Getting to Know You
Your name Neil Jacobson
What’s your connection with disability?
I have always had Cerebral Palsy. I also consider myself part of the disability community as well as an advocate for people with disabilities
Star Trek or Star Wars?
If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?
I’ve been to many countries including England, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Israel, Canada and Mexico.In my golden years I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but the USA!
What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?
cookies and fruit pies
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
What do you do:
As background, after 29 years of working for Wells Fargo as a disabled IT professional, I retired as a Sr. Vice President to start Abilicorp, a disability-focused employment company that specializes in staffing and placement. I quickly realized that competing for existing jobs was very difficult for many people with disabilities. It became apparent to me that a new job market was needed. Knowing how ubiquitous the internet and telecommunications has become, Remote Assistance Services seemed to be that next new job market.
So now I am trying
a) run Abilicorp,
b) start AssistMeLive,
c) chair Center for Economic Growth (CEG) for WID,
d) start my PhD program in Public Policy at Walden University,
e) be a good board member on 3 non-profit agencies,
f) be a good husband and father and friend and
g) deal with a progressing disability – not necessarily in that order!
How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?
You can find my oral history at bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Basically, I owe a lot to my Mom who, being a holocaust survivor, believed I HAD to succeed, to my special education teachers and classmates who believed I COULD succeed, to my high school and college environments that showed me how to succeed, to the disability community that encouraged me to succeed, to jobs including CTP and Wells Fargo that ENABLED me to succeed and of course Denise and David who made me feel loved.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
5 years from now I hope to be completing my PhD, advising the implementation of Social Security reform that enables people with disabilities to work, writing a book on disability and money, spoiling a grandchild, and enjoying mocha with friends
Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?
‘He was a good guy. He did a good job, Go! Go! Go!’
Who or what inspires you?
Judy Heumann, who I have been close with since I was 4 years old and who has tirelessly worked for the Disability Movement. My father who was a simple down-to-earth guy who knew what he wanted (which was to see his 3 kids grow up and be OK)
If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?
Use Personal Assistant Services! Use time and energy for important things. There are wonderful people available, ready and able to assist. To be independent, you need to know how to be dependent
What do you like about your particular disability?
Because my disability is so obvious, I’ve had the great opportunity of observing the world from a ‘different’ view point. Because I couldn’t do things the ‘normal way’ I had to create ‘my way’ of doing things. It was (is) great to know there’s always a way to do what you really want to do.
Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
We are indeed people first. Some of us are nice, some not-so-nice, some funny, some warm, some cold, some bright, some boring etc. We all have good days and bad days. Enjoy what you like and forgive the rest.
What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
My powered wheelchair! Before high school, I never used a wheelchair. In high school and undergrad college, I only had a manual wheelchair. The day I arrived in Berkeley (8-23-1974), Ed Roberts convinced me to use a powered wheelchair. Since then, you could take away my car and my home and my belongings but don’t take away my powered wheelchair!
Connect with Neil through:
Read his story: Bancroft Library Oral History Project
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.