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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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Photo of Steve Hoad at Braille Typewriter Participants: Steve Hoad

Program: Maine Conservation Corps
Service:
Recruits and places volunteers with environmental projects, and participates in conservation projects.
Contact: mainefun40@hotmail.com

Photo of Steve at braille typewriter by Jim Evans, Kennebec Journal


Interview with Steve Hoad, December, 2000

TOPICS:

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS
  3. INCLUSION
  4. SERVICE
  5. ADVICE TO PROGRAMS
  6. DISABILITY AWARENESS

1. INTRODUCTION:              real audio clip icon

STEVE HOAD: My name is Steve Hoad and I am sitting in my house in Windsor, Maine right now.  I work with the Maine Conservation Corps in Augusta as a coordinator of volunteers on a state-wide basis. The program is called SERVE-Maine which stands for “State Environmental Resource Volunteer Effort for Maine.”   It’s mostly trying to find volunteers, and set the mechanism in place to find volunteers, for projects which are sponsored by state government, local government, county government, or nonprofit agencies which have to do with outdoor or natural resources in Maine.

2. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS:             real audio clip icon

STEVE HOAD: Was it an issue that I was blind, with this job in mind, as far as I was concerned?  The answer to that is no... because I know what my own skills, abilities are. The piece that was written in that position description was “ driver’s license required”. And I asked–that was probably one of the first questions that I asked– was “ Is this just a blanket statement or is a driver’s license really required? But it was pretty obvious that I didn’t have a driver’s license.

EMILY MILLER: Were reasonable accommodations discussed during the interview process? How and when were assistive technology provided?

STEVE HOAD: As we discussed reasonable accommodation in the interview process here again, knowing my ADA law, and having an idea how things needed to be handled I knew that I was the one basically that had to bring up some of the issues. I knew my prospective employers couldn’t ask a lot of things that they might be curious about.  And what I attempted to do at that point was open the interview up and say, “You know, if you want to know something, this is really the time to deal with it because we don’t want to be dealing with it after the fact." There were some reasonable accommodations which were discussed at that time. And I discussed the fact that I owned various pieces of equipment; which for realism and reality’s sake, it was best if I brought my stuff into work because the transition wouldn’t be very quick. If I had to wait for the Community Service Commission [Maine’s AmeriCorps State Commission] to decide first, and then to purchase, and then to have delivered and set up some of the equipment that I would need, I would be serving for 3 months with nothing to do. So the reality of it was that I needed to be job ready on my own.

EMILY MILLER: But what you’re saying is that there’s equipment that you brought in from home that served transitionally while the paperwork and the process was going through?

STEVE HOAD: Yes, I was lucky enough to own it, not everybody is.

Click here to read a list of assistive technology that Steve uses in his service.

3. INCLUSION:              real audio clip icon

EMILY MILLER: I’m gonna ask you why you think it’s important for the Corporation for National Service to address inclusion of people with disabilities.

STEVE HOAD: I think it’s important for lots of organizations, including the Corporation for National Service to address inclusion of people with disabilities because for many years, people with disabilities have been left on the sidelines and pushed into isolation by a couple of different ideas that people seem to have. One is that because maybe someone looks different or acts differently or speaks differently, that they’re not as smart; and the other is that because someone is disabled, they can’t contribute anything they need to be helped. Those two ideas become very exclusionary. Participation of people with disabilities is most important to the general society because [society has] numbers of things that they need and the disabled people can certainly offer those things. Because I’m blind doesn’t mean that I’m not intelligent, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t contribute. Because I need some accommodation or help in some areas, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of tools that I can use in general society. I can read and write and think and do physical labor probably as well as the next person given the appropriate tools. And that idea of inclusion means that the appropriate tools need to be made available. It might be something as simple as a chair for somebody with a back problem, or it might be something as complicated as an interpreter for someone who doesn’t understand speech or doesn’t learn in the same way that you or I do. But sometimes when people with disabilities are included in a program, or in a work place or in a social organization, there’s a whole different view added and a whole different idea of how to get things done may be approached. The importance of inclusion is as simple as adding to the base of man power that’s available, and something as complex as making a well-rounded society.

4. SERVICE:              real audio clip icon

EMILY MILLER: I know that there’s an incredible diversity of people with disabilities, but do you think that people with disabilities have a special investment or important things to gain from being involved with volunteerism?

STEVE HOAD: I think everybody has things to gain when they’re involved with volunteerism. People with disabilities certainly stand to gain the most because they haven’t always been included in occupational goals and things like that and in areas of employment and in areas of socialization. But I think the gains that can be made by the disabled, are very similar to the gains that can be made by the general society. Those obviously include : the ability to coexist with other people on a team; the ability to find out what kind of skills you have, and what kinds of skills you might enjoy using during this particular period of your life; the ability to get out into the community and express yourself and let people know what kind of a person you are and what you have to offer; and maybe most importantly of all, the ability to feel good about the things that you’re doing, and to know that the things that you’re doing can make a contribution to the programs that need contributions.

5. ADVICE TO PROGRAMS:             real audio clip icon

EMILY MILLER: Speaking to a Program Coordinator who might have a member who is blind, what kind of advice would you give to them about planning and organizing trainings so that they are accessible to all their members?

STEVE HOAD: The program coordinator first, before any training, needs to mention to the trainer that there is a blind person in the training and [that] that person uses x,y or z for a media–whether it’s cassette or braille or large print– to use written materials. In the case when that trainer says, “We don’t have those documents available,” then I think that the program coordinator also needs to be communicating with the blind person and finding out what kind of accommodation that person needs during training. And that may involve a three-legged discussion between program coordinator, the blind person, and the trainer. Sometimes the trainers are very inflexible about what they want to do, and that inflexibility does not necessarily work well for inclusion. The more there is flexibility, the better things work. I worked with a trainer early in my service who made all of the materials and the outline available to me two or three days before the training so I could scan them and use them. And it was such a luxury for me to have the appropriate program notes as I went into a training that I felt lucky, which is an absurd thing to think. But usually I end up with a lot of papers in my hands which to me look like blank papers.

6. DISABILITY AWARENESS:             real audio clip icon

EMILY MILLER: So you think that the assumption that you need help is more of an obstacle to you than the absence of assistance that you might need?

STEVE HOAD: Yes often it is. If accommodations are dealt with and I know where I’m going then everything is fine. People get excited and upset and feel out of place when they meet a blind person or a disabled person of any kind. And they feel as though there is something that they should be doing, and their mind is rushing to figure out what that something is. And the unfortunate part about all of that is that the person has no control and a lot of communication is lost because of that unsettled-ness that uneasiness of the public. And that’s a great reason for inclusion because if the public gets used to seeing disabled people of any sort around and begins to have experiences with them, they begin to understand that we are just like anybody else.

EMILY MILLER: If you were a program coordinator and you were meeting a [person with a disability] for the first time, and you didn’t know whether or not they needed assistance, what is the best way for you to find out?

STEVE HOAD: I think that, especially in the first stages of meeting a person, everybody needs to take a breath, and calm themselves down, and think for a second about nothing. And then make a general statement–you have to really believe – “If there is anything that you need, please let me know and I’ll try to help you with it.”

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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.