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Society for Technical Communication
Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC
Professional Development

Joan Bova Wows Disability Awareness Workshop

STC Chapter Members Stretch Horizons With an
Acclaimed and Unforgettable Mentor

Ever walk to the outer edge of your personal comfort zone? Ever been engaged at a fundamental human level? Ever had a professional growth experience you are not likely to forget?

STC Orlando Chapter members who attended the March 2001 chapter meeting at the Winter Park Civic Center (6:30 social, 7:00 program) were the beneficiaries of an enlightening and inspiring workshop.

Our chapter had the good fortune to book the dynamic, irrepressible, and utterly unforgettable Joan Bova—a nationally recognized disabilities advocate and co-owner and director of Action Disability Advocates, Inc., based in Apopka and Ormond Beach—to conduct a workshop on disability awareness in the workplace.

From the moment we saw Joan, who has overcome a severe and visible mobility restriction to pursue a highly successful career and a visionary mission, we knew this was not going to be another one of those “snore-your-way-through, check-the-box” professional development sessions.

We were right.

Somehow, in the 90 minutes allotted her, Joan not only coached us as professionals on how best to interact with colleagues in the workplace who have disabilities (including valuable, practical, specific suggestions based on her own personal experience), she also engaged us on a more fundamental level as human beings.

I won’t tell you exactly how she did that, because I don’t want to steal her thunder if you ever get the opportunity to participate in one of her workshops—an opportunity which I urge you to take if it comes up.

Let me simply provide this testimonial: when I first laid eyes on Joan, I am ashamed to admit I immediately experienced that familiar old pit in the stomach, the uncomfortable feeling one gets when in the close presence of somebody who has a severe and noticeable disability.

Ninety minutes later I was among several lingerers chatting animatedly after the workshop exchanging war stories with a fellow professional—one who happened to be in a wheelchair and who looked a little different from the rest of us. That didn’t matter any more. Gone was the pit in my stomach. In its place was a feeling of empowerment, of liberation from four decades of discomfort and emotional “baggage” which I suspect many of us carry when it comes to relating to people with disabilities.

Joan would probably still be talking to us if the custodian hadn’t come by to put the lights out. She finally took the hint, motored her way in her wheelchair to her custom van—which includes low-level buttons near the tail light to activate the automated wheelchair lift—and, before taking off, gave me a quick demo on the buttons.

Cool lady. Great evening. One we won’t soon forget.

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