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
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek
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 you know, after 29 years of working at Wells Fargo, I retired to start a disability-focused employment company that specializes in consulting on staffing and placement issues. I quickly realized that there are systemic problems that intrinsically inhibit people with disabilities from working and being productive. Our society holds very low expectations for individuals with disabilities.
Defining disability as the “inability to work” in order to receive disability benefits is an inherent disincentive. I am dedicating the rest of my retirement to see that these antiquated policies are changed. I am doing so by working with The World Institute on Disability where I am leading an initiative called CareerACCESS. I am attaching a brief description of CareerACCESS. To learn more about it, please see http://www.careeraccess.org.
So now I am trying
a) run Abilicorp
b) lead the CareerACCESS initiative
c) be a good board member on 3 non-profit agencies,
d) be a good husband and father and friend and
e) 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
I also suggest reading The Question of David, by Denise Sherer Jacobson.
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 via CareerACCESS, 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