[nfbwatlk] FW: [List] Article about forensics analyst at the FBI
k7uij at panix.com
Sat Aug 13 04:35:15 UTC 2011
From: list-bounces at cfb.ca [mailto:list-bounces at cfb.ca] On Behalf Of Gail
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2011 8:42 PM
To: list at cfb.ca
Subject: [List] Article about forensics analyst at the FBI
At the NFB convention in July, the FBI was recruiting for new employees. Today, I came across this article about a young woman who is blind, and works as a forensics analyst at the FBI.
Blind West High grad speaks at White House
BY ANNIE CALOVICH
The Wichita Eagle
Sighted people may not think they understand Alysha Jeans, blind from birth, but she seems to understand them all right. Jeans, a 2006 West High School graduate, got to speak at the White House last month at a celebration marking the 21st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. She followed Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Tina Tchen, chief of staff for the first lady. And she told the audience of government officials and interns that there is a tremendous depth to people that doesn't always meet the eye.
"I'm totally blind. I was born blind. And I said that I think a lot of people have never even met a person with a disability or interacted with them, so they don't understand the capabilities," Jeans said in a phone call from her home in Vienna, Va., recalling her speech.
She is 23 years old and one year into a job with the FBI in Quantico, Va., working in forensic audio analysis.
"People rely on their vision so much they can't imagine what they would do without it," she said. "People have low expectations (of the blind), which is kind of unfortunate.
"No matter what other people might expect from me, it's important to maintain high expectations for yourself and demonstrate confidence and demonstrate that you're able to make contributions to the work force."
After the speech, Lynnae Ruttledge, commissioner for the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education, called Jeans "a rock star."
Back in Wichita, her dad, Richard, said that she has always been driven.
Said Alysha simply: "I do what I want to do."
Among the things that she's done: earned a degree in electrical engineering from Rice University in Houston — farther from home than her parents wanted her to go — and served two internships at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Now she owns a condo in Virginia.
"She has always been very independent," her father said. "She doesn't want to do something just to get a grade or just to get by. She wants to really, really understand and be involved with understanding and doing the job the right way."
It seemingly has always been that way for her.
Alysha, cheerful and quick to laugh, was born in Montana, and her dad tells the story of taking her outside to experience her first snow after she had just learned to walk. She was toddling along a downward slope when she fell. Her mother rushed to help her but she pushed her mom away, insisting on navigating her way to the bottom of the hill.
"My parents have always been a really positive force in my life," Alysha said, "and they expected me to do things and not to let blindness stand in my way and to be successful. I took it to heart."
The Jeanses moved to Wichita when Alysha was 3, where she took part in programs run by Envision, a nonprofit organization that helps the blind and visually impaired to be independent.
"This gal is amazing," said Mary Shannon, president of the Envision Foundation. "When someone is so talented she gets what she needs to be independent."
Jeans later served as a mentor at Envision's assistive technology camp.
Technology has helped blind people a great deal, but not all blind children have access to it or training in it, especially if they live in rural areas, Jeans said. The Envision program gives camp participants their own laptop with the assistive technology they need.
"She's really embraced assistive technology, and when things were not available she sought them out," Shannon said. "That's of utmost importance."
Technology aides that Jeans uses include a bar-code reader that scans boxes and cans to identify their contents. Her iPhone has a $2 app that reads money when she holds it up to the camera.
"There's all sorts of stuff along those lines," Jeans said.
The main challenge.
When Alysha graduated from West High School, she was considered one of Wichita's rising stars from the class of 2006.
She was determined to go to Rice and challenged herself in her sophomore year to live off-campus. She's also taken off on many adventures, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and skydiving.
Whether a person is blind, deaf or in a wheelchair, Jeans said, the biggest challenge he or she will face won't be the disability itself. That is mainly an inconvenience, she said.
"Really, the main challenge for people with disabilities is people's misconceptions about them," she said.
"It's important for people to keep an open mind when dealing with people who have disabilities or people who are blind. Even if you don't know how they can navigate or cross the street themselves, don't assume they can't. If people need help they usually ask for it.
"I think people mean well. They just don't know."
When people meet someone who is blind, Jeans said, they should make it clear that they are addressing that person, using his or her name if they know it. Just saying "hi" isn't always enough if there are other people around.
"When it comes right down to it, people don't have to worry about saying the wrong thing or being politically correct," Jeans said. "Be natural."
Jeans won't say it's been hard adjusting to life in Virginia — she's used to living away from home. The only downer she'll admit to is that there isn't public transportation in her town, so she has to be creative about getting around, though she can walk some places and carpools to work.
And the air conditioning went out in her condo last week.
But she got good news as well: The FBI will pay for Jeans to work on her master's degree in electrical engineering starting this fall while she works full time.
"That's something I really hoped to do," she said.
Said her father: "We just kind of are resigned to the fact that she's going to follow her heart, and we're just going to have to put up with the fact that who knows where she'll go next."
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