Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Daughter motivates mom to become entrepeneur

Sara and Debra Ruh

Inspired by her daughter Sara's desire to have meaningful work, Debra Ruh, 49, decided that more companies should offer opportunities to disabled people like Sara, who has Down syndrome. She quit her lucrative career as a bank executive specializing in information technology and in 2001 founded TecAccess, a firm that provides IT consulting and training to corporations as well as government and educational institutions, WashingtonPost.com reports.

"What I needed to do is to create a business that hires people with disabilities and sees how creative and innovative they are...You already have to think outside the box if you have a disability because the world is made for the average person," said Ruh. "My senior vice president of government affairs is 3'11"...She has an amazing background and has been a presidential appointee but she's had to be creative and innovative."

The Virginia-based company has about 60 full-time and contracted employees, most of whom have developmental or physical disabilities ranging from bipolar disorder, blindness, brain injury or cerebral palsy to quadriplegia. It works primarily large clients who have more positions to fill.

For example, Canon hired TecAccess to test the accessibility of its Web site for its blind customers.

"Best Buy came to us and said we want to make sure that if someone wants to purchase anything from us online, they can," added Ruh. "Regardless of whether they can't see, can't use hands or have another disability."

As for her daughter Sara, 21, after working a stint at Nordstrom's, she came into the family business; for the last two years, she has worked at TecAccess as an advocate of her disabled peers.