Equality within the office is on the fore of Alumna’s targets: Indiana College Kokomo
With a law degree and a formidable resume that includes an internship in Congress and recognition as one of the best law students in the country, Amanda Bagwell shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job. However, their blindness complicates matters.
After fighting for her rights for a lifetime, she leverages her experience and uses it to make a difference for others with disabilities.
“I want to reduce stigma on the front lines,” said Bagwell, 28. “I want to be the person who helps employers understand what they can do to properly support people with disabilities and help them reach their maximum potential . “
It’s a daunting task.
According to the USA. Bureau of Labor Statistics employed 17.9 percent of people with disabilities in 2020, compared with 19.3 percent in 2019. For comparison, 61.8 percent of people without disabilities were employed in the same period, compared with 66.3 percent in the Previous year.
These numbers don’t shock Bagwell as a person who lived this reality.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree in psychology from IU Kokomo, Bagwell graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law with her law degree in 2018 and was recognized by The National Jurist magazine as one of 20 law students nationwide who make the greatest contribution to their law schools and communities in the previous year.
Despite these awards, “I struggled to get a job,” she said. “I am educated, I have experience, I have a wonderful résumé.
“I know what it feels like to be said very diplomatically, ‘Well, we have other candidates,'” she continued. You don’t understand how to do the job. I know how it hurts. “
Bagwell understands these challenges and has made it a life’s work to help. She is a co-owner of a web accessibility compliance company and also works as a professional rehabilitation consultant for Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. Her goal is to get her lawyer license to help write guidelines that will make employment easier.
“Just because we have disabilities doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a living,” she said. “I want to help. I believe the best way to do this is to adapt existing guidelines, write new guidelines, and bring in my knowledge of regulations. Whether I can do this in vocational rehabilitation or elsewhere, I want to serve.” “
Bagwell often said that there are small accommodations that can make a big difference. For example, she uses a larger computer monitor. She also has a guide dog, a yellow lab called Buddington.
“I’ve found that most people, when they have the right tools in their toolbox, can do very well,” she said. “I enjoyed helping them meet their basic needs and then watching them grow and develop in order to become their own advocate for their rights and manage them professionally. It is fulfilling for me to see that they can stand alone and move forward and be part of society. “
With her own tenacity, tenacity and independence, Bagwell is a role model for her clients.
“There is a creative way for everything,” she said. “I’m used to doing things on my own. When my parents got sick, I would go to the school bus on my own. I cooked, cleaned and walked home from law school. It’s all through trial and error. You have to find a way to do something when the going gets tough. “
Bagwell has challenged herself since she lost her eyesight due to a connective tissue disease shortly after her fourth birthday.
“I had to relearn life,” she says. “I had to learn to feed myself and to find my way around my surroundings. I’ve already read and written, but then had to learn to read Braille with my hands. “
Her mother and stepfather pushed for her needs at school, but when she was unable to cope with her health problems, she had to do this job herself from a very young age.
“When they got sick, I learned that someone had to get up and do it, and I had to stand up for myself,” she said.
After graduating from high school, she earned a community college degree and then enrolled at IU Kokomo. During her bachelor’s degree in psychology, which she completed in 2015, she found an inviting environment – with her guide dog Roscoe, who accompanied her on stage.
“It set the trend as to what I should ask when I went to graduate school,” she said of her experience with IU Kokomo. She was able to receive documents in electronic form so that she could read them on her computer, which she could use for taking notes in class. She was also given additional testing time to set up her screen reader, which was essentially talking software, to read the information.
“I got the practical help I needed that would enable me to mature and grow up in a more family-like setting,” she said.
Law school was more difficult because she had to fight for much of the accommodation she needed. In addition to the rigorous schedule and hours of learning she and her classmates had to complete, she also spent countless hours scanning printed textbooks into a program to read to her or reaching out to publishers to get her PDFs for Scan to send. She took exams either in Braille or in a Word document into which she could type answers – often she flipped the screen down so her classmates could not read her answers due to the professors’ concerns.
Sarah Sarber, chief of staff at IU Kokomo, who also studied law, spoke to her about career opportunities and introduced her to politics and regulation. Bagwell gained experience in this area as an intern with Congressman Robin Kelly in Chicago.
In her role, she drafted guidelines for local businesses, networked, helped with programs to bring children from low-income families into college, spoke to voters and organized educational events.
“How else can you be part of your society when you have no knowledge?” She said. “If you don’t know what you are advocating for when talking to your employer, you cannot protect yourself.”