MY VIEW: A reflection on National Disability Employment Awareness Month

MY VIEW: A reflection on National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Donna Browing
(File Photo) 

Donna Browning

Finding the right job can be hard — especially if you’re dealing with special challenges.

As a child, I thought of the type of job I would like to have when I started out on my own. I wanted to enter fields like nursing, teaching and accounting, among other exciting possibilities. I always knew I wanted to help others yet wasn’t sure how to go about it.

But when it was time to find employment, I found getting a job quite hard. A few of the jobs I tried I just did not like. When I did find a job that would suit me, the lack of adaptive materials and assistive equipment prevented me from getting it. Retaining a job proved to be troublesome at times, too.

While looking for jobs, I faced the sort of challenges that left me — at times — concerned about my career. And I’m not alone.

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 17.8 percent of persons with a disability were employed in the United States. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for persons without a disability was 63.9 percent. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 14.1 percent — double that of people without disabilities.

I found that I needed to stay strong and confident that one day these hard experiences would pay off. A person tends to get frustrated when you go for an interview for a job and are told your adaptive equipment probably won’t work in that environment or with their system.

When I worked in state jobs, adaptive equipment was available to assist me in performing my duties. However, when I worked in the private sector, assistive technology necessary for my success was much harder to come by. Even when I borrowed needed equipment, it often failed to be fully compatible with either my system or the interface that was being used at that job.

I found that cooperation, keeping an open mind and creativity — combined with opportunity — will open doors. The employer gains a hardworking addition to their team who, in turn, paves the way to new understanding and opportunity for others. The employee earns an opportunity to improve their circumstances through income and purpose.
We all need to know we have a purpose, as this motivates us to make changes and achieve.

I work a job that took 10 years to get. During my calls to conduct business, I frequently asked if jobs were vacant. When I heard about this job, I knew it was right for me.

I am happy that I am now working the job that allows me to help others lead a productive and happy life. This is because I was given the chance to prove myself.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is Because We Are EQUAL to the Task. This echoes what individuals with disabilities already know: We are dedicated employees and successful in the workplace when provided an opportunity.
The writer is a member of the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities.