Lesson 8: Networking

You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.
–Mike Litman

Lesson 8 Networking

Welcome to lesson 8, today we are going to talk about networking. When you become disabled it is important to connect with other people that have the same kind of disability as you do. When I first lost most of my sight, it seemed like everyone around me was saying things like “oh, that is so amazing that you can tie your own shoes” or how they thought that me still living on my own was amazing. Well, in my mind, I was wondering what did they expect me to do, move home with my mom and just sit around all day? I’m sorry but that was not like me, and if you are reading this I know it is not you.

When I decided to go to college, one of my advisors sent me an application for a scholarship she thought I might be interested in. So I filled it out and was lucky enough to receive the scholarship. It turned out the scholarship was from the ACB (American Council of the Blind) and it included a trip to their national convention for a week. When I got to the convention I met many other people that were blind and visually impaired doing all kinds of jobs. I met lawyers, teachers, social workers, and everyone was so nice. This to me was very reassuring since I thought I could still do anything I wanted to do, but everyone around me, at home, was in awe of what I was doing. Here I was with hundreds of other people like me who thought being blind was no big deal, and it gave me a sense of empowerment. I would definitely recommend going to a convention if you can so you can meet a wide variety of people with similar disabilities.

“What do you really want? Go for it!
Everything is energy, and all the energy in the universe is conspiring to support you in your magnificence.
Risk, leap, dream, dare. Let go of the edge of the pool, swim in the magic.” —
Scout Wilkins

You however, do not have to go to a national convention to network. Support groups can be found close by with just a quick Google search. There is another service Meet Up that you may want to use to find other people, although I am not sure if people with disabilities will be on there.
“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” -Sydney Harris
Networking can not only give you support, but help you find resources that you may need. I network on the computer via email list serves every day. Through these lists I can ask questions, find out information about different products, if they are blind friendly, or if anyone has used them, and get people’s opinions. Email list serves are a good source to just stay connected to people as well, especially if you cannot always get out to meetings easily.

“The problem is not the problem…it’s your attitude about the problem that’s the problem!”
Captain Jack Sparrow

Here are some resource links that I have found. I do not endorse any of them I am just giving them to you as a starting point.
Disability Information and Resources
http://www.makoa.org/
ADA.gov Homepage
http://www.ada.gov/
National Council on Disability
http://www.ncd.gov/
National Organization on Disability
http://nod.org/

AAPD – American Association of People with Disabilities

AAPD


Blindness:
ACB – American Council of the Blind
http://www.acb.org/
AFB – American Foundation of the Blind
http://www.afb.org/default.aspx
NFB – National Federation for the Blind
https://nfb.org/

Wheelchairs
Wheelchair Support Group – How I Roll
http://www.howiroll.com/tag/wheelchair-support-group/
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php?pg=kb.printer.friendly&id=19
Daily Strength Groups – Wheelchair Special People Group
http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/wheelchairspecialneedsgroup

MS
National MS Society
http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support/Find-Support/Join-a-Local-Support-Group
MSAA – MS Association of America
http://www.mymsaa.org/
MS Foundation
http://www.msfocus.org/
This is not a complete list by no means, but it does give you a jumping off point. Check with your local agencies, they may have support group. While I have used support groups and networking interchangeably so far they are in fact a little different, so back to www.dictionary.com:
Networking:
1.
a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest:
Working mothers in the community use networking to help themselves manage successfully.

Support Group:
a group of people who meet regularly to support or sustain each other by discussing problems affecting them in common, as alcoholism or bereavement.

So you can see how they both can be a little bit of the other. When you first become disabled you may want to start with a support group then move into networking. Or, you may want to get involved in more than one group. There was a time I went to a support group, but now I do mostly networking and advocacy work. Being disabled is a very personal thing and you need to make the choices that meet your needs at any given time. Please remember that if you go to a group and outgrow it for awhile, you can always go back if you need to, or you can find another group. I have been legally blind for over ten years now and I still have my bad blind days.

Come on over to our Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/10lessonempowerment/
and let’s talk about support groups and networking and your thoughts. I’ll see you over there, and until next time.

Take care,

Yvonne

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