Including You: A Disability Rights Arkansas Podcast

Navigating Employment: Empowerment and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities

December 06, 2023 Disability Rights Arkansas Season 2 Episode 1
Including You: A Disability Rights Arkansas Podcast
Navigating Employment: Empowerment and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities
Including You: A Disability Rights AR Podcast
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Have you ever felt the weight of underrepresentation or wondered how to navigate the workplace with a disability? Join us as we bring the conversation to the forefront with the employment team at Disability Rights Arkansas. Wednesday, Molly, and Jen discuss their personal journeys navigating employment with a disability. They pull back the curtain on the obstacles faced and their battles for representation.

As we delve deeper, we shift the spotlight to self-advocacy and building soft skills, crucial elements for workplace success. Our guests impart wisdom on the importance of accommodations and how to advocate for them. They also share their insights on fostering an inclusive workspace and the resources that can bolster individuals with disabilities to thrive in their careers. Tune in for an enlightening discussion that serves as a roadmap for individuals with disabilities navigating the workplace, filled with recommendations, resources, and the power of persistence.

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Lani Jennings-Hall:

Hi and welcome back for season two of Including You: A Disability Rights Arkansas Podcast. I'm your host, Lani Jennings-Hall, here to bring information to people with disabilities on how to navigate your rights things that help you with your everyday life and how to navigate the complex systems of how to get the support you need. Everyone has the right to know their rights everyone, including you. To kick this season off, we've brought back three powerhouse speakers who are now all on the employment team together here at DRA. If you haven't heard their episodes on traveling or dating, make sure to check out season one. Today we're going to discuss blasting through public perception in the world of employment.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Jen, Mollie, and Wednesday, thank you again for joining me and our listeners here on Including you. Okay, guys, we are back with three members of DRA. We've got the employment team with us, so we are, of course, talking employment. Let's start off with our listeners that may not have been with us on season one. If you, ladies, want to tell us a little bit about yourself,We nsday, I'm going to kick it off with you.

Wensday Kraemer:

Hey everyone. Thank you again for having me on the podcast. My name is Wensday. I was not born on a Wednesday, like everyone thinks. My name comes from the Addams family. I am on the employment team. I am an advocate here at Disability Rights Arkansas.

Wensday Kraemer:

A little bit about myself I was actually born with a disability, as born with Spina Bifida. Bifida o growing up with a disability definitely had differences and barriers. I always do growing up that I was going to work and go to college and all of the things. But I remember specifically in my teen years being like is it really possible? How is this going to look for me? Because I didn't see representation. I didn't see people that looked like me working in various fields. I did go to college.

Wensday Kraemer:

I got my two undergrad degrees in sociology and criminology and then I got my Master's in counseling. By the end of my Master's, I knew that working with people who have disabilities and assisting and being at the table making decisions for people with disabilities was something that I wanted to do because, again, I saw that lack of representation and that lack of thoughts and ideas going into the table when things are being decided. I didn't see people with disabilities there at the table and, yeah, that's why I'm here. I love what I do. I think again, representation is so important and I know I wish I saw more of me when I was working and navigating employment.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Thank you Wensday. One thing you talked about is you really didn't see that representation at the table. Mollie, you had a similar-ish thing with your original employment. You want to introduce yourself as well?

Mollie Hernandez:

Sure, hi everyone. My name is Mollie Hernandez and I'm also an advocate here at Disability Rights on the Employment Team.

Mollie Hernandez:

And yes, so I have a disability. I have a degenerative retinal disease that resulted in blindness during adulthood. So it was one of those things that I grew up without a disability until late adolescence started noticing some changes in my vision. By 19, when I was in college, I was diagnosed with a degenerative retinal condition, but we really didn't know what that would entail. My vision impairment was very early stage at that point, so I just thought it was something that I needed to deal with on my own and really didn't know what would ultimately happen with my vision. But long story short, I did, during my 20s, just begin losing significant amounts of my visual field and visual acuity until ultimately, now I'm blind. During my 20s I did finish college and then I started a career as a teacher. All of these things were things I was just accommodating myself as I lost my vision until I just got to the point that it was too much to accommodate on my own and I had not seen other people who were blind teaching. So I thought what you do is you go home. Once you have a disability, you don't work anymore, you just go home.

Mollie Hernandez:

I was not aware of all the resources out there to assist. The representation just wasn't there. People mind we're in rural Arkansas. There are a lot of barriers that we have transportation, different things that do permit people with disabilities from being in the workplace. But, yeah, what I saw as myself a blind person it was antiquated, it was Mary from Little House on the Prairie. Those were the people I had seen as blind individuals in the media. I didn't see a blind woman going to work, going to teach. I thought that's what you do, you just go home and you're no longer out in public, out in the community. And that's a really sad thing in retrospect because I was teaching, I was working with young children that maybe they had disabilities or maybe they would grow up and acquire a disability, and I could have been such powerful representation there within the school system if I had been aware that there were resources available to keep me teaching and to show that, yeah, you have a disability and you can live a normal life. I'm hoping I'm doing that now and that representation that I wish I had seen back 20, 25 years ago.

Mollie Hernandez:

Yeah, that's why I'm here and that's why I do what I do, because I didn't find out about the resources until it was too late. Navigating them is not always easy and you're not always successful. You're going to have stumbling blocks because spoiler alert disability is hard. These are things that we're trying to navigate and there's no playbook. You're running it in real time and you're just trying to figure things out as you go. So I'm glad that I've got the personal experience that I can share with people. But I also have the professional expertise. I do have a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling so I know that side of stuff. I work daily with vocational rehabilitation counselors and administrators, as well as consumers. So it's a nice blending of my personal experience and professional knowledge that I hope I can keep others from experiencing what I did and giving up far too quickly on that dream of employment.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Thank you, Mollie. And then, rounding off the employment team, we have Jen. Jen, can you tell us a little bit about yourself as well?

Jen Goodwin:

Sure. So again, thanks for having us. So with mine, like Mollie, I have spinal cord injury. That happened when I was 25. So prior to that I was working in outside cells as a drug rep, living a fast-paced life and in and out of doctors' offices constantly every single day and dinners at night and long hours and just an intense career at that point. And then got the boat with the wrong person and ended up with a spinal cord injury, and so at that point I became quadriplegic, and so life changed drastically in an instant and one night for me. So it was different in that regard.

Jen Goodwin:

Then, immediately, I thought I'm just going to regain everything that I lost and I'll be back to my career, all of those things that I didn't understand reality with a spinal cord injury at that point in my injury. So I went on and did all the rehab that I could possibly do for five years. That was my focus, and I just really focused on learning to walk. I thought that was what I needed to do to be made whole and complete again, and so finally I decided that I could either learn to walk or I could learn to live, and so I decided that I was going to move my focus to learning to live, and learning to live with disability and what that was going to look like. So I came back to Arkansas and built an accessible home and got to where I got comfortable in my day to day activities, that sort of thing.

Jen Goodwin:

And then, honestly, I got bored and was like, okay, I'm in my twenties and I'm quote unquote retired and this doesn't feel right to me. And so I was ready for something different, and for mine I was in a little different situation and that I had long-term disability that I didn't want to lose, and I knew that I would lose that as soon as I went back to work. And so I wanted to try something in the interim before I went straight back to work, because I wanted to make sure that it was going to be something that I could be successful at before I gave up that long-term disability policy. So I decided to go to law school and took the LSAT and did well enough on it, that school was covered and decided this is going to be my next step.

Jen Goodwin:

And so I went to law school and absolutely loved it, like I loved being back out with people again and having something that I had to get up and go to and something that was a challenge for me again, and so I realized that there were a lot of things that I hadn't considered before that were still accessible for me, and so went to law school, finished that and then got my first job as an attorney in the medical legal partnership at Children's Hospital, and it was fantastic.

Jen Goodwin:

I got to work with other clients who had disabilities and all sorts of different faces of their life and kids with disabilities, so I felt like I got to give back to them and help them just navigate what life was going to look like. And then now I've moved over to disability rights and I absolutely love it here because we get to work with people with all different kinds of disabilities in all stages of life and especially on people who are looking to get back to work, because I do a personal experience with what that looks like and what that can feel like and just helping to navigate that system.

Mollie Hernandez:

Lani, if I can jump in for just a minute and kind of dovetail into what Jen was saying. Jen and I, both of our disabilities happened in adulthood and we knew we wanted to work. We ultimately had that goal. But there is a time that is necessary for building soft skills. Well, in my case, I couldn't very well go out to work if I couldn't safely navigate my home or my community.

Mollie Hernandez:

So, going back to work, it's a multi step, multi phase process. So don't think that everyone is looking at you like, ok, go to work, it's time and you're not ready, especially with acquired disability. There's also just a time for emotional healing and coming to terms with who you are, the reinventing of you, and there's no shame in taking that time before getting back to work. We promote work and want everyone to work and there are so many benefits and I'm sure we'll get into that later.

Mollie Hernandez:

Just the mental health aspect, and Jen talked about that engagement of being in law school and using her mind in a different capacity that it wasn't all focused on the injury and come back. But you need that time and you need that space and there's no shame in taking it and there are services with educational rehabilitation that allow you that time to focus on the soft skills that are critical in order to be successful in returning to work. Maybe you're needing to use adaptive software, like in my case. I couldn't even type my name on a computer after some time because I didn't have the training with screen readers on the software. You can't go back to school unless you can use a computer. So there's so many very simple steps that people take for granted that you have to rebuild in order to reenter the workforce, and it takes time. It's not always a quick fix and allow yourself that space and that grace if you're dealing with new disability.

Wensday Kraemer:

I also would like to jump in whether you're born with a the disability, or it's acquired. I know Molly, which is like mental health. It's okay to be frustrated some days, I know, at least myself. I don't know Mollie and Jen, I agree or not, but I get frustrated some days, Like why is this task a bit more difficult? Et cetera, et cetera, and the whole things are positive for me in my life right now. But it's okay to get frustrated at times and be like this isn't the most fun thing ever, or that I have to ask for XYZ because I can't do XYZ. So it's okay to be frustrated. It's not always all positive, happy emotions all the time, but employment is worth it. Not being in poverty it's worth it. Having choices is worth it.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Thank Mollie, Wensday. That is spot on and leads into a really good conversation, I feel like, because, as our listeners can hear, we have a wide, diverse, live experienced team for our employment team here at Disability Rights Arkansas. They have all the knowledge, and so I'm really excited to have you guys here today. One of the things that you said, Mollie, is take the time to learn those soft skills, because I think that's important. I'm thinking back even to high school, when you are prepping for college. Those are things you're learning anyway. But to go into the field of work, soft skills are, I'm thinking, just dealing with coworkers, just general soft skills are important, as is, but especially you're needing to prepare to go into the workforce. Can you just talk a little bit about either your experiences or just some of what that may look like?

Mollie Hernandez:

Sure, and keep in mind this is intimidating to go in if it's your first time into the workplace and, like we've said multiple times, there's just not a lot of representation of disability in the workplace. So when you're going in you might be someone's first interaction with your particular disability or even disability in general. So I think part of that is building your confidence. That's one of those soft skills your ability to self advocate and express what you need. Sell yourself your strengths, don't let everyone look at you and see your disability. Go in confident and sell those strengths and let it be known why you're there and why you were hired. And again, you don't know if that representation is impacting your coworkers. I'm sure it is and in a way that it normalizes your existence in the workplace. But it also needs to normalize your existence to those in the community seeing you in the workplace.

Mollie Hernandez:

So I think, working on those soft skills that can go really far back on soft skills Like in my case it was simple navigation and computer skills, things that I had taken for granted for so much of my life. I had to relearn that and then just the ability to, like I said, self advocate in the workplace. Soft skills can be all encompassing, and I think we'll talk a little more about disability etiquette, awareness, setting an example within the workplace of all of that. Yeah, soft skills and this can be another entire podcast. That's something that's really focused on. If you are a student with a disability or the parent or a child with a disability, that something that should be focused on with pre-employment transition services is working on those work-based readiness skills. So, again, that's probably another complete podcast that we can get into, but it just goes to show how critical soft skills are into establishing your readiness for training and education and also just being in the workplace.

Jen Goodwin:

And I'll go along with that as well. For me, before I could go back to school, I needed to learn to drive. I didn't have a driver that was going to be available for me, so that was a step that I needed to take to get in that direction. And I remember, just with the school aspect, just trying to figure out, okay, how am I going to carry these books with hands that don't really work appropriately or normally, as we would call it? Just trying to figure out, okay, how am I going to carry a backpack full of books, how am I going to get them in and out of the bag, those sorts of things. But what I figured out was those were all things that you figure out as you go.

Jen Goodwin:

I couldn't figure it all out before I started. I had to adjust and change as I went, and so, while we're working on soft skills and all of those things and figuring out everything that we can beforehand, we also have to remember that, once we get in these jobs, we can ask for accommodations too, because there are so many times that it's just something simple that can be changed, that can make a big difference in our day-to-day lives, and so we just have to remember that it's not the employer's responsibility to come to us to ask what we need. It's our responsibility to go to them and say, hey, because of my disability I need X, Y and Z, and then it can open the conversation between the employee and the employer to determine how to best accommodate those needs to get you exactly where you need to be successful in your career.

Wensday Kraemer:

I think, with the advocacy Mollie and Jen talked about, it's really important to advocate for yourself and part of that is knowing yourself, knowing what may work or not work, a bit of trial and error, getting creative. I think those are all important aspects, especially for talking about going to work and becoming employed and advocating for yourself. It might be a difficult time. It's a muscle to learn how to advocate for yourself better and better, but it's really important that you develop that muscle, that skill, and you speak up for what you need. Because Jen said, something that could be pretty small of an accommodation may make the world of difference and you want to be able to say that's why struggle if you don't have to.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

I think that's a great point and, Jen, I think you said it the accommodation piece the biggest point is asked for it. You need X, for example, right now at my desk. I have a little attachment onto my desk because of my issues with my hands and I knew I needed something built for me to be able to type for a long time during the day. It was accommodation that I had to have, but the thing is, your organization isn't going to know what you need and how best to accommodate you if you don't ask for it.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

We have a job accommodation network released a survey in May of 2023. And this is just to give you guys perspective of this and maybe more towards our employers. This may not be something that's going to cost an arm and a leg. A lot of these things are fairly cost effective. So the survey collected data from 720 employers from different industries and business sizes. Nearly half of the employers 49% said the accommodations needed by employees with disabilities cost absolutely nothing $0. And another 43% of the employers incurred a one-time cost, of which the median expenditure was about $300. If you think about that of your annual budget again, not that much, when it was actually a reduction in costs from the previous year's reports. I think sometimes employers may be hesitant. They'd be like, oh man, I'm about to have to do this or this. A lot of these accommodations are not super costly.

Jen Goodwin:

And with what Lani was saying. There, though, you don't have to request those prior to employment, so you can get the job before you start requesting a bunch of accommodations because you don't want to scare an employer away. You don't want them to be thinking, oh, she comes with a whole list of things that I'm going to have to make sure that I'm checking off and they may think that they're expensive before you get in there. But you're not required to discuss your disability until you need the accommodations once you're hired. If you do need accommodations for the hiring process, then you can ask for those as you need them, but for actually needing your accommodations within the workplace, you can wait until you're already hired. So there's not going to be any level of discrimination with that.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Ultimately, the accommodations are there for you to be able to do your job and to help you. I know, Mollie, I always like to have your example of your phone as your best assistive technology. It's just so simple to think about when you're talking about accommodations and technology and stuff to help you do your work, because ultimately, there are so many positives to that employment.

Mollie Hernandez:

Sure, most of my daily tasks are done with the assistance of some form of assistive technology and, keep in mind, assistive technology can go from no tech to high tech. And yeah, like you said, I always say that my smartphone is the most powerful piece of technology I have on me at any time. It can read things to me, it can describe my environment to me. I can control all different aspects of my house through my phone, so it's phenomenal. But then there's so much that I do and I have that I forget about it because it's so natural to me Tactical indicators that allow me to use keypads and stuff.

Mollie Hernandez:

Sometimes you may have to go into your workplace and, yeah, if you have a disability, you need to disclose it, if you need an accommodation and you may have to do some educating and explain. These are some simple things that allow me to access and use the microwave in the break room, or this helps me do my work and there's no shame in that. It's just who we are and how we live. And, again, you never know who you're impacting down the road. I mean, if you're the first in your workplace with a disability, blaze that trail, blaze it proudly because again, you're representing and you're impacting on down the line by showing we can be accommodated and we can do amazing work and be an asset to our employers with what we're able to do with very simple adjustments and accommodations.

Wensday Kraemer:

Something small in the office. I'm looking at it right now. I can't easily open and shut our doors, and so there's literally all throughout our office, on our doors, a piece of rope tied to all of the handles and along the long string, so I can pull on that behind me to shut the door or to open the door. It's something very inexpensive but it makes all the difference in me being able to shut the door behind me or open it.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Well, the things I loved that it wasn't even like the initial goal behind this podcast that you guys have hit on so well is representation. Maybe you didn't see it early on in your life representation, people with disabilities in the workforce or setting that path. Now, if there is not that representation, where you are to set that and have those conversations? I really love that you guys have consistently hit on that representation piece within the employment.

Mollie Hernandez:

In a way it's my hope that anytime I'm dressed for work, I'm into my business attire, I have Boomer and harness, I'm carrying my laptop case. I want to turn heads. I want people to see that and be like you know what? Look what she's doing. She's working and really hope children see that. And whether it's business attire or whether I'm running through the grocery store, I just want people to see that disability doesn't relegate you to sitting at home and waiting on a government check. That's not what it has to be.

Jen Goodwin:

I don't disclose my disability all the time, even though I have a visible disability.

Jen Goodwin:

I'm in a wheelchair and it's pretty obvious if you see me.

Jen Goodwin:

But I work from home a lot these days, so my clients often don't know that I have a disability, just from our conversations that we have. But every now and then I will disclose it to them, just so that they can know that I am someone who does really understand what they're going through. In a lot of situations, if their disability is similar to mine, I'm not going to try to say that we're all the same and I know what you're going through, because I also have a disability, because that's certainly not true. But in other instances, whenever it is something that I can empathize with, then I'll disclose my disability too and just give tips on how I've made it work, and especially if it's somebody who's looking to go back to work or go back to school or something like that, because I do want to show them what is possible and that even with a really life-changing injury, you can figure it out and build yourself back up and get back into the workforce. That that's what your goals are.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Then we talked about that representation. So what does workplace inclusion look like? That's a big question. Yeah, it is, and I don't think that there's a right or a wrong answer necessarily. But I would be interested to know from the employment team what do you guys think about when you hear workplace inclusion?

Mollie Hernandez:

I feel like we fall within a model organization for what that is, and I think inclusion should, number one, just be a safe space where you can go to your manager or your HR representative and say this is who I am and this is what I need. And if it's not that's another thing I want to touch upon it may not be the exact accommodation that you request. That's a collaborative effort, working with HR for them to offer equivalent accommodations, and it may not be exactly what you wanted, but it might meet your needs and work out just fine. But for that inclusion perspective, it's for your employer, your coworkers, to have an open mind. I think it's also for you to have an open mind as well to see how you're going to fit into the workplace.

Mollie Hernandez:

I think within every workplace there are those natural supports that just fall in, maybe those coworkers that you just feel comfortable with and building those relationships. And that's how inclusion feels it's comfortable and it's safe and it allows you to grow and build upon the skills that you already have. Again, inclusion is a great word and we talk about inclusive classrooms, inclusive workplaces. It's just where you're there and it's normal. That's what inclusion is to me. I'm curious to what everyone else thinks.

Jen Goodwin:

To me it's people with all different levels of ability, so people with disability and people who are able-bodied, all of those working together within an organization just to be different pieces of the puzzle, and we all make it work together. In my first job out of law school I brought my coworkers in quickly. On day one I was telling them with a chair that had some kind of short in it and so we were in an elevator and my chair just quit working and I use a power chair, so it's 400 pounds and in an elevator with a chair that's not working. So I got to train brand new coworkers and I felt like trial by fire but teach them how to unlock the wheels of my chair and push 400 pound gin down the hall and back to our office and till I could get it working again, I'm like just wiggle this wire a little bit.

Jen Goodwin:

And to them they probably remember that day like oh my gosh, that was the day I had to push my coworker down the hall. To me it was just another day. It's just living life with a disability and you've got so many moving parts that you need to keep working. It's just another day in my world, but it was fun to break them in properly and just figure it out. They were good sports and we became great friends and it all worked out.

Wensday Kraemer:

I think, to ensuring that a lot of workplaces now have workplace sponsored socials and more like fun events, team builders, making sure those are accessible and inclusive as well, so that way everyone can participate not just the work but the team building and the bonding as well. But it's important to then create some of those memories like Jen was talking about.

Jen Goodwin:

One of my favorite parts of that job was we went to lunch every day. I told everybody whenever they came in I was not in charge of their diet or their wallet, but we were going to lunch and you were welcome to join us. We had fun. We would talk a little bit about work, but we would talk about life while we were at lunch and just really get to know each other on a friendship level, just like everybody else does at work. It was great.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Now, I love all of that, I think it's all very important, but I think to get to that inclusion, that ideal workplace inclusion, there are obstacles that need to be removed.

Wensday Kraemer:

So that it is feasible.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Y'all want to talk a little bit about removing obstacles in the workplace so that it is an integrated employment.

Mollie Hernandez:

Well, I think all of us will agree that the biggest obstacle any of us encounter is public perception. So if you are a person that does not have a disability and you're in the workplace, you need to really look at your perceptions, your biases, because that's what impacts us the most Simple architectural or environmental challenges. We're creative. We've been doing this a while so we can figure that stuff out. But overcoming other people's biases, that's the toughest part and that's where being a good self-advocate, selling yourself it's really important to be able to do that and go in, charming and disarming people in a way.

Mollie Hernandez:

Having that this is who I am personality and being able to laugh off those awkward moments and oh my goodness, there's so many. It's just going to happen, but you learn to laugh and to me, that's one of the biggest things. That's my biggest goal. I want to blast through people's public perceptions. I want to totally change their thoughts regarding what disability is, what they think it looks like. I want to show them that we are equal members of society. We are equal members of the workplace. So public perceptions it for me.

Wensday Kraemer:

Two thoughts for me. If we say we can do something, believe us, like you would anyone else without a disability and to a lot of companies have Emergency equity and inclusion, some sort of training related to that, annually or on some sort of regular basis, and part of that education should be Disability as well. Those conversations should be had when the other conversations are being had, as well as full etiquette. I'm just understanding and having a better understanding of disability.

Jen Goodwin:

On the flip side for me of what Mollie was saying. I also need to be able to get in the door physically. Outside, inside all of those different things that Both places that I've been in have set up Push button door openers, something simple that just allows it. That's something. I'm going to go in and out of that door multiple times throughout the day. Something simple that makes my life a whole lot easier, that other people wouldn't necessarily think about. And an accessible bathroom. Just because there's a sign on the door with the wheelchair on it does not mean that it's actually wheelchair accessible. But I face that in lots of different situations in life, for sure. But but something that people don't really think about a whole lot, but it absolutely matters, and that was one of the things in the first job that we had to have corrected and actually built an accessible bathroom that everyone on the floor left afterwards Because it was so nice in comparison to what we had before. Yeah, those two things do matter.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

We've talked a lot about representation and inclusion. We've also talked about your journeys. So quick wrap up Do you guys have any advice or resources that you would recommend to our listeners who are really starting their journey towards employment?

Wensday Kraemer:

I would say you know your work, you have abilities and skills and have confidence that you will be getting good employee. I also say in that same breath that some jobs just don't work out, some jobs you may just not be great at, and that's fine, that is unusual, and so don't give up if the first job doesn't work out.

Jen Goodwin:

And I would also say reach out to Arkansas Vocational Rehab or Division of Services for the Blind, and there are a lot of resources that are available for people who are looking to go back to work or to stay employed either ones. Maybe you acquire a disability that doesn't take you out of the workforce, but you do need some extra help. Reach out if that's your situation as well, because they can offer lots of different resources that are there, I know. Whenever my injury happened, shortly after I got out of the hospital, I just had a list of names and numbers of people to call. I went and made an appointment with a vocational rehab counselor.

Jen Goodwin:

I sat in their office and I said I don't know what you guys do, but I was told to come here. So hi, I'm Jen, it's nice to meet you, and they showed me a lot of what they could offer and helped with accommodating a car. So that would be one of the first steps for me for getting back into the workforce. And so there are a lot of resources out there, though you may not know about, and don't miss those opportunities by not calling them and just seeing what's available. Yeah.

Mollie Hernandez:

Jen's exactly right with that. Explore the resources, utilize the resources that are available to you. Whether you've never worked before, it's been a long time since you worked. You went home. You were like me, you thought that's where I'm supposed to be. But then you realize you really want back in the workplace. So you might need to return to work, or you're in that position that I didn't have the opportunity or knowledge. Maybe you're still working and you're trying to prevent job loss, so you want to maintain that employment. Explore those resources. But ultimately, what I want you all to know is when you get to that point, when you're walking into the door of wherever you're working, you're always growing.

Mollie Hernandez:

Don't cut yourself short. Don't think that you can't expand your abilities, no matter what your position is. When I look back years ago, when I first started at disability rights, if I realized all the things I would learn and the things that I'm doing now, that first day I probably would have thought you know what I can't do. This. I've got to quit. It's okay to not know how to do things and it's okay to ask for help and it's okay to need additional training. You're going to grow and you're going to be able to do great things, regardless of ability or disability. We all grow, no matter what we're doing, at all times during our lives.

Jen Goodwin:

I want to add one more thing too. I mentioned ARS and DSB, but I want to add one more acronym to the mix, and that's the WIPA, which is Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program. And so they actually help. If you're worried about losing your benefits by going back to work, call them through AR sources and they can help you navigate that process and what your benefits will look like in the wake of a new career. So don't be afraid to lose your benefits whenever there are people that can help you navigate those waters.

Mollie Hernandez:

Work is going to look different for everyone. When we discuss work, of course we always mean competitive, integrated employment for same pay for same work that other people without disabilities do in an inclusive environment, like we've discussed. But we understand it can still look differently, that maybe you physically you don't have the stamina for a 40 hour work week that's okay. Or maybe you really want to make sure that you do maintain or maximize benefits and the amount you will work might look a little different. So work does not look the same for everyone and we're not telling everyone you got to go out and work 40 hours a week. We know that sometimes that's just not practical and not feasible. But we don't want you to exclude yourself from the workforce, thinking that's all that's out there. There's a lot of different job opportunities out there that can fit your unique strengths and abilities.

Jen Goodwin:

And if you get a no from any of these places, give us a call at Disability Rights. We'll help you walk through those situations too and figure out if some of those no should be yeses or if it's just something else that we need to redirect and work through.

Wensday Kraemer:

Know that you're not alone. Disability Rights Arkansas is here. Many individuals with disabilities, whether you see it or not, have been employed or are employed currently. People are here.

Lani Jennings-Hall:

Thank you, ladies, so much. And to our listeners, all of these resources, as well as some additional employment resources, will be available in the show notes. And thank you, guys, for joining me. And to our listeners, the resources mentioned today, as well as some additional employment resources, will be available in the show notes. Thank you for listening and, if you like this episode, don't forget to leave a five star rating and a review. Here at DRA, we envision in Arkansas where people with disabilities are equal members in their communities and can dictate their lives through self-determination. And, as made clear in this podcast, we can't create that change without bringing self-advocates to the table. If you're interested in more information, make sure to subscribe to this podcast and visit our website.

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Advocating for Yourself in the Workplace
Navigating Workplace Inclusion and Resources