By: USA Games Correspondent, Mike Gastineau
What if someone with an intellectual disability had their game changed to the point that they were able to change the game for others? Stay with me.
Anna Angrisano is developmentally delayed and has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. In 2005, she got a job at the Lake Hills Library in Bellevue, Washington, as a page assistant. She took advantage of a program offered by the King County Library System (KCLS) that created the page assistant job as a way to be inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities in their hiring procedures.
“The King County Library system worked with people in the community to develop the page assistant roles,” said Lake Hills Library Operations Supervisor Maya Gutierrez. “The jobs are flexible enough that they can be carved in different ways to fit the strengths of the individual skill sets of the people applying. We work with outside agencies who provide job coaches who have regular meetings with us to make sure everyone’s goals and expectations are being met.”
Anna’s job requires her to re-shelve books accurately, keep shelves and public areas neat and orderly, and assist in other ways. She took to the assignment and all these years later is a valued employee.
“I met Anna my first week as a new supervisor in a new building,” said KCLS operations manager and Anna’s former supervisor Norma Eades. “She told me everything I needed to know about Lake Hills, which was appropriate because she knows everything about how the library runs. She’s been a cheerful staple here for over 10 years.”
And that could be the end of this story. A nice program that promotes inclusive hiring practices to help people with intellectual disabilities get a good job.
A game changer.
Except, that’s not the end of the story.
In addition to performing her assigned duties, Anna has become an outspoken advocate to help ensure that King Country Libraries are being run in a way that is sensitive to people with intellectual disabilities.
According to Rebekah Caris of Puget Sound Personnel who serves as Anna’s job coach, Anna recently compiled a list of recommendations for how KCLS libraries could be more welcoming and inclusive places for people with disabilities. A meeting was called to review the list, which reflected her own personal experiences as well as those of her friends. The recommendations were forwarded to KCLS’ Serving Patrons with Special Needs Committee for consideration.
Debra Westwood is a regional manager for KCLS and said Anna made her think about the company’s hiring process.
“When we were preparing to hire a new operations supervisor for Lake Hills, I asked the staff for ideas about the skills and abilities they wanted to see in the new hire,” she said. “Anna was one of the first to reply. She asked me to make sure I found someone who knows how to work with special needs staff. That had not even occurred to me. We added a question on that topic to the interview and the different responses were illuminating.”
All of the women agree that one of Anna’s passions in her job is making everyone -- and particularly anyone with an intellectual disability -- feel welcome when they visit the library.
“She’s always coming to us in a very positive way with ideas on how we can be more inclusive,” said Gutierrez. “She’s welcoming to anyone who comes into the library. She’s very observant and reflective about how she acts and engages with others and she’s constantly looking for ways to improve herself and the workplace for everyone.”
It was Gutierrez who nominated Anna for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games #ImAGameChanger campaign.
The KCLS Page Assistant Program continues to thrive and that’s another area where Anna has contributed. “The growth of the program is due to the success of people like Anna who find a way to fit in and meet our business needs,” said Gutierrez.
“Bottom line is that Anna is a contributor,” said Westwood. “She doesn’t wait for the mountain to come to her, she goes to the mountain and tells it to move out of her way because she’s got a job to do!”
That’s right. She does have a job to do. A job that includes changing the game for people with intellectual disabilities.