Prior to joining ATF, I worked as a secretary for a small heating, ventilating and air conditioning company. Because they did not offer any job advancement or reasonable accommodations for my vision disability, my family encouraged me to seek better opportunities. My father, then an employee with the Department of Transportation, thought that a position in federal service would be better for me. My younger sister Anne had joined ATF as a college hire in the Seized Property section, which in 1984 was a new section, and she told me they had more openings. In December of that year, I decided to apply to ATF and was hired the next month. It was the best decision I ever made.
I started in 1985 as a clerk-typist and was given a magnifier to make it easier for me to see regular size print. In 1994, I transitioned to a Program Analyst where I continue to serve today. I have been at ATF for almost 35 years and it’s mostly due to our critical mission. I love that our agency is dedicated to protecting the public by getting illegal firearms and narcotics off the streets. I’ve also stayed because ATF has provided accommodations to help me do my job over the years. Back in the ‘80s, I was given a magnifying glass to make the print large enough for me to read, thankfully, technology has changed a lot since then. Since 1994, I’ve used a pulse data magnifier that allows me to adjust the size and contrast of items with ease.
I was born blind in my right eye with limited sight in my left. Growing up, my schoolbooks and handouts had to be in large print so I could see them better. I was embarrassed, and sometimes even bullied by other children. Now I see my disability differently, although life is a challenge, I never let that stop me.
I like to look at the positive side of things so to me to me, National Disability Awareness Month means that just because one has a disability, it does not mean they are not capable. Given the opportunity, we can do the job as well as someone without a disability as long as we have the right tools to do it.
The advice I would give to anyone with a disability interested in working for the government is to check out the Americans with Disabilities Act, and seek employment with agencies that have reasonable accommodations. For those who work in the private sector I would advise them to check out the Americans with Disabilities Act, and check into which reasonable accommodations the potential employer has invested. I encourage everyone to go to their local libraries and see what your county/city has for reasonable accommodations. Also, for students, check out what local schools, colleges and universities have to offer.
Generally it’s important for people to know about their right to reasonable accommodation. You can start by reading the Americans with Disabilities Act and asking your government agency or private sector company what accommodations they can offer you and others with disabilities. Your city or county government may also provide reasonable accommodations for local government services; you can find more information online or at your local library.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a guide on disability discrimination with a wealth of additional resources.
If you’re interested in a career with ATF, review ATF’s Equal Opportunity Employer page to learn more about the reasonable accommodations that job seekers and ATF employees can request.