“My Disabilities Are Just One Part of Who I Am”

Joe Strechay in the AFB New York office in front of a portrait of Helen Keller

It is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the national theme is “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am.” AFB and APH CareerConnect wants to support this theme, and here is my contribution to the cause. I am an individual with disabilities. I grew up with a learning disability that impacted how I learned and accessed information. I can remember what a struggle learning to read was for me. I can remember hiding assignments that overwhelmed me in my desk. I am also a person who is blind or visually impaired, as I have no vision in my left eye and a foggy degree or so in my right eye. I am way more than all of that, as I often tell youth that they need to know their “I am, I have, and I will.” We are so much more than our disability. Here is a little of my own I am:

  • I am a professional who specializes in the employment of youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired.
  • I am an enthusiastic professional who advises professionals, organizations, and agencies on transition and employment services.
  • I am a professional who works with employers on the diversity and inclusion of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
  • I am a husband to my intelligent and talented wife, Jennifer Strechay.
  • I am a volunteer with the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, USBLN Career Link Student Mentoring Program, the Downtown Huntington Lion’s Club, Huntington Rotary Club, and the Huntington Museum of Art’s accessibility committee.
  • I am a communication specialist, as I am talented at shaping content to deliver linkages to resources.
  • I am an individual who has advised entertainment programming on the portrayal of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
  • I am a son of two amazing parents, Bob and Sue Strechay.
  • I am a brother to two fantastic men, Rob and Dan Strechay.
  • I am the pet-parent to an Australian Shepherd that is deaf, Audrey. Notice that I used dog first language.
  • I am a nemesis to our pet cat, Chance. She is kind of like Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • I am an amateur hay bailor on my wife’s family farm.
  • I am a son-in-law to Lewis and Pamela Williams.
  • I am a fun and caring uncle to my nephews and niece (Sam, Nate, Will, and Lauren).
  • I am a passionate fan of East Carolina, Florida State, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Yankees.
  • I am a problem solver.
  • I am an evangelist about disability employment, the adjustment process, and equality.

We could take this even further and explain all of the skills that I have, but that would be a little bit differenct from the theme. If you want to call me sometime, I can provide you with all of my skills. I promise that I don’t have ninja skills like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe I should call them the teenage turtles with ninja skills and chromosomal mutations. Just saying…

All of the individuals that you meet with disabilities are not just their disability, as they are talented employees, bosses, family members, partners, athletes, and so much more. Take the time to realize this and encourage your employer, company, business, or organization to look past the disability and to see the talented problem solver who would bring your organization to the next level. Get involved and start spreading the word, “My disabilities are just one part of who I am.”

Spend a few minutes and visit APH CareerConnect’s Our Stories section to learn about hundreds of talented individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Read more National Disability Employment Awareness Month inspired blog posts throughout this month on the CareerConnect Blog.