Most of Josie’s job opportunities initiated from volunteer experiences. Due to her inability to obtain a job during high school, she did a lot of volunteer work. Through those experiences, she was able to discover what she was good at, and what accommodations she needed. She was also able to network with future employees.
In general, once employers got to know her and her work ethic, they were generally willing to provide accommodations. Unfortunately, she found that many employers were misled to believe that those accommodations were a way out of hard work. However, Josie says this is not the case. Nothing she has done, with or without accommodations has been easy.
Due to her field of work and previous volunteer experiences, all of Josie’s previous and current positions had been offered to her by individuals who personally knew her and her abilities. They knew her beyond her disability, and therefore were comfortable hiring her.
She found her disability could be intimidating to individuals who did not know her, or who did not work with people with disabilities previously. Josie says that if employers did not see beyond her disability, then obtaining employment would be nearly impossible.
Josie believes her most gratifying experiences have involved achieving success within the “non-disabled world”. She says that attaining a doctorate and becoming a campaign manager, of youth programming at a statewide organization, and a co-director for any national technical assistance network are achievements that anyone should be proud of, not just someone with a disability.
Her most frustrating moments generally appear when people underestimate her abilities, or assume that just because she has a physical disability, she must have other disabilities as well. For instance, even though she has her doctorate, individuals regularly question her competent; asking her assistant if they can pet her service dog, or what she would like to eat.
Josie only applied for jobs were the employer already knew her abilities. She admits she’s afraid of how others may judge her capacity within a half hour interview. Unfortunately, when she comes into an interview, she tends to scare the potential employers, so they would need more than a half hour interview to truly see her potential.
Prior to having a job, Josie felt like she was missing a part of her identity and ability to introduce herself as a contributing citizen. Most people in America introduce themselves by stating their name and occupation, and Josie wanted that same opportunity. Unfortunately, when people first meet Josie, some assume that she does not have a job, and is reliant on government benefits. In American society, there is an unfortunate stigma surrounding recipients of financial aid or benefits. They are often deemed as “less worthy, and are therefore treated as such. Josie says that, now with a career, she is able to “play with the big kids”!