Soapbox: County residents with disabilities tackle mobility challenges
May is National Mobility Awareness month, designated to encourage people with disabilities to embody the spirit of the 2017 theme, "Life Moving Forward," by raising awareness of mobility solutions and those local heroes in motion.
"Life Moving Forward" for Jennifer Howell of Hillsboro presents a unique mobility challenge. Blind since birth, Jennifer navigates from her home in Hillsboro to her temporary work experience at The Portland Art Museum, where she is a coat check clerk.
After graduating from Century High School in 2004, she went on to earn her BA in history at Pacific University in Forest Grove with a 3.2 GPA. Along with her love of history, she enjoys art, books and music, often singing in local choirs with her perfect pitch. Although her interests and activities are typical, her transportation methods are not.
They are, however, critical in the process of obtaining her career goal of becoming a customer service representative, where she can utilize her education and skills.
Wesley Grawberg of Beaverton is another individual who does not let multiple disabilities stop him from pursuing his employment objective. Born with Cerebral Palsy that affects his vision, muscle and cognitive functions, Wesley pilots himself toward his goal of living independently and working in a customer service role.
With help from Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc. and The Oregon Commission for The Blind, he secured a position as a sign holder at SuperPlay in Beaverton.
Wesley reports, "I like getting cars to honk; it's my first job and I enjoy holding the sign." Wesley loves music and people, which make it a great fit — and although he is a reliable and committed employee for SuperPlay, he has further aspirations to move forward in his career. Wesley recently learned he was accepted into a nine-month unpaid internship program called "Project Search."
The International program was developed specifically for people with Intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD) and will allow Wesley to rotate through three different departments at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Beaverton, gaining experience and new skills that will ultimately help him in his quest to move forward in his career.
Both Wesley and Jennifer have become accustomed to maneuvering with the help of their white canes, mobility training through The Oregon Commission for The Blind and public transportation. They utilize TriMet's "LIFT," a shared ride public transportation service for people who are unable to use the TriMet bus lines or MAX due to their disabilities.
The LIFT provides independence and mobility to its riders; however, it also comes with scheduling challenges that may not align with work demands.
While many of us are complaining about the traffic and our commutes, Wesley and Jennifer are at the mercy of public transportation timelines in addition to the traffic — yet they persevere in order to move onward.
"Life Moving Forward" and celebrating mobility awareness for Jennifer and Wesley would mean landing jobs in their chosen field.
They have already overcome immense challenges and have the tenacity and courage to prevail. In my eyes, they are heroes in motion who will continue moving their lives forward with the help of the people and resources in our communities.
Get on your soapbox
The Tribune offers a soapbox to stand on every week on the Opinion Page of our newspaper, and online. The Soapbox is a guest column written by any reader on any local issue of public interest.
They should be no longer than 800 words (about three double-spaced typewritten pages in length) and should include the name, address and phone number of the writer.
An online form is available for readers to submit shorter letters.