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struggles Ken Staley was my very best friend.  He was tough, but he meant business.  He stuck by me, and like everyone else he said that it was all up to me.  Ken told me that I should go out and try to play the piano in a nursing home and use my talent there.  At first I refused it.  I didn't want to try.  Many years later I thought it over.  I made up my mind that this would be it.  Ken talked to the activity director, Vicki Daniels, and the next thing I knew she gave me a phone call and asked me to come and play for her.  She hired me right on the spot after the first time I played as a volunteer.  At first I had trouble with the route, but Ken said, "Go back and try again.  You'll figure it out and then you'll want to kick yourself."  I like it a whole lot, and will continue to do it. Anyone can reach a goal if they really want to try.  It can take a whole lot of work, but it can be done.  Working hard is the key.  You have to believe in yourself and leave your problems at home.


By Ameenah Ghoston Lippold, Presented at the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois State Convention November 3, 2007

Plato said: "Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, you cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation." Just as a farmer cultivates the land, so must an employee take advantage of opportunities that cultivate him/herself in personal and professional settings.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) provides such opportunities for its employees. DISA is responsible for the operation, maintenance and protection of the Defense Department's IT (information technology) systems and networks. It is DoD's lead procurement agency for computing systems and network services. In short, DISA is to DoD and the warfighter as AT&T, AOL, and software manufacturers are to you and me.

Since 2005, I have worked for DISA as an IT Specialist. I am also enrolled in DISA's Intern Development Program. This program cultivates employees through leadership and career-related training, rotational assignments and mentoring. Before I was accepted into the intern program, I went through multiple interviews. I knew that I had to address the concern of how I would perform everyday office tasks as a blind person. Additionally, given that my IT expertise was concentrated in the field of blindness technology, I had to address how that technical skill set would transfer to developing technical solutions for the modern warfighter. During the interviews, I addressed the blindness issue by giving a demonstration of access technologies with MS Office applications. I explained that just as a warfighter undergoes basic training and attitude adjustment taught by experienced warfighters, a blind person receives training and attitude adjustment to blindness taught by experienced blind individuals. My ease in discussing blindness relaxed me and

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