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National Service and Inclusion Project

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UMass ICI

Participants: Abike Jotayo-Anderson

Program: Self-Advocacy/AmeriCorps, New York
Service: Gives presentations on disability topics to teach the importance of self-advocacy to persons with disabilities and the importance of full community inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities; teaches at after-school program for children of all ages.
Contact: "Disabled in Demand" includes people with visible and demonstrating and talking about the abilities of people with disabilities and running an after-school program for children. Members have recently created Davilu Productions which creates cable access shows about disability issues, events, programs, and resources. Contact Sharon Davis : davischatters@aol.com


Interview with Abike Jotayo-Anderson, January, 2001

TOPICS:

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. HIDDEN DISABILITIES

1. INTRODUCTION:             real audio clip
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ABIKE: Hello. My name is Abike Jotayo-Anderson and I am storyteller. I got involved with AmeriCorps through a friend who is sitting across from me {Sharon Davis}. I always wanted to be able to find out more about my disability—I am dyslexic. I didn’t find that out until my son started college and I started college the same year. And because I was having great difficulties with my writing, one of my professors tested me. I found out, “I’m not stupid! I’m dyslexic!” And it was such a revelation in my life. I felt it was really important to be able to help other people who might come across that same kind of discrimination to be able to pull themselves out and have a good measure on how you can turn things around for yourself mentally. Because it is very debilitating mentally when you don’t really understand what’s going on in your life and why you cant do the things everybody else does.

2. HIDDEN DISABILITIES:             real audio clip
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EMILY: Let's say you are a program coordinator. The person didn’t identify as a person with a disability. And legally, (They don’t have to) and the program coordinator isn’t responsible to accommodate you if you haven’t identified. Let’ s say there is some particular thing that might be related to a learning disability. There’s a required reading or writing part of being an AmeriCorps member. And this member is taking longer to do that part (Or their journals are not together which is my biggest problem.)Let’s say the person hasn’t identified, you are feeling that their work isn’t up to par in some way but you have the insight to think that maybe there is a learning disability issue here. But the person hasn’t identified. What kind of advice would you give the program coordinator on how to broach that. Do you think they should ask the person?

ABIKE: You can’t come right out-- If the person doesn’t put it on the application it means that they are still having an identity crisis within themselves or they feel that they don’t want it to be a “handicap” because of the way that the world looks at that. I would have to say again that any person that has a job, if they are not performing at the level that they should be and their supervisor comes to them and says, “look, shape up or you’re gone….” It doesn’t have to be that drastic. If this supervisor is seeing that the person has a difficulty in a certain area… Sitting and being frank about it and talking about what you expect as a service coordinator from them to do their job. And if the person is really into this whole field of what AmeriCorps is all about, and that is doing something for your community and doing something for yourself at the same time. This might be a good chance for them to say, “yeah you know, I do need help,” But it’s always going to be on a person-to-person and individual basis because we have not made the world safe enough for people to be opening up….for a long time I fought it. I didn’t want a label ….some of my teachers said, “you don’t want to label yourself.” But if not labeling yourself prevents you from getting the help you need to succeed, then who are you hurting? You’re not hurting anyone else but yourself. So it is hard.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.