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National Service and Inclusion Project

Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service

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Participants: Dave Forderer

Program: Robert F. Kennedy Fellows/AmeriCorps Program, San Francisco
Service: Reporter/Editor bringing the writing of youth with disabilities to their local communities with the Pacific News Service.

Interview with Dave Forderer, March, 2001



1. INTRODUCTION:              real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: My name is Thomas David Forderer. I serve with the RFK Fellows in San Francisco.

EMILY MILLER: And what made you want to join? What was appealing to you about it?

DAVE FORDERER: Well, I’m a political science major. I’m a double major at SF State. I’m a political science major, with a double major in International Relations, and a minor in Criminal Justice; so I thought this would like good on the old resume when I get done with it. And also, I was always taught to give something back to the country whenever possible.

2. SERVICE:              real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: I am basically the disability reporter right now or disability editor. Because what they want to do, they are really interested in giving non-traditional voices a way to be heard in their local community.

EMILY MILLER: So how did people with disabilities fit into that vision

DAVE FORDERER: This is a brand new area for them. The reason they want to go into this area is because they kind of represent minority groups and give them a chance to be heard. But it’s a new population and [people with disabilities haven’t] been portrayed usually historically very accurately in the media.

3. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS1:              real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: When it comes to accommodating, it may be something as simple as moving a table or allowing 15 minute breaks every little bit. Most accommodations, I would say about 90 percent, are real simple. They are not real big complicated issues . Ask the person with the disability in the beginning of his or her service what they need. And always keep a dialogue between that person and the person with the disability. Because, who knows, maybe the situation will change over a month or two, and give the person with the disability time to get acclimated to the environment that he or she will be serving in.

4. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS 2:             real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: I was able to get AmeriCorps to help me to have a personal assistant to help me type up documents and all that kind of stuff. And also, they have a special table at the office that I can use, pull up to very easily. No problem. And they have also been working with ---it’s called the Department of Rehabilitation in California, but it may be under different names all over the place. But it’s basically an agency that helps find disabled people employment. And as my provider, they have authorized me to have a special computer that’s not delivered yet but it will be there soon. Now I have to get some type of special telephone to go with the new headset I got . AmeriCorps needs to be able to work with these agencies that specialize in accommodations to build a bridge of working together to make sure that during the time of national service, the person with the disability feels like yes, he or she is a vital part of the national service program.

5. ADVICE TO PROGRAMS 1:              real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: They need to clearly articulate and train [the sites they work with] about the ADA and what it requires before they place a disabled fellow in the agency. And they also need to work with other agencies before they place a disabled fellow in the position--like the department of rehabilitation, for example. If this person needs a special kind of computer, like in my case, they need to clearly make whatever arrangements need to be made to make sure that the equipment gets placed with the agency, if possible, before the fellow takes the position. Or they need to make it clear to the fellow what they can and cannot provide.

6. ADVICE TO PROGRAMS 2:              real audio clip icon

DAVE FORDERER: Call the Department of Justice because they have an ADA hotline.

#1: make it clear to different sites. Offer them training about ADA [The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1991]

#2: If there is an ADA issue that comes up, address it right away.

#3: It’s not only the Corporation for National Service. The person with the disability also has a major role to play in this process as well.

EMILY MILLER: What is the role of the person with the disability?

DAVE FORDERER: Once the position is offered to a person with a disability then it is up to that person to clearly delineate what his or her needs are in the very beginning as far as accommodation.

Click here to hear Dave’s Program Coordinator, Ife Tayo Folasade Ayo’s advice to other programs

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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.