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A New Perspective

A New Perspective

Less than a year ago, I’d never heard of Disability Rights Nebraska. At the time, I was looking for a quick way to pay rent and, if I was lucky, garner some full-time experience. Of course I’d always hoped to work somewhere that had a positive impact on society or fostered my personal growth. I quickly learned that, as a recent college graduate in job-hunt-desperation mode, I didn’t have the luxury of narrowing my search to only meaningful work.

Naturally, when a staffing agent mentioned “Nebraska Advocacy Services,” I only heard “potential employer.” Even after learning Disability Rights Nebraska’s correct, more indicative name, this was still just a secretary/receptionist position. Sure, I was happy to finally have a job that I’d enjoy, but I didn’t realize how this position might affect me beyond the bi-monthly paycheck. I expected to file documents, answer phone calls, and maybe increase my knowledge of computers or fundraising. What more could I learn from clerical work?

Definitely more than I had expected.

Take, for example, the debate over whether restraint and/or seclusion are ethical approaches to handling people with disabilities. Numerous students subjected to these methods have not only sustained injuries and trauma, but have even died as a result. Disability Rights Nebraska’s opposition to these methods compelled me to consider a disturbing reality: parents of children with disabilities cannot always trust that their students will be treated humanely and safely in educational settings.

Disability Rights Nebraska’s promotion of inclusion of everyone in the community was another stance that significantly influenced my perspective on disability rights. Until working at Disability Rights Nebraska, I’d never given thought to the opportunities (or lack thereof) offered to individuals with disabilities who live in settings that isolate them from those without disabilities. After simply becoming aware of this issue, it was common sense. People with disabilities are entitled to places in their communities, just as anyone else. They deserve to interact with their communities instead of being pushed to the perimeters.

These eye-opening realizations are only a couple of the many that have provoked me to seek an understanding of disability rights issues that I’d never previously contemplated.

Disability Rights Nebraska has heightened my awareness of the many obstacles faced by people with disabilities that are created or worsened by the communities in which they live. Working for this organization has encouraged me to take an active stance on disability rights issues that I might have previously overlooked, simply because I’d never considered the gravity of these issues or didn’t feel I had a comprehensive understanding of disability-related matters.

In just seven months, my position at Disability Rights Nebraska has permanently altered my perspective of people with disabilities and their communities. Still, I know that I have plenty more to understand about the issues that Disability Rights Nebraska incessantly works to resolve.

“What more can I learn from clerical work?”
I don’t ask this question rhetorically anymore.

Tess Barnes is an administrative secretary for Disability Rights Nebraska. Tess earned her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with majors in Psychology and Advertising/Public Relations. In her free time, Tess enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with her cats.