What It’s Like As An Accessibility Intern in a VSFS VA Internship

Daniel Dames was interested in working with the State Department when he learned of the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) VA internship. Believing that the internship would allow him to make the connection to future government work, he applied and became an intern in the accessibility department. 

Most of the documents or items that appear on VA platforms are written assuming people can utilize them without issue. However, for viewers with hearing loss, blindness, artificial limbs, and other disabilities, accessing these items can be a challenge. Accessibility’s job is to convert items like the VA newsletter or a speech from a department event into a disability-accessible form.

Though Daniel had no prior experience with accessibility, he wanted to try something new and was willing to learn. As an accessibility intern, he learned how to utilize accessibility software like Adobe Acrobat DC and CommonLook to edit documents to fit disability standards. He also discovered what the Rehabilitation Act entails and how accessibility works within its confines. When he became co-department head, Daniel additionally learned how to remediate work, which is what accessibility uses to ensure items follow the Rehabilitation Act standards. And now as the department’s executive leader, Daniel works in item coordination and the creation of more accessible materials with another co-department head. 

One of the most important things Daniel has learned in the internship is how to adapt to changes in work. The accessibility department is always looking for new resources to help special needs viewers, and being flexible is an important part of this process. Accessibility also usually works with requests from other departments, so Daniel had to learn how to be ready for the unexpected. 

The VSFS VA internship has also taught Daniel two important lessons he applies to his student life: effective communication and scheduling work time. When he was the co-department head, he acted as the mediator between interns and upper levels of leadership. To relay information between the levels and communicate with Veteran organizations, Daniel had to be able to explain procedures and ascertain needs from outside the workplace. He also credits the virtual component of the internship with allowing him to learn how to schedule work time. 

His advice to future interns? “Be willing to learn. You won’t know how to do things immediately, but you will learn. Your DHs and ELT will help with the process.” 

Editor: Elissa Tatum

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