we must encourage young people from all walks of life to pursue their passions unflinchingly.

CBVI has been instrumental to my success, but their work is not done. We need to continue knocking down hurtles, stereotypes, and barriers for blind people throughout New Jersey and beyond.

In 2016, CBVI established its Business Relations Unit with the primary responsibility of addressing misconceptions regarding the employment of people who are blind or visually impaired through education, training, and other opportunities. CBVI continues to develop partnerships with businesses, such as JP Morgan Chase, in order to promote a work environment inclusive of people with disabilities and assist in facilitating the successful employment of individuals with disabilities, like Ida.

For more information about the VR program serving individuals who are blind or have visual impairments in New Jersey, please visit our partners at the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

OSERS shares Ida’s success story in recognition of NDEAM and in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Kathleen West Evans, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Posted by
Director of Business Relations Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Chris Pope
Posted by
Rehabilitation Services Administration Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education

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