We started landing in vicinity of Moscow.
There is still some time to recall San Francisco. Just to remember the most important meeting of the entire program (I’m not the only one to think so, among the others Dr. Ali from Tanzania agreed with me). During our visit to the University of Berkeley, the first meeting was with Paul Hippolitus, specializing in students with disabilities. Next month Paul retires. He worked at Federal Ministry of Labor in Washington, DC, for 29 years, being responsible for employment of people with disabilities. For 10 years now he’s been working with students with disabilities at the University of California. Where to begin the story of our meeting with Paul? Well, probably, with honest and sober analysis of the work done, with well-deserved rest and something else waiting. So Paul said he has devoted all his life to employment of people with disabilities, and his service in the Federal Ministry has resulted in the number of unemployed persons with disabilities decreasing from about 30 to 20 percent.
When Paul first came to work at the University, he began asking students with disabilities the question: “What are you going to do after school?” The most common answer was: “I’m going to continue my education.” People with disabilities are even afraid to think about the real work. But Paul, he said, continued to redirect the attention of students and university administration solely towards where and how the graduates will work. Before the summer break he popularized the question: “Where are you going to work for you summer practice?”, instead of “Where are you going to spend your summer holidays?”
At the first meetings with his students with disabilities Paul, an absolutely healthy person, said and wrote on the blackboard: “Disability is normal,” After the first frustration Paul speaks openly and writes on the blackboard: “Disability is active!” And then he continues: “Disability is part of the diversity!” Let’s remember that diversity is one of the core values of the United States.
Before discussing the work, Paul advises his students to learn how to dress well and to remember that their professional skills at a job interview with employers are only seventh most common in the list of priorities. Prior to this are questions about their specific leadership experience in solving problems, communication skills, and team experience. It is difficult to describe confidence and, perhaps, joy in the words of Paul when he was sharing his experiences. He just felt the key and the most useful points. According to him, everyone just needs to focus on the future work, and the rest will follow.
At the beginning of the meeting Paul said that we should be aware that rehabilitation of the disabled and total activity of this social group, employment is likely to be the only true criterion of success. If my memory serves me, over the years with his students Paul has increased the employment rate up to more than 50 per cent, while the number of best students with disabilities at the University of California 1 percent to 11 percent. In addition, Paul holds an on-line course on the Internet and ready to consult professionals worldwide. That’s the real value, the real wealth!
When Paul was asked about the fight for the rights of disabled people he said that the rights concept of people with disabilities should go along with the concept of responsibility. It was hardly mentioned about the physical accessibility at the meeting.
This meeting has been a sharp contrast with all the other meetings in the United States with other non-profit organizations, government organizations and educational institutions. This one meeting was worth going to the States!
We’ll try to include our unique experience, unique knowledge and Paul’s motivation in our, so to say, common work on implementation of Extrability – special abilities of disabled people in particular economy of the near future.