Challenged But Not Disabled

It's tough breaking into the job market when you're physically challenged. However, with planning and persistence you can overcome barriers to your success.

customers with the best possible products and services.”

While obstacles do present a challenge to those with disabilities, the law is on their side, and so is a growing awareness that a truly diverse workforce should include the skills, talents, expertise and perspectives of a wide range of people, including the physically challenged. If you are an African American with a disability, have the right stuff and know how to market yourself, you can find a good job. As with all job seekers, it takes planning and persistence. An extra measure of positive attitude can’t hurt either. Here are nine steps you can take to land the job of your dreams.

1. Start with an able attitude.
As a child, LaVerne Eason, 44, contracted pneumonia, which caused her to lose much of her hearing. She says her functional limitation has never deterred her from reaching her goals. Twenty years ago, after earning a master’s degree in business administration at Ohio State University, she joined Xerox as a financial analyst in Rochester, New York. Today, she is the controller in Xerox’s Customer Business Unit in Houston, responsible for all of the unit’s financial accounting.

Much of the advice Eason offers centers around having the right attitude–knowing that “you can achieve whatever you want.” Her motto is “a disability will not stop you if you have confidence in yourself.” She advises, “Go the extra mile because there’s no substitute for hard work and preparation.” Eason also tells people not to be
ashamed of their disability. “This is the way God made you. You are unique,” she says. “You may have to stretch a little more, but it will make you stronger in the end.”

2. Get that piece of paper.
If you’re a job seeker with a disability, your first stop should be your state department’s office of vocational rehabilitation, which will pay for the education and training you need to attain your employment goals. As Robinson discovered, some offices are more helpful than others, so be persistent in your requests for help. “Don’t be pushed into a six-month training program that really isn’t going to help you. If you have a bachelor’s degree and now want a master’s, pursue that with your vocation representative. Aim for the highest level,” she says.

Before selecting a school to attend, visit several campuses to see how accessible everything really is. Also, stop by the office that handles disabled affairs at the school to see what support would be available to help you maximize your college experience. Talk to other students with disabilities to see how they feel about the school.

“Remember that employers want to see applicants who are self-starters, well rounded, show drive and initiative and have the capability to get the job up and running,” says Juan Menefee, president of Juan Menefee & Associates, an executive search consulting firm in Chicago. One way to prove yourself is to take part in campus or community activities that showcase your technical, artistic or leadership skills. Take advantage of every opportunity to prove

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