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Karen Gorr's Story Continued...

The fateful day for her very first job interview arrived. Karen had spent many hours in preparation. She knew she had to look neat, clean, and well-dressed – the standard for every working person. Her biggest concern was her speech. "Remember to talk slowly and enunciate each word slowly and clearly!" kept going through her mind as the appointed time for her meeting got closer.

Mr. Nerd arrived. She was introduced by the School's Director and was left in a large conference room. After answering several questions, Karen began to feel very confident and at ease with Mr. Nerd. It appeared to her that she probably had the job of teaching about ten Sioux Indian children in a one-room schoolhouse. She asked for a couple of days to think it over. He agreed, then he dropped the bomb on her.

"Miss Huffman, would you please walk around the room for me?" She was stunned. He repeated his request to which she replied, "I can hop like a bunny, too. Would you like to see me?" End of interview. End of Mr. Nerd.

The next interviewer was much kinder and more interested in her qualifications and abilities, rather than her disability. He hired her to set up a Special Education classroom in Parkston, South Dakota and teach five children with learning disabilities.

Karen taught for over twenty years. She also married and had a daughter of her own. Karen eventually decided to talk about her past and her years in the Institution for the Feebleminded. From that time on she has worked to improve the conditions and education offered in many state institutions. Karen also served as a consumer member on the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.

There was no independent living movement in place to provide advocacy and support for Karen. She, like many people with disabilities, was inappropriately placed in an institution, but Karen made it out.