I show up at MarianJoy ready to be interviewed by someone from Feeding America thinking they must be really disability friendly to meet me at MarianJoy. Well, it wasn't Feeding America. This was a woman who worked with Feeding America and screened people with disabilities for positions at different companies including Feeding America. Kathy was also on the board of Information Technology Knowledge and Abilities Network otherwise known as ITKAN.
I eventually figured out what this meeting was. Kathy determined I was more than qualified to blog for Feeding America. We talked about Feeding America for about five minutes and then she talked about ITKAN and what I wanted for my career. I told her about how I wanted to speak professionally more than I do now. She said that ITKAN had an opening for a speaker in January. I jumped on the opportunity! Kathy could clearly see my potential.
This month, I spoke to the small group about assistive technology and my budding career. Here's how they advertised it on the ITKAN website:
Hannah Thompson: A Young Professional Chronicles Her Professional Journey and the Effective Integration of Assistive Technology to Forge a Career:
At the next members meeting ITKAN welcomes Hannah Thompson to discuss the use of assistive technology to support a full life and career. Hannah has Cerebral Palsy and a movement disorder called Dystonia. The Cerebral Palsy affects her balance and her ability to walk and speak. The dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that causes involuntary movements in all of her extremities. She utilizes various assistive technology to improve her productivity and assure her success. She uses a DynaVox to communicate daily, and it has also played a critical role in support of her motivational speaking career. With the use of Intellikeys, Hannah accesses her laptop commands efficiently. Along with these critical tools, Hannah uses software such as WordQ and Kurzweil to assist her in succeeding in college and now in her career.
Here's an excerpt from my speech:
"I truly believe I have only scratched the surface when it comes to my career. I want to write a book, I have a blog that I write in monthly, why not a book? If I could, I would speak to audiences every single day. I have so much to do! A career like the one I want demands a certain level of independence. I love my independence, it’s a huge part of who I am, everyone in my community identifies me with that word and it’s an absolute thrill. I frequent Starbucks all too much so much so that the baristas have adapted to putting my drink in my cup holder and scanning my phone to pay for my drink. My independence is what I am most proud of when it comes to how I choose my life. I attended college, I was on the speech team in high school, I was on the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee, I’m incredibly humbled and proud to have those achievements but maintaining my daily independence is the hardest because I have to do it every single day. From managing my care givers to making sure I go to physical therapy twice a week, it’s a constant job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I get to make my mark on the world living this way. I find that humbling and incredible. Nothing is better than the life I live."
The organization is full of people with varying disabilities who are actively pursuing a career in IT. Many of the members have the same struggles as me. It's nice to hear success stories of all kinds and the support is naturally woven into the meetings. Kathy also had me meet Mary who’s a website designer and she is working on my website. Clearly, a bunch of opportunities lie ahead for me with this organization. One of the audience members was a employee at Microsoft. He asked me to be a guest blogger on the Microsoft Chicago Blog in March. I am thrilled and can’t wait!
To learn more about ITKAN, please go to https://itkan.wordpress.com/
I'm glad God wrapped ITKAN up in a Feeding America interview. It got me to where I should be. After I became familiar with the organization, I got the email that the FCC Disability Advisory Committee rejected my application for their second term. I was shocked and heartbroken. I didn't tell many people because I thought the blog was a better way to tell everyone.
I'm excited about the future of my career and what opportunities ITKAN will bring.