Indian American legally blind student to address forum at Carnegie Hall

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Sena Pottackel. Photo: NYU.

Sena Pottackel, an Indian American student in the NYU School of Professional Studies MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, will take to the stage at Carnegie Hall, on September 20, 2019, to address the audience at the PR Council’s “Critical Issues of the Modern Workforce Forum.”

Her presentation, “Badass Blind Girl Doing Good Through PR,” will share her life’s journey and the importance of creating disability inclusive workplaces.

Born in the US to parents from India, Pottackal was diagnosed as a teenager with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease. She was legally blind by age 16—seeing only blurry shapes, color, and light. Reluctant to seek help, she struggled academically, but once she started using adaptive technology such as screen readers and audio books, she excelled.

Determined to thrive despite her deteriorating eyesight, in addition to her years of undergraduate and graduate studies, Pottackal obtained training at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), where she served as the CCB Student Association president and mentored blind youth—an experience that has deepened her drive to help other disabled individuals achieve their personal and professional goals.

Today, this accomplished 30-year-old seeks to use the public relations skills she has acquired to create awareness and opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace, so that others experiencing similar challenges will face less obstacles on their path to professional fulfillment, according to a press release.

Currently an NBC Universal diversity and inclusion intern, Pottackal, who will graduate in December, has fully utilized the opportunities provided at NYUSPS. Recently, she presented at the NYU United Arab Emirates (UAE) Education Ambassador’s Program on how to create a disability inclusive learning environment.

Last year, she completed the NYU Social Sector Leadership Diversity Fellowship; served as the NYU student senator at-large for disabled students; and lobbied for disability rights on Capitol Hill with the National Federation of the Blind. She won the 2018 American Association of People with Disabilities NBC Universal Media Scholarship and the 2019 New York Women in Communications Interpublic Group Scholarship and Internship at Weber Shandwick.

Pottackal’s blurry eyesight has given her a clear vision for her future. After completing her degree, she plans to continue advocating for disability rights. She eventually hopes to start a company that will provide PR and communications services, proactively recruit employees with disabilities, and allocate a portion of its profits to fund scholarships for communications students with disabilities.

“I am determined to do more with my life than just make money,” she asserts. “I want to use strategic communications and social entrepreneurship to remove existing artificial barriers to disability inclusion, and to consequently empower individuals with disabilities to forge their dreams into reality.”

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