|As a graduating senior at the University of Miami studying Community and Applied Psychological Studies, we are required to complete a practicum at a non-profit organization, and I was lucky enough to get into contact with Disability Independence Group. I chose to work with DIG because throughout my high school and college career I have been involved in organizations like Special Olympics and the Martin Richard’s Foundation to advocate for inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in recreational sports. However, I have only worked at the individual level of advocacy. DIG does a lot of large-scale policy work that I wanted to get some experience with.
With the limited time I had to complete my hours while still learning, I have learned an immense amount about disability rights, networking, and nonprofits in general. I have many deliverables from working with DIG because they have truly allowed me to be part of their team. I have contributed to the monthly newsletters, assisted with the Wallet Card Project, helped with the Enable Project Trainings, organized Supper Social Club, helped create the iPad Manual for Accessibility features for the Miami Inclusion Alliance, and so much more.
My time at DIG has opened my eyes to all of the difficulties individuals with disabilities face in their daily lives that are typically looked over by people who do not have disabilities. From no curb openings in the sidewalk, to adding alternate texts for images, to closed captioning, even to the use of appropriate fonts and text color, all of which are quick, easy steps society could make to ease some of the barriers people with disabilities have to face yet they are often skipped over. Disabilities are often an afterthought in our society because we are not educated on these difficulties or how to avoid them. Another lesson I learned was that it is one thing to learn about these theories and topics and it is a whole other thing to enact it in the real world. Learning about funding is one thing, but you do not realize how difficult this is until you enact it in a real-world setting. There is a lot more that goes into grants and fundraising than we are taught in the classroom because there are real-life barriers that cannot be accounted for. My experience at DIG helped me learn more about my whole major than the classes have because I was applying the concepts that we were learning.
I learned a lot about myself while working with DIG. I learned that I work well on a collaborative team. I was also proud of myself for contributing and sharing my ideas with the organization. As an intern, I would not typically have a high status in the organization, but with the help of my supportive coworkers, I felt comfortable sharing my viewpoint on projects we were conducting, and my coworkers valued my thoughts. It has been a transformative experience for me, and I just want to thank everyone at Disability Independence Group for making this such an enriching practicum experience. Special shoutout to Debbie and Justine for being there every step of the way and supporting me in my practicum experience; you guys truly made the experience as amazing as it was for me, and I cannot be more thankful! Check out my poster presentation that I made summarizing my experience at DIG, what I worked on, and the lessons I have learned!