As I continue to celebrate Second Chance’s in the month of April, I’m always impressed by those who’ve managed to take the opportunity to make the best out of a difficult situation. My friend, Robert Shuemak, is one of those people. Not only is Robert my friend, he’s also a strong advocate for people with disabilities in Hamilton County and around the state of Ohio. It’s my pleasure to welcome Robert as today’s guest blogger. May his story encourage you to never give up.
Hi, my name is Robert and I was born with a visual impairment. I was always told by my mother to be as independent as possible. She encouraged me every day and would tell me that I could do and be anything that I wanted. Yes, I faced many obstacles, but I overcame and was able to have a second chance in life.
Here is my story:
Early in my educational years, I faced many barriers. It became a challenge for my mother and me, especially when trying to complete homework assignments. There was very little knowledge of how to educate a person with a visual impairment. Yes, you could use brail, but this was the only system available. I lost the desire to complete my high school education and dropped out.
My mother helped me to apply for SSI, and the section 8 voucher program, so I could have my own apartment and gain some independence. This is when I began to find my own way through life. I finished my High School education and landed a job at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind. It didn’t happen overnight. I first started out working on an assembly line; I quickly realized this was not what I was called to do in this life. I was able to find other jobs, but I did not like them either. I finely got connected with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which has a department called Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired. They would play a big role in my second chance. I asked the counselor if they could help me with attending college, and they said, “yes, but we would like for you to work for one year first.” The Bureau of Services for the Visually impaired found me a telemarketing job, where I had my first experience with using a computer with accessible technology, so I could execute the job efficiently. I completed one year, and then I was ready to become a college student. I started in the year of 2000, and they purchased a computer, books, supplies, and some additional training hours for the computer.
I spent the next five years working on my undergraduate degree, and at the same time improving my computer skills, as a person with multiple disabilities.
Now I am an advocate for people with disabilities with the Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services, my primary duties are to work with people we serve in the areas of transportation, accessibility in the community, and accessible technology.
I have capitalized on the second chance I was given to improve myself educationally, so I can pass my knowledge along to others. This is a small snapshot of what I am accomplishing at this point in my journey through life. If not for overcoming the barriers set before me, I would not have had such a great independent and fulfilling life.