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Success Story

Written by Theresa Philpott, Typist Advanced, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services

When I was first approached about writing my success story, I couldn’t figure out why they asked me.  I really didn’t think I had a story to tell.  I didn’t exactly consider myself a success.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I have self-esteem issues or anything like that.  I just live my ordinary life –going to work, reading, shopping, etc. and never seriously thought about being a success.  I just do what I do.  It never occurred to me to do anything else, so this didn’t seem remarkable to me.  When I told a few friends I was writing this article, the feedback was along the lines of “Well why wouldn’t you?  You are a success.”

I’m still not totally comfortable with thinking of myself as a success, because to me that means I’m done and have nothing left to work towards.  It seems easier to view events in my life as successes.  Of course, things haven’t always been easy.  Lots of times it’s been a struggle to get to the “success” part.  It seems I have a story to tell after all, so here goes.

I was born several weeks premature and needed lots of medical intervention to survive.  The result is an eye condition known as Retinopathy of Prematurity and Cerebral Palsy.  I went to public school for my entire Kindergarten through 12th grade experience with minimal accommodations, mainly large print materials for some classes and preferential seating closer to the blackboard.  I learned Braille and was instructed in the use of a long, white cane because it would be easier to learn when I was young and I might need these skills later in life.

I spent the year between high school and college at the Orientation Center at the Iowa Department for the Blind.  That was where I learned many of the skills that allow me to live independently now.  Even more important though is that was where I gained the confidence to believe I could be independent and have a successful life as a grownup.

Thanks to wonderful IDB staff, financial assistance, and assistance with accommodations I was able to succeed in college.  This was back in the “olden days”, so I had to rely on books on tape and people to read print textbooks and other materials that couldn’t be taped or Brailled by the time I needed them in class.  I took tests in a separate room and was given more time to complete them since someone had to read the test and record my answers.  Term papers were quite an ordeal because I would write them out by hand and finish them early so a secretary in Student Support Services could type them and I could turn them in on the same day as everyone else.  Oh, to have had a laptop with JAWS.

I’ve had two different jobs with the State of Iowa and have worked for a combined total of more than 21 years.  First I was a Retirement Investment Technician at IPERS and am now a Typist Advanced with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  I use a CCTV to magnify print materials, have JAWS on my computer so I can process documents and schedule appointments for all the Rehabilitation Counselors who depend on me.  Sometimes I use Braille to take notes and sometimes employ the very low tech method of a 20/20 pen and a piece of paper.  I have a hand held CCTV type magnifier called a Ruby because sometimes I just need to be able to be on the go.

Another big thing that contributes to my independence and success is the problem-solving skills I’ve developed over a lifetime being disabled.  I have faced many challenges, large and small.  Some have involved job duties and figuring out what assistive technology will work.  Some have involved more basic skills of daily living, because the way I used to do something just won’t work anymore.

About five years ago I decided it was time to become a homeowner.  I had to find a place I could afford that was both accessible in terms of my mobility issues and located in an area where I could continue using paratransit for the majority of my transportation needs.  It wasn’t easy, but I now have a condo I am proud to call home.

So, that’s my story for now and the end of this article.  Here’s hoping the future challenges and struggles I’ll face lead to lots more successes.