March to garner support for disabled

Center for Independence holds march to inform public about underemployment in disabled community


Lars Lonnroth

Ani Hunt, 27, has cerebral palsy. Even confined to a wheelchair, she went to University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign and is currently working to finisher her graduate degree.

While studying social work, Hunt requires an internship to finish her graduate degree, but it took her one year to eventually find a place to fulfill her requirement for her schooling. Hunt thought she “faced such a resistance from some agencies because some agencies aren’t willing to provide” the support necessary to address someone’s disabilities.

“When I was trying to get an internship to finish my graduate degree in social work, I personally experienced resistance to being considered for an internships,” Hunt said. “Of course, no one can outright say we aren’t hiring you because of your disability. But it’s a lot to take on, and people have to be willing to see you and your disability as an asset.”

It was not until February when Hunt was given the opportunity to work with The Center for Independence Through Conductive Education, a program which she went through herself. One of the higher ups at the organization decided to give her the opportunity to display her skills, she said.

“Well, I’m still in my internship, but in the interim I was offered this position until I found an internship and this fortunately was molded into my internship,” Hunt said. “This is a very unique environment where they appreciate that I did have needs and were willing to help me. You don’t usually get that in the regular work place.”

Now, at the center, Hunt is attempting to raise awareness for the high underemployment rate among people with disabilities by organizing a march that will be taking place Nov. 16 at the train station in Downtown La Grange, on 25 W. Burlington Ave.

“We want the same things. We have the same dreams, and the same aspirations to be productive members of society,” Hunt said. “We may look a little different, and do things a little differently but we get the job done.”

Kacie Herbst, development assistant at the Center, is helping to organize this protest with Hunt. Kacie said that, while they hoped to take the protest into downtown Chicago ending at the organization that provided the grant money for the march, they ended up deciding to just protest at the train station.

“But 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, which mean 35 percent then live in poverty because they don’t have a job to pay for their live,” Kacie said. “I mean, obviously, it would be awesome if some brought our brochure to their boss and said you should hire someone with a disability, but it’s also just getting that out there so that people know that this demographic of people are the most unemployed demographic.”

Justin Herbst, ‘06, Kacie’s sister and an employee of UPS who also has cerebral palsy, said that while underemployment is also a big issue with people with disabilities, he also thinks there’s a discrepancy when it comes to housing that is wheelchair accessible.

“I was able to get a job pretty quickly due to connections I have—I have some connections—and I got some help there,” Justin said. He said that UPS understands his disabilities, but “I’m 29 years old and, you know, nobody wants to live with their parents forever.”

“There’s not a lot of accessible housing in the La Grange area,” Justin said. “There is housing up in Evanston, but most of the housing is government subsidized housing, so I don’t really want to live in a government subsidized house.”

Starting at 4:30 p.m., protesters will be assembling at the station wearing red shirts, handing out fliers and raising awareness. While they expect mostly people affiliated with the organization to show up, anyone is willing to join them. However, they think it will still have a large effect, Kacie, from the center, said.

“I mean, when you literally get five wheelchairs together it makes a pretty big impact, Herbst said “It’s much more than you would normally see.”