published Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Speakers with disabilities share stories with Chattanooga Mayor's Council for Disability Concerns

Nathan Dale talks about issues he faced returning to civilian life with post traumatic stress disorder after serving four years in the Marine Corps.
Nathan Dale talks about issues he faced returning to civilian life with post traumatic stress disorder after serving four years in the Marine Corps.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
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  • photo
    Nathan Dale now a UTC student answers questions posed to him about his struggles returning to civilian life after spending four years in the Marine Core during the office of Multicultural Affairs' meeting of the Mayor's Council on Disability. Dale said that oftentimes it is harder to find employment as a veteran who saw combat because civilians have poor understanding of what PTSD actually does to a person.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    Chuck Ayars answers questions about his struggles overcoming the serious brain injury he suffered from a car bomb while serving as a United States Army infantryman in Iraq during the office of Multicultural Affairs' meeting of the Mayor's Council on Disability. Ayars along with former Marine Nathan Dale agreed that it is often harder for military persons who saw combat to find jobs in comparison to those who did not because of the public's misunderstanding about what PTSD actually does.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Terry Trecartin slammed his bicycle into a car riding down Suck Creek Mountain and lost the use of his legs.

He now scuba dives, rock climbs and paddles a kayak.

Chuck Ayars went to a vet center for counseling after his Iraq war trauma.

He now counsels fellow combat veterans.

Joan Guy was blinded shortly after birth by improper incubator oxygen levels.

She starts a graduate program in January, training to help rehabilitate others with disabilities.

The three were among the speakers Monday at a meeting of the Chattanooga Mayor's Council for Disability Concerns. The speakers came to the meeting at Eastgate Town Center by invitation to mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Allison Messier, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student representative, said having those with disabilities share their stories helps listeners see the disabled differently, especially when the stories illustrate how people overcome difficulties.

"It's more personable, we can open up to each other," she said.

Messier knows from personal experience; she's a little person.

One thing she said she'd like to see is groups of employers hear from the disabled.

Though the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against the disabled, Messier said much of the discrimination can be unseen.

Some of the two dozen people present at Monday's meeting asked the speakers how they deal with discrimination when applying for work.

Nathan Dale was fired for drug and alcohol abuse on the job, his way of self-medicating his combat trauma from serving in Iraq.

He said he may not list that he was a combat veteran on a job application because some employers will automatically stigmatize him, assuming he's a "crazy vet."

Trecartin said he doesn't write that he's in a wheelchair on his resume.

"When I come in for an interview, we'll talk about it," he said.

Denise Carlson fought mental illness for 40 years and now finds housing for those with similar challenges.

She said many in the general public are not educated on disabilities, especially mental health concerns.

"You have to see us, we're just people like anybody else," she said.

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about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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