This month I got a chance to work at jjslist.com through my participation in the US Department of State’s Professional Fellowship Program implemented by Hands Along the Nile Development Services in partnership with WorldChicago. I was excited to see the work Americans are doing around disability awareness. In Tunisia, I run a business called “Hands of Hope,” which markets and sells products made by persons with disabilities. I was especially excited to be hosted by jjslist.com, since it is a digital marketing and community engagement social enterprise that helps businesses incorporate disability-aware marketing, customer service and employment best practices into core business strategies. During my stay there, I realized the importance of using the online platform as a self-advocacy tool for individuals with disabilities. This is something Tunisia still has some work to do. I was impressed that jjslist.com had an online monthly reach of over 30,000 and that the No Boundaries program was helping participants gain meaningful career paths.
During my time at jjslist.com I was able to visit various organizations. One organization that stood out to me was Access Living, an organization that focuses on disability rights. I was impressed! They concerned themselves with everything, from accessibility to employment best practices. They even dealt with everyday life and emergency cases. The training and the advocacy work they are doing is great, they told us during our visit about the struggles and obstacles they face. One of their major accomplishments is the transportation system, with buses being retrofitted to fit all kind of disabilities- a result of their long struggle with the Department of Transportation. The result was impressive, given that we have people with disabilities with us in this program, we were able to witness these results firsthand.
On Saturday, May 17, 2014, I joined more than 20,000 people for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event at Soldier Field raising more than $ 1,019,934. It was great opportunity to spread awareness about autism, raising funds for organizations and associations. I learned a lot about the association, their activities and the services they provide to families with individuals with autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. This walk brought to light the challenges many face and served as an educational event to the general public.
During our visit to City Hall in Chicago we talked about the rights of individuals with disabilities, the situation in the United States and the problems they are facing. Overall, I have truly enjoyed my stay in Chicago. It is an interesting and beautiful city with lots of green parks, highrises and statues in almost every corner. During my visit I was lucky enough to go to the Shedd Aquarium, take the Wendella Boat, Chicago History Museum, jazz bars and even take some time to go skydiving at Skydive Chicago (an amazing adventure). I would love to visit Chicago again, the scenery is amazing but most importantly the strides the disability community has made is something I look forward to sharing with others in Tunisia. It is a city that gives me hope as someone working to change how individual with disabilities are treated in Tunisia. I am mpressed by how an organization like jjslist.com can have such an impact on others by building a strong online presence, it has taught me that change comes from different mediums and for that I am grateful.
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About The Author
Sarah Raddadi, a social entrepreneur, runs a business called “Hands of Hope” which markets and sells products made by persons with disabilities. She is focused on building her social enterprise and further empowering people with disabilities in Tunisia to integrate into society and live independent lives.