(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)
The first time I met Martin he was hunched over his desk; his neck was strained and his glassy blue eyes slowly scanned the word document on his computer screen that was set to negative and zoomed in 500%. He was introduced to us as CCLS’s grant writer, and he explained that he had trouble seeing and would really benefit from intern help this summer.
He first approached Emma and I with New York Times articles and asked us to use them to respond to questions on a grant update form. After finishing my response, he had me take the chair in front of his computer and he sat to the side. I read to him what I had written and he closed his eyes, placing his hands over them as I read. As I continued to work with him, I became his go-to person when he needed help with a grant application. Martin’s brain compensated for what his eyes were unable to do, and he was able to visualize the document, and would tell me where to take out a sentence and where to add something, knowing exactly what he wanted to say and how to craft the application powerfully and concisely.
Even when I did simple tasks like composing an email for him while he dictated, he was thrilled by how quickly I was able to do tasks on the computer. Once he even asked me to look out the window for him to see whether or not it was raining. Many times he expressed his gratitude towards me, which seemed silly because the tasks were so simple to me, but I realized how necessary I was for CCLS to utilize Martin’s knowledge and experience. Furthermore, I realized how especially lucky Martin was to have CCLS as an employer. While he may not be able to retain any other job with his disability, CCLS recognizes his strengths and provides him with software to be able to complete his job, even if it isn’t quite as fast as someone else might be able to.
Working with Martin, not only did I learn a lot about successful and impactful grant writing, but I also learned the most about CCLS and its programs through the work I did for him. Even though sometimes my tasks were as simple as typing while he dictated, I realized my job was necessary because Martin’s job is one of CCLS’s most important; when he cannot complete a grant on his own, tasks often get divided up amongst other employees who are already overworked and are unable to prioritize them. Seventy-two percent of CCLS’s expenses are funded by grants, and without them CCLS would not be able to function in the capacity that it does today.