People with disabilities are problem solvers. “We think outside the box,” said Kristin Fleschner, a lawyer who works at the U.S. Department of State.
Fleschner began losing her vision around the time she started law school in 2008. She adapted. The challenge of completing her education brought out skills and talents that contributed to her professional, social and personal success.
Asked if clients might see her disability as a problem, Fleschner countered that she herself would seek out a lawyer who:
- Has personally experienced injustices and has seen the power of the law to correct wrongs.
- Must work daily to make sure his or her voice is heard.
- Doesn’t shy away from challenges.
- Can strategize and think quickly to solve problems.
“These are things that someone with a disability knows better than the rest of the population. … I would want someone who is disabled,” she said.
By overcoming everyday challenges, Fleschner and others with disabilities develop needed skills in the workplace. Imagine if you were blind and the only person waiting on a train platform when three different trains pulled up at once, and you couldn’t hear the announcements. Imagine trying to order from a restaurant menu, or finding a restroom in a new place. Problem solving becomes second nature, and it is a skill most employers prize.
“I think we’re moving towards seeing a disability as a positive contribution to diversity, but we still aren’t quite there yet. Employers still think, ‘Oh, how much do I have to pay to accommodate this person?’” But “we’ve really seen that accommodation costs are minimal, and what a person with a disability brings to the table is a lot,” she said.
Fleschner’s guide dog, Zoe, helps her get around, and Fleschner gets around a lot. Fleschner has a very active social life, travels to new places for her job, and has even run the Boston Marathon. “My life is everything but being disabled,” she says.