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…..
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.” El–Hajj Malik El–Shabazz (Malcolm X)