Joyce Bender with children with disabilities in Indonesia
People with disabilities need paychecks, not pity
“I am on a crusade to find competitive employment for people living with disabilities. No matter where you live in the world, if you have a disability, you are my brother or my sister. Remember people with disabilities “Need Paychecks, not Pity.” Joyce Bender
Meet Joyce Bender, Disability rights champion. Change-maker. Business owner. Friend.
Joyce Bender is someone you need to know. I first met Joyce Bender in 2009 when I joined the Board of Directors for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). Joyce was a fellow Board member and also a mentor. Over the years we have worked together on many issues facing people with disabilities while serving on the AAPD Board. Joyce is a tour de force in the disability rights community and a successful business owner, Bender Consulting Services. She’s tenacious, persistent, and gets things done. Through her work on disability-serving Boards and through her business, she’s changed the lives of countless individuals and their families. I’m proud to call her a friend and a colleague.
I sat down with Joyce recently and asked her a few questions
~ Fred Maahs, Jr.
A few years ago you began the Bender Leadership Academy, tell us about it
The Bender Leadership Academy was started two years ago. It is a for-profit company where we teach high school students with disabilities about the world of work and how to deal with bullying. The academy is not yet offered internationally.
Bender Consulting Services is a for profit company with different lines of businesses which include Talent Programs, Strategic Planning, Digital Accessibility, Executive Search and our software product, iDisability.
How did you become interested in helping people with disabilities?
My first close interaction with a person with a disability was Jim Homme, a person who is blind and is today my employee. After meeting students like Jim at a Community College, I found out how terrible the unemployment rate was for people with disabilities and that started me on my current journey.
When did you first experience a tonic-clonic epileptic seizure, and how did you deal with it? How do you manage your Epilepsy now?
I did not know I had epilepsy until 1985 after an almost fatal accident. I did have “faints” off and on as I was growing up, but it was never diagnosed as epilepsy. Today, I am on a medication that pretty much controls my seizures.
You’ve managed to take your disability and show others that you can still live your life, go to college, and have a successful career. What advice would you give a young person who has a disability and may not realize the future can hold a lot for them.
Never lower the bar. Disability is just part of who you are. It does not define you. Disability is a culture, not a medical model.
You’ve traveled quite a bit as a person with a disability. What are some of your most memorable, or perhaps, most educational trips you’ve taken?
Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Panama and Kazakhstan, at the request of the US. State Department. The purpose of those trips, at the request of the country’s embassies, was to discuss the employment of people with disabilities. They were all wonderful and informative trips where I left wanting to take home everyone I met. I also am doing virtual presentations for Tunisia and Libya.
We believe that disability rights are human rights. In what ways should our government do more to help people with disabilities live more independently?
I wish the government would enforce Section 503 of the Rehab Act Prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Without employment, people with disabilities will never live the American dream. I also wish they would enforce Section 508 so all people would have access to websites.
When you’re not working to improve the lives of people with disabilities, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy cooking, gardening, reading and fly fishing. I also love bird watching.