Never Backing Down

Joshua Williams is undaunted by challenges. As someone who, because of his cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment, has required full care since infancy, he knows a few things about facing adversity. Being an individual who requires someone to shower, dress and transport him, as well as assist him with accommodations regarding studying, reading, writing and typing (among many other activities), he wholeheartedly appreciates the assistance and wants to make the most of his talents. He wants to give back and contribute to society.

But the road has been long, one with many winding turns.  For instance, upon entering elementary school, he was placed in a self- contained classroom due to others’ misconceptions about his abilities. In this isolated setting, he received no classes in basic math, reading or writing. This would  play a role, he said, in his becoming an auditory learner. It was only later, while a high school student, that Joshua realized he could accomplish more than what his special education teachers expected. As a result, he decided to pursue a traditional (rather than special education) diploma.

After encountering some resistance, he was placed in classes with his peers. Joshua responded by passing every subject.  (Here, and in his future classes, he required extra time to take tests, as well as studying and reading assistance at home). But, even with supports, he was still unable to pass the reading and mathematical parts of the exit exam. Not even retaking the test yielded positive results.  It was only after Joshua persuaded a state legislator to become involved and remove this test-taking criteria, that he received his high school diploma.  

Following high school graduation, Joshua applied to college.  It was at this time that GVRA entered the picture.   The agency, with Lisa A. Jones, CRC, serving as his counselor, began to assist this young man in his efforts to find gainful employment. Services included postsecondary training assistance, counseling and guidance, job search, job placement and job follow-up.

Even with VR’s aid, Joshua encountered difficulties.  At East Georgia College, the first post-secondary institution he attended, difficulties such as where to sit in the classroom needed attention. Joshua also required extra time to take tests and, as previously mentioned, additional assistance at home to deal with his disabilities.

When it comes to completing school work, Joshua has always had to explore creative options. He completes his assignments on the computer. When it comes time to take tests, he is orally tested or takes quizzes on the computer.  Helping him in his endeavors are his mother Mitzi, and his staff of 3 assistants. They work with him from 7:45 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. every day. His staff assists Joshua in his activities of daily living and in his academic pursuits. This includes going to classes with him, sitting behind him and taking notes for him.

Currently, Joshua is attending Georgia Southern University, majoring in interdisciplinary studies. He is on track to graduate in the spring of 2020.  His counselor Lisa views him as “a strong advocate for himself” and other people with disabilities, he would like to work at Georgia Southern in the student disability office supporting new students in their college experience.  He can foresee a long future there, as he intends to help many students with challenges like those he faced.  Besides this, he is even considering going on the radio, speaking about his life.

Concerning his sentiments about GVRA, Joshua exclaimed that Lisa, his counselor, was “wonderful.” Mentioning that she has worked with him since he became a VR client, Joshua pointed out that she “always lets me talk,” something he appreciates very much. Joshua feels very fortunate to have the agency work with him, he said, and he would gladly recommend GVRA to anyone with a disability who has the desire to work.