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for the Blind

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Federal Internship Problems?

I'm interning with the Small Business Administration for ten weeks and have been having some challenges with accommedations at my actual work site just needing some advice on what to do about it. It has been three weeks since the Washington Center has started the vetting process of getting people into security clearance, etc and my fellow interns started over a week ago like last last thuirsday. The says that they aren't like other federal agencies being small and that CAP committee with such accommedations doesn't aid them in this process, etc either. I've called, emailed and met with my internship director, OIT director, Vocational Rehabilitation counseler, and THe Washington Center to resolve this issue. What would you guys do in a similar situation? Thanks for any ideas you guys may have about this matter.

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Re: Federal Internship Problems?


I am sorry you dealt with so many barriers to your experience. This sounds like it was a mess. Often interns are not provided the same rights as employees -- as you are not classified in the same manner. This is often used a loop hole at times. Organizations classify interns in different manners. I believe you should make your voice heard about this experience -- you should not have been put in this situation. I think you should mention the specifics to how you were treated. We could connect if you would like, and discuss how you should address this. But, if I were you, I would send a number of messages specific to the barriers you dealt with. The purpose of these programs is to provide experience to all parties, including persons with disabilities. Nothing will change, if the appropriate parties are not made aware of the issues. They may know, but it is important to put a spot light on it.

The information I originally was talking about was specific to fulltime employment. As the OPM office worked with the different agencies about how they would address the hiring of persons with disabilities. I would make them aware of your experiences. The assistant director is a person with a disability.

There Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but I don't think they specific cover internships. The Department of Justice is another body who might be of assistance, but I would definitely make the powers that be aware of the barriers you faced. I think you could help improve this situation for others.

I know a number of persons who are blind or visually impaired and work for the federal government, in DC and outside of DC. I also know a number of persons who are blind or visually impaired and have interned in DC -- not with the specific program you mentioned.

I am truly sorry you dealt with all of this! I know persons who have worked for the military bases within the communications programs on base -- I know some who are still doing this work.

I totally think you are right about getting into the process early. I would say as a person with a disability, we tend to have to start things way early. I know with accommodations with testing services -- it is a must. I warn people all the time about this, but always hear how they delay. It has become extremely tough to get accommodations for testing -- such a mess. They often blame the fact of persons getting accommodations who don't really need it. Either way, starting early makes a huge difference. I have not worked officially for the federal government, but I have worked with two state governments. I think you have provided good information and advice for others. Thank you so much for keeping us in mind.

Thank you for sharing your expeiences and keeping us posted.

Joe S.
AFB Staff

Re: Federal Internship Problems?

Dear Jo,

I just decided to write you back because other people can learn from my experience. Yes, The Washington Center arranged my internship sort of but a little more complicated than that. The process usually goes that you have phone interviews with federal agencies in advance, however, I only had one with the HHS department. They the HHS representative told me that they would call me back that never happpened though. Finally the thing that did happpen was that I showed up and they arranged it for me.

Once I showed up in Washington D.C near the NOMA stop that I lived at for a while the Washington Center staff arranged an internship for me. They couldn't disclose my disability of legal blindness because of the Fair Act. This piece of legislation well intended didn' and doesn't still allow for involuntary or voluntary permission to disclose your personal disability in advance to a federal body to be reviewed prior to being an intern or a regular worker with the federal government. Meaning that it wasn't till two weeks into my already three week programs wasted about five weeks of ten weeks till I was recognized as being blind. The moral of the story is that prepare other blind people and persons much more advance for internships and get advice more from people with real experience not people who haven't visited D.C and worked in the belt way.

Lastly, I appreciate your post (s) towards this issue! However, the SBA isn't that accommedating on D.C level at the moment. In fact, my boss Mrs Cogdell tried to guilt me into compliance in terms of financial liability that I put a burden on their agency. Due to end of year budgets that they had no money left and hence the EOO had to spend it out of their budget and they had only run across another disabled person like once in ten years. Till the federal offices have a more streamlined approach to sharing information, training staff on disabilities and thier software and or hardware, and comprehensively creating a independendant process to grade jobs that I see no transformation with this process. Sad as it seems nothing like hat is happening despite President's initiatives on interns of his executive decision on the matter or federal contracters new mandates either for that matter. My idea would be to create a five star system with twenty or so challenges dealing with vision like compatability with screen reader technology, driving requirements, firearm ownership, orientation and mobility barriers e.g fork lift, paratransit availibility, car pooling options, prior blind employes or other disabled workers, braille labeling or voice elevators at site, and etc. Finally, I'd like to see private businesses have a similar system in conjunction with the government like the Human Right's Campaign posses that us the blind aren't blessed with. Hopefully somebody got some helpful information as I had to ditch the program and finish it at home and also had career blockades in a military job in HUntsville, Alabama e.g. Red Stone Arsonal with the program. Essentially the problem with America to the disabled is that we need more collaberation and need more research into fixing problems for employment and curing disabilities not less.


Re: Federal Internship Problems?

Okay, I have a few thoughts, I have a feeling because you are an intern, they are not as stressed about this. But, I definitely think this is a big issue because this is all about having an equal opportunity to prove yourself on the job. Is this through the Washington Intern program? Also, is this the same program sponsored by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Office of Personel (spelled this wrong) Management -- I would say that you try aggressively through your local channels, saying, "I want to have equal access and opportunity to prove myself as an intern. At this point, I have not been provided equal opportunity. The process is not allowing me to becoma a part of the team." I would write something like that and address this to your director, human resources (or whoever organized or did the hiring). If this doesn't work, I might to to the OPM office, they oversee the whole process of bringing more persons with disabilties into the Federal Government.

What types of accommodations are you waiting on?

I read the Small Business Adm. newsletter and posts online, this could be a huge opportunity. An issue that some people run into is that interns are often defined in a different manner, and organizations can define interns in a few ways -- can provide some barriers.

Joe S.
AFB Staff

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