ABILITY Magazine Loses One of Its Own
From one office to
another I ventured, poking my head through doorways and introducing myself
to the people I would spend the next six years working alongside at ABILITY
Magazine. With the introductory knowledge that more than 90 percent of
the staff possessed a disability of one type or another, I was a little
surprised at how typical everyone looked. While I certainly didnt
expect people to be wearing name tags that read bipolar disorder
or diabetes, with the exception of a writer who was deaf and
another who had Cerebral Palsy there was little to suggest that disabilities
were represented within the office.
Regardless, we were
a staff dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with all
types of physical, intellectual or mental health conditions. One way we
approached this topic in each issue was through the portrayals
of people achieving extraordinary and ordinary accomplishments. Knowing most of us encountered disability on a daily
basiswhether through interactions with other staff or our own experiencesone
might assume that we maintained the nearly saint-like attitude that all
people can do anything as long as they put their minds to it, right?
Well, I will only
speak for myself when I say: I tried. In reality, I succeeded frequently,
but also failed often. Everyday, I found my perceptions were challenged.
In many cases, they were perceptions I didnt even know I had. This
was especially true when I met a young man named Steve Mikailoglu, who
applied for the position of graphic-design intern.
For some reason, finding
an intern for that job always proved more difficult than one might expect.
The right applicant had to demonstrate a natural talent for design, a
gift for creating original art, and a knack for working dependably within
the tight deadlines synonymous with publishing. Candidates possessing
all those qualities were rare, to say the least.
It was in August of 2002 that Steve, a recent graduate of Platt College
in San Diego, California, applied for an internship. He arrived for his
interview right on time, his portfolio and his mother in tow. Only now
will I admit that as Steve entered the building, belted snugly into his
wheelchair, his head resting in a slightly tilted position, I immediately
questioned his capabilities. As I watched his mom fill out the application
for him, I wondered: How could a man who has quadriplegia, unable to complete
his own forms, meet the exhausting demands of a graphic-design internship?
Fortunately for Steve,
it was ABILITY Magazine and we were all eager to identify his skills and
levels of ability. Fortunately for me, it was ABILITY Magazine and I had
an opportunity to have my own horizons expanded and paradigms shifted.
Steve not only went on to prove himself one of the best interns our publication
has ever had, but at the end of his term, he secured one of the few, coveted
graphic-design posts. His God-given talent, keen eye for design and professionalism
had set him apart.
Steves sister, Selin Martin, remembers one evening she tried to
coax her brother away from an article he had taken home to illustrate.
Is it due tomorrow, she asked? No, he responded.
It isnt due for more than a week. Creating art was not
only Steves way of paying the bills, it was also his passion. I
never stopped being impressed by his talents and perseverance. In fact,
it sometimes became easy to forget the obstacles he faced in accomplishing
the simple tasks that many of us take for granted. Steve had become just
one of the team. More than a year after we met, he and I found ourselves
in the midst of the tedious stop-and-go traffic Los Angeles is so notorious
for. After wed exchanged the standard pleasantries, and Id
comically tried one too many times to pronounce his last name correctlyDont
even try it, youre already wrong!I finally inquired as to
what had caused his quadriplegia. Until that moment it was a question
that I politically correctly avoided. Steve shared with me
his diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of seven, and the subsequent
progression of his illness; he said it without a hint of self-pity. His
family recently shared that it was his fervent faith in God that gave
him such profound peace.
On March 3, 2007,
Steve passed away at the young age of 27, and the only suffering that
lingers is in the hearts of those of us he left behind. For Steve was
so much more than an example of what a person with a severe disability
can accomplish. Deeply loved and a cherished friend to many, including
the staff of this magazine and the nonprofit ABILITY Awareness, he was
a witty comedian, patient teacher, trustworthy confidant and supremely
generous soul. He was also a beloved son to Jirayr and Irma Mikailoglu,
brother to Selin Martin and her husband Jeff, and very proud uncle to
his brand-new nephew, Jacob Steve Martin.
Before he passed away, ABILITY Awareness was nearing the completion of
an ABILITY House for Selma Smith, a woman who has severe quadriplegia.
Steve volunteered many hours on her project, and eagerly anticipated the
day her fully accessible, barrier-free home would be dedicated, knowing
it represented the beginning of a new life rich in possibility. For those
at ABILITY Magazine and ABILITY Awareness, there is a perfect irony that
our colleague and friend left this world on the very day that Selma received
the keys to her brand new home. Though Steves life may be over,
his legacy is very much alive.
We miss you Steve, enjoy the chocolate.
by Romney Snyder
former Sr. Production Editor ABILITY Magazine
ABILITY Magazine has
created the Steve Mikailoglu Graphic Design Internship Award to be given
to qualifying graphic art students. For information e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 2007 Issue 2