State Vocational Rehab Experience

In August 1990 I started my first job as the administrative assistant to the director of an insurance firm.

In 1989 I dealt with OVR-renamed VESID and now Acces-VR. This New York State agency was set up to help people with disabilities find jobs or get trained in skills so they could get jobs.

My OVR counselor jumped into thinking I could become an elementary school teacher. Of course I didn’t want to do that. She then sent me for clerical training so I could get a job in an office.

In the 2000s VESID was trashed as not really helping people. They told one guy they couldn’t help him and that he had to look for a job on his own. They sent people who were deaf to a printmaking program long after jobs in that field became obsolete.

I spent 20 months in this first secretary job and then cycled in and out of insurance office jobs.

This is how it is: you’re a young person, a quirky artist, yet you’re female so you’re told you either have to be a teacher or a secretary or a nurse. This can be fine if it’s what you really want to do make no mistake about this.

Yet I talk about Practical Career Counseling because even circa 2016 today government funding for career help for people with disabilities is predicated on finding us jobs, any job, not the kind of careers we’d like and would be suited for.

For 11 years I was on the board of a non-profit that provides advocacy employment and housing for people with mental health conditions. Even that agency had their funding dictated by finding people any kind of job not the job that was a natural fit.

It’s called LISTENING–what I intend to and will be very good at doing. I hear time and time again that no one tasked with helping people with disabilities listens to us.

Yet I know what it’s like to have more gaps in your work history than a clothing store.

I know what it’s like not to have worked before and to want to have to job. I know what it’s like to have symptoms while working.

I know what it’s like to have job hopped so often you can put the Easter Bunny to shame having hopped along.

Finding the job you love can reduce the impact of your disability. It can give you joy and satisfaction. It can give you extra money to save in a peace of mind fund or to join a gym or to buy a music CD.

I will talk more in coming blog entries about employment. Stay tuned.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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