It’s What I Can Do at Work That Matters, Not My Disability or Blindness

Joe Strechay in a suit speaking to a group of people

As National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) continues, we are going to keep pumping out the most relevant advice possible. When I meet people in the public or employers at meetings, there is typically an “elephant in the room”. I have to be prepared to address my value as a professional. When I walk into the room with white cane and my snazzy suit, I have to be prepared to address the “elephant in the room”. That is right, it is a lot like I walk into the room with a big purple elephant. The elephant is my blindness or visual impairment. I think my great looks and smooth personality breaks the ice quickly. Most people don’t have much or any experience interacting with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. They have met successful people like Walmart’s Russell Shaffer; Adventurer, Erik Weihenmayer; NASA’s Ken Silberman; Google’s Jack Chen; State of Pennsylvania’s David DeNotaris; or many other outstanding and competent individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

I am always prepared to address the elephant in the room, and many times this happens in my community events too. I have to deal with perceptions that limit the skills and level of competence that I bring to work and life. People don’t assume the highest of individuals with disabilities. I may not be Stephen Hawkins, but I am pretty competent in my work. I may not be building homes or a great handyman. I would tell you my wife is much handier than I am. I am outstanding at my work, and bring a lot of skills that make me successful. Any job seekers with a disability or who is blind or visually impaired needs to be aware of their strengths, skills, and weaknesses. We have to be prepared to explain the skills we bring to our work, and how we accomplish these skills, possibly with assistive or access technology.

Recently, I was showing off some of the apps that I have on my phone at an event, and a crowd of people were amazed. Besides my own skills, I bring a whole toolbox of tools to the table. I am personally skilled in writing, grant writing, speaking, teaching, supervision, management, HTML, technology, social media, and connecting with people. I have a gift with my interactions with individuals, as I feel that I can connect with almost anyone. I know how to find common ground and create a genuine connection.

In my work, I manage many projects, and I often believe more than my supervisors even grasp. This takes a lot of time management and skill. I know that my plate continues to expand, and this does have an impact on the quality overall. But, I can tell you that I create a very large impact. I push hard to create a difference while working toward our organization’s mission. I am very strategic about my work and partnerships. I have proven myself in every position that I have taken over the years. My family instilled a strong work ethic that I put my all into my work to solidify and create a difference. I am known nationally because of my work, and I will bring that same effort to any project.

Just as I am more than my disability, I bring more than my disability to my work every day. I bring all of these strengths and skills to the workplace. Each one of us has to be aware of what we bring to the table, and we must be able to express it in specific terms. Yes, we have to be able to express the impact that we bring to our work.

A Little Advice:

  • Define how you make an impact in your work.
  • Know your skills.
  • Which skills are your difference maker or make you standout?
  • Be aware of your accomplishments.
  • Know examples of how you have solved problems on the job.
  • Stay aware of the public’s perception of you.
  • What is your brand statement or mission statement?