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Despite disabilities, Zerena Arvie has a vision for the future

By DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / October 12, 1998

Zerena Arvie of LaPlace has a vision for the future. She wants what anyother 28-year-old woman dreams about – a college education, a family, a home of her own, a job. Most of all, a job.Zerena has computer skills. She worked for a doctor’s office in BatonRouge while finishing her education in 1992. Since then, she’s beenunemployed.

Zerena Arvie was born with arthrogryposis. She has no muscles in herarms and legs. She was also born deaf.But Zerena feels she is fortunate to have a family that gives her so much love and support.

With the help of her parents, Yvonne and Carold Arvie, and her older sister, Zelda, Zerena has been able to overcome some of the obstacles produced by her disabilities.

Since Zerena’s diagnosis of arthrogryposis, Yvonne Arvie has spent hour after hour, day after day, year after year, working with her child with infinite patience, teaching Zerena the skills she would need to become a productive member of society.

When Zerena began attending the Louisiana State School for the Deaf in Baton Rouge when she was 6, the Arvies worked on the weekends to reinforce the education Zerena received during the week.

Today Zerena is confined to a wheelchair. She can read lips and sheunderstands sign language. She uses her mouth to do the things others usetheir arms and hands to accomplish. She communicates her ideas bywriting with a pen in her mouth.

She also uses her mouth to operate a computer and to paint with colored markers, a hobby that has filled some of her spare time since she finished school.

“Zerena is a source of inspiration to everyone who knows her,” says Darla Edwards of Betr-Care, a company that provides attendant and respite services to people with developmental disabilities and their families.

“Her disposition is the most pleasant I have ever seen.”Yvonne Arvie would like to see her daughter succeed at her dream of getting a job and making a difference in her community.

The only problem is there is no public transportation in LaPlace and the Arvies cannot afford to buy a special van to transport Zerena and her electric wheelchair back and forth to the workplace.

Edwards hopes the community will be willing to help Zerena, both in the purchase of a van and in her quest for a job.

“She is physically dependent but has no mental impairment. She knowshow to use a computer. She has experience. She would like to pull her ownweight if given the opportunity,” Edwards says.

Edwards says an account has been opened at the Bank of LaPlace for anyone who may like to contribute toward the purchase of a van.

“We don’t want anything fancy,” she says. “We’d just like to get a goodused van with air conditioning.”Edwards says after that hurdle is cleared, the job search can begin.

“I don’t know how far down the road she’ll be able to get a job, but I’m hoping someone in the community will hire her,” Edwards says. “Zerenacan do anything we can do. She just needs the opportunity.”

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