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“You’re going to get denied sometimes and it’s very tough, but I just found the courage to educate employers whenever I could that, while I may have a disability, if they just give me a chance and give me the tools, I’ll do whatever I need to succeed in that job.”

Elizabeth Iarusci was born legally blind due to congenital cateracts in both eyes, along with Colobomas. Her right eye has no usable vision, while her left eye has difficulty with distance vision. “So reading street signs, whiteboards, even menus is really difficult for me.

“And job wise, I can’t apply to certain positions because my distance vision isn’t the greatest. And when I go in for interviews, I can tell when the interviewer is concerned about my eyes. So growing up it was very difficult. But growing up, I was a fearless. I was not afraid of anything. I’ve kept that with me my whole life.”

It’s that fearlessness and perseverance that’s given Elizabeth the drive to attend evening courses for herHuman Resource Management diploma at McMaster University, while working full time at the university as a Coordinator of Tests/Exams with Student Accessibility Services.

“What I love most about my job is seeing students with disabilities succeed. You want to support them and show the different departments that these people can do it. If you accommodate them, they will be successful. I always say, we’re not different, we just do things differently.”

This attitude is also what has seen her through a range of ups and downs, and as a result, a colourful career journey we can all learn from.

“In my last year of high school, I had to turn down a full time job offer from Home Hardware after I completed my co-op there. It was difficult, but I wanted to pursue a post secondary education. It also motivated me because they saw that I could do the job. They saw my abilities.

“So I later pursued a post secondary education to become an instructor of life skills for those with visual impairments. Out of that, I did two placements where I did assignments across Ontario and got a job with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

Years later though, Elizabeth decided to try a new challenge and go back to school in 2010. “It was something I was initially hesitant to do, afraid to do. But sometimes you just have to take a risk. It’s an appreciation of lifetime learning. Now I’m three courses away from completing my diploma in HR.”

When asked about what advice she has for students with disabilities who are looking to enter the workforce, Elizabeth answered, “From my experience, you should never shy away from applying to anything you feel qualified for. Keep putting your name out there. As long as you’re professional, and keep the focus on your abilities, eventually something will stick. Just believe in yourself!”

Photo: Bill_Pell/Thinkstock