Photo by Tom Olin
Jennifer Sheehy looks as if she just rolled out of a makeover at Elizabeth Arden: makeup perfect, every hair in place. But there’s a core of capability under her preppie-girl veneer. Sheehy is one of the nation’s top experts on employment of people with disabilities, having served as senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities from January 2000 until August of this year. During that period she temporarily changed hats, taking on a nine-month detail as an advisor to the Domestic Policy Council in the executive office of the Bush administration. Simultaneously studied and casual, she projects power but tempers it with a subtle sense of humor. And her smile is disarming in Washington, D.C.–mostly because it’s real.
That smile might have abandoned her as a result of what happened on the weekend of July 4, 1994. “I was at a pool and fell in backwards at the shallow end. I was conscious of being under the water and knew I could not move. My date at the time brought my head above water and kept me in the pool until paramedics arrived,” she says.
She had graduated from Cornell University in 1984, had been marketing manager for the largest hotel in Washington, D.C., was working on her master’s in business administration and had recently landed a prestigious internship with Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. Now she was paralyzed at the C5-6 level. Ironically, she had a