When many hear the term diversity, they jump straight to the category of race or other cultural identifiers. However, many times we don’t think about those affected by physical disabilities.
I was fortunate to meet and spend an afternoon with Sena Pottackle, while I was volunteering at the PRSSA 2014 National Conference in Washington, D.C. Pottackle is a senior public relations major at Rowan University. She was diagnosed as legally blind at 16 years old due to Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. In honor of Diversity Month, she allowed me to interview her to find out more about her experiences.
VL: What was the experience like — going blind?
SP: I know that everyone has things that they struggle with and should be more compassionate towards others. A lot of time we hold it in and try to not let people see that we’re struggling. My suggestion — reach out to others. I hid it well, but it was difficult. I have an excellent support system.
VL: How did you decide you wanted to work in the public relations industry?
SP: I wanted to go to cooking school. But if I learned how to do a certain skill with vision, as my vision deteriorated, I wouldn’t be able to perform those skills anymore. My sister pointed out that I have a mouth, and I am great at communicating. No matter how much sight I lose, I will always have that skill.
VL: Do you think your condition affects your public relations skills?
SP: Since I am visually impaired, it requires me to look at the situation differently. I have a different perspective that I can offer potential employers or clients, because I look at things from a different angle. However, my one issue is with social media. These applications are not as accessible as I wish them to be. For example, sometimes not everything is read, and it’s hard to find something in a newsfeed if you can’t see it.
VL: What challenges does your condition create as an intern and young professional?
SP: I haven’t actually been able to intern. I’ve focused solely on school and PRaction, because I recognize that if I were to intern I would need a form of transportation, and that is clearly an obstacle. So I took full advantage of our student-run firm, and I’ve enjoyed the numerous opportunities it’s provided over the years. My friends don’t see me as a broken individual. They see me as someone who is capable of doing anything I want to, even at moments when I doubt it.
After graduating in the spring, Pottackle will take a year to attend the Louisiana Center in order to enhance her blindness skills, and become completely independent. Completing this program will allow her to attend her dream school — NYU — without needing assistance to travel by subway or attend events.
Victoria K. Lewis is the Chapter president of the Belmont PRSSA Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee, host of the upcoming NASHvantage Regional Conference. In addition to leading the Chapter, she is the executive director of Tower Creative Consultants, Belmont’s student-run firm. In her rare free time, you can find her consuming copious amounts of coffee and painting. You can follow her on Twitter @VictoriaKLewis or email her at email@example.com.