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Ingrid's Story


By Nila Salgado, Harlem Independent Living Center (prdhilc@hilc.org)

Ingrid Jimenez is a 38-year old woman who was born in the Dominican Republic. Ingrid developed Maccum Albrights Disease at the age of 8 months. Maccum Albrights is a disease that affects the growth of the skeletal system. It causes bones to easily fracture and is most commonly seen in females.

Due to limited medical resources in the Dominican Republic at the time, Ingrid and her family moved to New York to be able to provide her with the medical care she required.

Lack of Communication

Ingrid spent her first three months in New York at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital after undergoing surgery. She had a rough time at the hospital due to the language barrier. At the time there were not many Spanish speaking nurses or doctors. Ingrid had to use gestures in order to communicate with the hospital staff.

Due to the frustration she felt about not being able to express herself verbally, she began to have behavioral problems at the hospital. Ingrid's behavioral problems ended after receiving tutoring from a Spanish speaking teacher. Ingrid learned English and began to communicate with her doctors and nurses. She also made friends with the other patients.

Difficult Integration in School

Ingrid went on to school where she attended special education classes. Although she made friends with other disabled students, the non-disabled children at school and her neighborhood did not accept her.

Ingrid had a difficult time during her younger years due to her disability and adjusting to a new culture. Ingrid's life changed during her high school years. Her disability was stabilized and she moved with her family to a new neighborhood in Queens, New York. She attended a school that was more accepting of her disability. Ingrid was integrated with non-disabled students who did not treat her differently because of her disability. While in high school, Ingrid overcame a few obstacles in her life such as learning how to drive and studying nursing.

Beginning to Work

After graduating from high school, Ingrid attended a business training school for disabled people where she majored in clerical and secretarial studies. During this time Ingrid also worked at a home health agency for nurses doing data entry. She later went on to work at the Harlem Independent Living Center as an Office Manager for about 4 years. While working at HILC she realized she was not alone and became sensitive to the needs of other disabled individuals. Ingrid learned how to advocate for herself. She moved into her own apartment and bought a car. She showed her family she could be an independent woman.

Fully Included

Ingrid stated she feels like "una mujer realizada" (a fulfilled woman). Ingrid currently assists elderly residents in her apartment complex as a translator at appointments and running errands. She's also self-employed creating decorations for parties and bridal showers.

Ingrid's Advice: "If you are a disabled person your life has not ended, it has just begun. Do for yourself."