In July of 2016, Naomi Vervaart joined Nyenrode through Emma at Work, an employment agency that helps young people with disabilities finding a suitable job. After two years, the program advisor signed a permanent contract: “I want to fully participate in society, so that really was a personal victory”.
Naomi was born with an hereditary spastic paraparesis, which is an inherited movement disorder. Naomi speaks openly about her disability, because as she likes to phrase it: “Naomi is just Naomi, don’t let my disability be a taboo. I am more than happy to tell people all about it.”
Now Naomi is a grown woman with a very active and above all independent life. Through the years, the wheelchair has become part of her life and small adjustments, such as the zipper on the side of her jeans, adjusted shoes and a vacation home through National Association ‘de Zonnebloem’ (Nationale Vereniging de Zonnebloem), help make Naomi’s life easier.
Naomi is very content with her employer. “I have had to prove myself many times, but at Nyenrode I was instantly appreciated as a person. Nyenrode does not look at my wheelchair as a limitation. I am valued for my qualities, just like anybody else. We are one Nyenrode.” A few adjustments, such as a height-adjustable desk, a wheelchair accessible toilet and an elevator, give Naomi the freedom to do her work her way.
Naomi is highly motivated to fully participate and to leave her physical disability behind. “It feels uncomfortable when there is something that makes me ‘different’ from other colleagues. Arranging support often takes more time and can only be taken care of during office hours.”
To get to her desk at Nyenrode, Naomi drives to work in her Canta, a so-called Handicap Car (45 MPH car), every day. Through the years, she has driven many miles. “It brings me so much joy! Freedom and independence. If it weren’t for my Canta, I wouldn’t be getting out of the house as easily.” Luckily Naomi was informed this summer that she will receive a new Canta to keep taking her safely to her work, physiotherapist and hospital appointments. On Nyenrode’s premises Naomi is able to park in a disabled parking space, so that she can literally roll to her desk.
Positivity is written in caps in the dictionary of this teacher of Dutch Sign Language. Naomi likes to think in possibilities and loves giving advice about studying with a disability in her current role as program advisor. “Don’t let your disability define you”, she says. “If you want to study at Nyenrode, just go for it.”
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