My Name is Meriah
I can “pass” as non-disabled. I speak clearly, and while deaf, I was raised oral. Very few people have any idea as to how little I actually hear.
My TBI and complex PTSD are also not visible. The scars on my face have faded.
I have the option of not talking about disability. No-one needs to know I have these aspects of myself, these impediments or perspectives, however you want to frame it. I prefer ‘perspectives’, because that’s how I see disability – as a particular vantage point from which we experience our life.
So why talk about it?
I talk about my own disability experience and about disability in general because it has played an enormous, pivotal role in my life. It has been the field upon which many of my struggles have occurred; I’ve learned a lot from the culture of disability, from other people with disabilities, and from my own experience of living with different disabilities and raising my daughter who has a disability other than my own.
I can’t not talk about something that is so profound.
Furthermore, I am aware that my vantage point is unique: I’m at the intersection between the parent community (parents of people with disabilities) and the adult disabled community.
I’m in between the hearing and deaf communities.
I “pass” as non-disabled, but I’m disabled.
Not disability-related, but I am a white American who was raised outside of the United States, in non-white countries.
All of this, combined, allows me to introduce new ways of looking at things, new ideas and beliefs, to different groups of which I am a part.
Why Career Counseling?
I am deaf and was raised oral (without ASL), and isolated from anything disability-related. My undergraduate degree was in Education and I taught, trained and worked with curriculum design and educational management. I then went on to graduate school.
After I received my Master’s degree in International Management with a focus in Human Resource Development and Training, I worked in corporate Tokyo before heading back to my birth-land of California and ran smack into problems related to getting a job.
My problems were partly cultural – after a lifetime abroad, I knew precious little about getting a job in the United States. They were also largely disability-related: the lights in interview rooms usually triggered my TBI, and I couldn’t hear much of what was being asked of me in job interviews.
Trial and error coupled with relentlessness (think: the type of relentlessness that had me going to every.single.store in a mall to hand-deliver my resume and an application) ended up making me very good at the job quest.
I am good at this field not just because I have the education, but because I have literally walked this walk. I know how it feels to be rejected because you have a disability, and I know how it feels to sell plasma to make rent. I am deeply familiar with issues that all of us in the disabled community face at some point or another, and I am also well versed in resources and solutions to these problems.
I was hired by UC Berkeley to head up a new program funded by the California Department of Rehabilitation, focusing on career counseling and students and alumni with disabilities. I leaned into the disability community at Berkeley and grew from understanding my own internalized ableism, access, universal access, and the culture, power and history of the disability community.
The career development/employment program that I was running at UC Berkeley was a lot of fun (except for the paperwork), and I did that with gusto until I had my daughter.
I’ve continued to work as a private career counselor since then, happily serving hundreds of people with disabilities in their job and internship search and resume development efforts.
All of the pieces and stories that I tell or encourage others to write on this space are for the intention of helping others to connect with each other a little more. To realize that we are not alone, not ever. I want everyone with a disability out there to know that disability isn’t a lodestone that we are somehow overcoming; it’s our GIFT to the world, and figuring it out is a big piece of it. I want people without disabilities to recognize disability as a component of diversity, NOT as a ‘special need’ and certainly not something to be pitied (or revered).
I want to help broaden our understanding of what it means to be human, what living with and without disabilities means in this here and now.
I want us to get over our fear of things unknown and to live with a little moxie.
I’ve got to warn you: I’m not very reverent. It’s not easy for me to be tactful or sensitive. I cuss a lot, only not in front of my mom. I often say the wrong thing, but I am honest. You can count on that (and that’s not because I’m a great person; it’s because I’ve learned that my memory is bad enough that I’ll always get caught in a lie, so it’s stupid to try).
I know employment from the HR perspective, and from the career counseling perspective. I have written thousands of resumes, cover letters and prospecting letters. I am an expert researcher for the job search piece.
I am qualified to be writing about a lot of stuff here, but I’m not representing an organization and you can’t take anyone’s word as God’s, so do your own homework
Thanks for being here. I’m looking forward to getting to know you.