CIL Employee Spotlight: Eric J. Orr with CILO

Eric J. Orr, Center for Independent Living Opportunities

Hello my name is Eric J. Orr and I am the I&R and Advocacy Coordinator for the Center for Independent Living Opportunities (CILO) in York Pennsylvania. My entry on my current career path I can only describe as a “Happy Accident.” Originally I had plans on becoming Graphic Designer/ Commercial Artist, after attending Bradley Academy School for the Visual Arts and graduating in 1998. I ran into difficulties finding employment in my area due to lack of reliable transportation. After trying to do freelance work from home whenever available I decided to return to school for Computer Networking and PC repair thinking if I broaden my scope and skill set that would make me even more employable, yet and still I ran into the same difficulties.  My final semester at York Technical Institute I obtained a paid internship which I hoped would lead to a full time position. Even though that didn’t pan out the way I hoped I still pushed forward.

After freelancing in Graphic Design, Photography and PC Repair to try to make ends meet I decided to expand my employment search again. I heard about a position at an agency called Typical Life that had a day program called “Images” which was a fitness based program that emphasized healthy lifestyle choices for Individuals with Disabilities. I worked in the gym helping consumers work on their fitness goals. This was the first time that I had worked or interacted with Individuals with Disabilities other than myself who had challenges I never even considered. Being born with Cerebral Palsy myself I had some ideal of the difficulties of living with a disability but it wasn’t until I met a consumer who was deaf-blind, that I gained a new insight on just how challenging living with a disability could be.

I worked at Images gym for about two years when I received a letter in the mail the from the Social Security Administration stating that I had earned more than the SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) limit allowed at the time and I got overpaid for the past two months which would have to be repaid. So as you could imagine this was a crossroads for me. I had to decide whether I wanted to work full-time and let the SSI go or quit working altogether. During my time working at Images I tried to walk the tightrope of working and not going over the SGA. Adjusting schedules calling off to try to make sure I don’t go over. The one thing I couldn’t get around was the months that had three pay periods. So reluctantly I had to let that job go so I could keep my medical benefits.

A little after I stopped working at Images I began having issues with my power chair and I was having some difficulties with insurances, doctors getting scripts and trying to figure out who was going to cover the other 20% that Medicare wasn’t.

Enter the Center for Independent Living Opportunities….. For years I heard about the Center for Independent from a friend of mine Mike Rhine who sits on the board of Directors of our CIL in York. He would always say to me…. You should come join us!!  And when I would ask well what do y’all do? He’d say advocate for the rights of the disabled. And I would be like sure Mike I’ll come check y’all out eventually. So with my current situation what it was… I figured no time like the present to take Mike’s suggestion.

I called to setup up a time to come in and talk with someone. When I got to the office I met with Hillary Hasson and explained my situation. She went over the options that were available and asked if I would consider serving as a board member. I graciously declined the offer, as I explained to her I was looking for full-time employment and I didn’t want to commit to anything that I would have leave later. Even though I couldn’t commit to serving on the Board of Directors I just so happened to have a copy of my resume with me and I asked her to pass it along if she knew of anyone in need of my services.  The rest as they say is history…..

About Eric:

I’ve been working at the CIL since January of 2008.

Hobbies include: Photography, Anime, Drawing, Painting, Computers and other basic nerd stuff.

Favorite Quote: “You can’t legislate good will – that comes through education.” ElHajj Malik ElShabazz (Malcolm X)