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Advocate at the Center for Independent Living
Christinne R. has cerebral palsy. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida. For the past three years, she has worked as an Advocate at the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Central Florida. She is also a Certified Community Work Incentive Coordinator. Her job duties include peer support, independent living skills, assisting in the completion of applications for Social Security, training on the ADA and how it protects individuals with disabilities, and helping with the CIL’s Home Modifications program. Everything she does falls under the category of “essential job functions.”
Christinne’s cerebral palsy affects her ability to walk long distances and limits her use of her left hand. When Christinne needs to input data into her computer, she allows extra time on her daily schedule.
Christinne walks with a cane, and in the past, the CIL has offered to provide a scooter, if necessary, when there are employee outings. They also have provided a printer in her office so that she doesn’t have to go to the main printer to retrieve letters and other documents.
Because her cerebral palsy has given her a perceptual impairment, she sometimes removes the lines when she is working with Excel. This impairment also affects her ability to drive, so she receives reimbursement for cab fare and uses paratransit to get to and from work or did—until she married the staff person who also happened to be the person who was asked to drive her to different locations in the community.
The Job Search
Christinne moved from New Jersey to Florida to go to the University of Central Florida and to get away from the snow and ice in the Northeast. At the time of her prolonged job search, she also had three years experience as a Spanish Interpreter at the Public Defender’s office and 18 months experience as a Witness Coordinator for the State Attorney’s office. Despite her impressive resume, Christinne had problems finding a job in the legal field. This was happening to her even before the economy took a downturn.
Christinne says that, while she cannot be certain that her disability was a factor in not receiving an offer for specific jobs, there are indications that this might, in fact, be the case: “I went on many interviews, and I was qualified for all of them. One woman interviewed my cane about what I could do. She just stared at my cane and never made eye contact with me.”
Christinne became so frustrated because of her inability to find a job that she wrote various individuals in the community in an attempt to get assistance in finding the right job for her. After she had written the letters, she was contacted by a worker at the Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation who told her about a job opening at the CIL in Central Florida. The rest is history.
“I went to college wanting to be an ADA lawyer so that I could help other people who have disabilities. I am not an attorney now but I am very lucky that I can help people the way I do at CIL. I don't want anyone to be sorry for me because I have a disability because I don't see it as something negative. I have been able in fact to turn it into something positive for others. For me, it has never been negative. Though I have had to face my share of obstacles, I just am who I am. My ultimate goal is to help people with disabilities have the most fulfilling life they can make for themselves."