My first job out of seminary was the first place that hired me so I could pay the bills and live on my own in New York City. I ended up working as an admin at Barnard College in the Office of Disability Services. I worked with a passionate disability advocate named Susan Quinby, and learned an incredible amount not only from her, but also the students I interacted with each day.
Working at Barnard gave me the experience to move to my next job, an Assistant Editor at the John Milton Society for the Blind. It was an organization started by Helen Keller to provide religious resources for the blind and visually impaired. While there, I edited a digest magazine for children that was published in Braille, and put together a fairly exhaustive large print publication that was a resource of religious materials– everything from Bibles in large print and cassette (it was a long time ago!) to audio versions of Sunday School lessons for various denominations.
By the time I got to the JMS, I was already deep into defining my calling to ministry and completing my requirements for ordination in the United Church of Christ. When I left the JMS to go back to seminary to take a few classes, I packed away all my experience working with people who have disabilities and disability advocacy into a box labeled “Not Relevant for Ministry,” and shoved it into the back of my mind.
While I always had opinions about accessibility in church council meetings, I really and truly let that box of experience collect dust in the back of my mind for many years. Not even as my own child was diagnosed with autism did I connect those past experiences.
What about my son? Aaron brought an entirely new dimension not only to my life (he’s a pretty awesome kid!), but also a whole new level to my denial of what God has been putting right in front of me for twenty years!
Story to be continued…