TARGET Center 20th Anniversary Celebration Opening Ceremony: Jason Olsen, part 2

Uploaded by usda on 15.10.2012


So, since I am talking about great stories, let
me tell you a little bit about my first
accommodation when I started my Federal service
and I completely forgot that my bio said that I
worked at Social Security for the first so...
it was going to be anonymous, but they don't
sign my checks anymore, so I'll keep going.

So when I first started there, I have to give
you a little bit of the past history first.
When I started my first Federal job, I was newly
married and living at home with my parents.
Have any of you guys tried this? (LAUGHTER)

I am completely convinced that any man ... I should
say I am totally convinced, not partially
convinced that the death rate for men who have to live
with their wife and mother is 50% within three months.
I don't actually have the stats to support that
but I'm looking for someone to research into it.

But you know, I am kidding, but on the other
hand, when people come up to me and say "Oh my God,
you've survived being paralyzed, you've had
blood clots, you've had this, and you've had that
And I go "Yeah, you're right, you're right, that's pretty
terrible, but did I ever tell you about the time I
had to live with my mother and my wife at the same time?"
There is just nothing like that in the world.

So that's a little, just background to lay the
foundation for my first day of Federal employment.
And you're like, "Now how does that lay the
I'll get there, just be patient.

So, one of the things I should tell you is that I was
hired Schedule A and had done an internship for
the agency I was hired for...secretly SSA, I wasn't
supposed to tell you.

So it was really to no surprise to anyone when I
showed up on my first day and I am in my wheelchair.

So I go to the cube they've given me and you know,
I don't know if you guys remember Social Security ten
years ago, but it was this 1970's orange shag carpeted
walls falling down, just busted up nasty cube.
And I could literally go straight into it and I
could back straight out of it and that is pretty much
all that was there for me to do.
I could go straight in, straight out, straight in,
straight out.
So I wouldn't say it was the best accommodation I've ever had.
So I had to take the keyboard and actually set it on my lap
because I can't get under the desk, you know.
It's those big metal desk that somehow missed being
recycled in World War II for ammunition and they still
had it at government buildings.
So, I do this for a few months, and finally my
accommodations or rather I say, "We have got you set up!

You're ready to go, come with us, we're happy to
give you your accommodation, go down the hall!"

Now it's still a 1970's shag, busted up REO
Speedwagon 1970's piece of junk, but
it's suppose to be accessible.
It's a little bit bigger, and I go around the corner and I
see the same huge desk, but they put cinder blocks
under it for me.
And I'm not lying, that desk looked like I had parked it
in a bad neighborhood and just forgot about it.
So, you know, it's fine the first day.
I go and look at it and say, you know, "It's kind of junky,
but oh well, I got meetings."
Come in the next day, pull under it, hit it with
my chair and BAM it falls over.

I'm like, I'm not so sure that this is the
accommodation I was looking for.
So, I come in the next day and BAM it falls over.
So they finally say "Ok, well maybe we need to get you
something else, maybe this isn't working so great for you."
So they conduct a search of the entire SSA Complex
at the time and...
For any of you who have been there, you know how big
this complex is.
And they find one desk that is wheelchair
accessible that was apparently stored in the
dustiest room ever created on any planet.
But I didn't care, I fit under it, I'm good to go.

And I think you would all agree that's not really
that hard of an accommodation, getting a
desk high enough to go under.
But the time it took to get that was about six months.

So I think you can see the difference that some place
like the Target Center can make for employees.
Because the one thing that I didn't tell you, was that
basically I have enough plates, screws and metal on my back
to be pretty much qualified as a cyborg at this point.

So when I had to hunch over all day and keep that
keyboard in my lap and work that mouse, it really
caused me a lot of pain, you know just a LOT OF PAIN!

Did that go to a little bit of my production?
Maybe, I still think I was kicking butt, but I could have
kicked more butt, if it was accessible.

The reason I tell you that is because, telling you
what I told you before about where I had come from,
do you think I'm going to whoop and holler
and yell at my manager that I need accommodation

You think I'm going to risk my job going back to
mom and wife under the same roof-lands?
It ain't happening!
Woman gestures with her hands.
So now I want to you imagine if I had come to
a place like USDA that had some place like the Target
Center and they had addressed my needs right away.

How do you think that would have made me feel as an
employee coming to an agency?
What would I tell the other people in the disability
community about this place as an employer?
Woman gestures with her hands.
What do you think my likeliness would be to stay
here knowing that they had helped take care of me so well?
I think you can answer that those are all pretty
positive outcomes to providing accommodations.

And you know it really demonstrates I think to the
employees at USDA that USDA wants them to succeed
and be part of the efforts and really to level the
playing field for them where they can compete and can
you know, if a manager has a bad impression, really
show them what they can do once they have that
And I think leadership also has demonstrated their
commitment by finding people like D'Ann and Paul
and a lot of the other people you have working
here that this is really something important for them
and therefore they are putting quality staff to do it.

So I guess the last thought I'll leave you with is that
really in my belief the HR Managers put the "Welcome
Sign" on the door, but places like the Target Center
open it for you.

So "Happy Twentieth to the USDA Target Center" and
thank you so much for having me.