Impact Feature Issue on Employment and Women With Disabilities

What Work Means to Me:
Some Thoughts From Women With Disabilities

What does having a job mean in the lives of women with disabilities? We asked 10 women with disabilities who work in a range of jobs common to many communities to talk about why their work is important to them. Below are their responses.

  • I work so I can be independent, and live by myself, and show others that I can do it. I want to pay taxes and contribute to my country. My job is also important to me because I make money and can buy groceries, and I enjoy being a part of a social group with my co-workers, who I can talk to. I like to learn new skills and working helps me do this.- Desirae, Busser at Perkins Restaurant
  • As a woman with a disability, my job is important to me. I am happy and proud to say I have been gainfully employed for 19 years. In 1989, I became employed with Arthur Andersen accounting firm as an accounting clerk. This was my first job out of high school. Needless to say, I was very excited. In April of 1998 I found out that my job was going to be outsourced and I would no longer have a job. I knew that I couldn't be without a job. I got connected with Access to Employment and started job searching again. After a few interviews and disappointments, I got another job with a law firm as an accounting file clerk. Today, I am still employed there. I was promoted to accounts receivable assistant in 2003. Growing up with cerebral palsy I thought I wouldn't be able to hold down a "real" job. I knew that having a disability was a challenge unto itself. I thought I would be doing "piece mail" type work. Little did I know that Icanhold down a real job - for 19 years!- Amy, Accounts Receivable Assistant, Law Firm
  • In our society, we identify ourselves in many ways. One way is the work we do. People often ask what do you do on your job? This gives us a sense of importance and belonging. To me, I fall into this group. But I also have a job working with people with disabilities. I assess and train individuals on assistive technology and computer usage. This gives me a sense of giving back to the community. Additionally, I pride myself in being able to be completely financially independent.- Jeni, Lead Assistive Technology Specialist, Courage Center
  • I am the very first contact people have with our law firm! I could "make" or "break" a (potentially) new client's first impression! My position here may not be what I had in mind while I was in college working towards my BSW degree and my Psychology minor, but I have met some amazing/fascinating people here who have been very good to me! It feels good to accomplish something at the end of each day, to have been able to help others get the help they need. I perform a wide variety of tasks throughout the day, assisting with anything from paralegal projects, to marketing projects, to answering the firm's switchboard. My peers have accepted me and my service dogs with open arms and don't see me any differently than they do any other one of their peers. I may not be utilizing my Social Work degree the way I had planned, but I also can't imagine working for a better place. It's been an exciting 17 years with this firm!- Angelita, Switchboard Operator, Law Firm
  • I work at MacDonald's and I have been there for 23 years! I like to work so I can pay my rent, buy clothing and grooming items out of my own pocket, and use my own checkbook. I am going to buy a tall stereo with speakers and a converter for my TV for the conversion in February 2009. I started working shorter shifts and only Monday through Friday because it's less stressful. I get asked to stay late if short-handed or when people call in sick. I do many things at MacDonald's, like greet customers, clean the lobby, cook french fries and buns, put pies in the oven and then into boxes, and other cleaning. I like the variety.- Jane, Food Service Staff, MacDonald's
  • My job entails three main things: advocacy at the state Capitol during the legislative session to make sure election laws are inclusive of people with disabilities; providing voter education and training throughout the state; and election protection efforts leading up to election day. I've collaborated extensively with many disability organizations and other non-profits on voting rights issues and election matters. I truly enjoy the work that I do. It is exciting, creative and fascinating all at once. Working on election issues and voting rights has taught me so much about the history of our democracy, equality, and the value of being an active participant in our political process. I've met so many people from all walks of life who work hard to promote and improve our democratic process.- Mai, Voting Outreach Advocate, Minnesota Disability Law Center
  • Not working makes me kind of depressed. When I don't have anything going on during the day, I like to sleep, watch TV and go for walks, which sounds kind of boring. My job coach got me an application from Hardee's and helped me fill it out, and I got the job. She came in and supervised me until I got the knack of it. Working brings up my self-esteem because I know when I'm helping people out I'm making friends and showing other employees I'm capable of doing stuff and do a good job. I want to feel successful and important, and when I'm working I feel important. I think it's a lot harder for a woman with disabilities to get employment because of certain limitations and employers aren't very lenient. But when I needed something at Hardee's, I just asked. For instance, they made a special stool so I could reach higher shelves, and later they added lower shelves. It made it easier to do my job. And I brought my own lunch because of my diabetes, and they allowed me another break.- Linda, Lobby Attendant, Hardee's Restaurant
  • At JC Penney I hang up clothes in the stockroom. I used to be in the fitting rooms putting clothes back on the racks. If I don't work I get depressed. I'm tired of doing day programs. I got to meet quite a few different kinds of people, including a special friend, at JC Penney.- Peggy, Retail Staff, JC Penney
  • My job provides me with a purpose and a reason to get up every day. I work with students with disabilities at the University, and as a person with a disability myself it is particularly fulfilling to get to serve as a mentor to others. I really enjoy hearing the success stories that students share with me. I also get to work with faculty and staff in arranging for accommodations for people with disabilities and I realize what an incredible, committed group of people we have here. I love that my job involves assisting others with disabilities to obtain an education.- Linda, Manager of Student Services, Disability Services, University of Minnesota
  • My job is important to make a living, to save money to find a place of my own, to be able to have money for basic needs, and to help other people with disabilities speak up for themselves by being a role model for them.- Carol, Clean-up Crew Member, Vocational Agency Contract Services Division