In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022, members of our Self-Advocate Council are sharing a glimpse into their work journeys and what NDEAM means to them!
As someone who is disabled and employed NDEAM is important to me because being employed has given me a sense of empowerment in my life. I make my own money so I can take care of myself. No one gets to decide what I do with it and no one has to take care of me. I personally feel more independent. Knowing that in history people like me couldn’t work because people discriminated against them, I feel even more empowered. Those people walked so I could run. I work with an organization where I am either accommodated or able to make accommodations myself. I am able to move about the world as I desire and that’s due in large part to me having a career. Working wasn’t always easy. I didn’t get my first job until I was in college. I was not the high school student who worked fast food or as a waitress. The very idea made me anxious. I was always scared I’d mess up and get fired anyway. In college, I mostly worked customer service jobs in the School of Business and Residential Life and Housing. During my junior year of college, I had an internship with a Fortune 500 organization. I could tell that I stood out from my peers, but not for the good reasons I’d hoped. My struggles with social cues and engagement were exposed quite early. By the end of the internship, I wasn’t extended an offer. Given that it was a leadership internship, I had not showcased the desired leadership skills like I’d hoped. Since I was pursuing a business degree in college, I was so scared that I would never be able to get a job because I was too awkward, too disabled. When I returned for my senior year, a mentor connected me with his organization which is where I currently work. They see me as a leader and I have been able to carve out a comfortable career path. I have amazing coworkers who have supported me and included me in work. So, for me, NDEAM means that I am not “too disabled” to work. There are spaces out there for me that have a host of opportunities and options. I am not limited to what I can do. I am perfectly capable of figuring things out, taking care of myself, handling money, and all the other things that having a job means. Disabled people need fulfilling work just like anybody else. I’m glad I am fortunate to have a job to go to every day.