Workers with Disabilities: An Investment in the Future

by Kathy Martinez on October 19, 2011 · 16 comments

I was born blind, and not surprisingly, my life has been profoundly impacted by my disability.  Yet, it’s only one of the many factors that shape my identity and the person I am today.  And an investment in my future has been critical. 

Fortunately, my parents were savvy investors.  And I’m not talking about financial assets.  In fact, as a large family living in a suburban area of southern California, we were more familiar with the local strawberry fields and orange groves than with stocks and bonds.  Regardless, my parents understood the concept of multiplying returns.  And my sister Peggy and I are living proof.

Peggy and I were the middle of six children.  She was also born blind.  From day one, our parents invested belief in our capabilities.  They fought hard for us—first for me and then for Peggy—to attend our local public school and be woven into the fabric of our community.  They instilled in us a love of learning and, perhaps most importantly, an expectation of employment.  This all required significant effort on their part, both in terms of energy and ardor. 

As we grew older, we came to understand the value of their outlay and began reinvesting the dividends in ourselves, through education and advocacy—and hard work.  Henry Ford once said “There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.”  Indeed, work is fundamental to my life and self-fulfillment; it’s a huge part of who I am.  It’s the same for Peggy, who today works as an IT instructor and is a talented musician.

That’s why National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) means so much to me.  This year’s theme focuses on improving opportunities that lead to good, meaningful jobs and a secure economic future for people with disabilities—and for all Americans.  It also emphasizes the dividend we all gain by increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and that these profits are achieved only through wise investment. 

But the responsibility rests not just with those writing the paychecks.  It rests with all of us.  People with disabilities must understand the intrinsic value of work and the important part they play in America’s future educational and economic success.  Our nation’s young people with disabilities must grow up with the expectation that they can work and assumption that they will.  And parents, educators and others must affirm this by cultivating a clear vision of work and community participation.  And of course, employers must foster inclusive work environments welcoming of the skills and talents of all qualified employees including those of us with disabilities. 

Growing up, I didn’t know about efforts like NDEAM, but I did know about the value of work, and that has made all the difference in my life.  In my family, as soon as we were old enough, we were all expected to contribute.  There were no exceptions.  And our family was stronger for it—just as our nation is stronger when every person is valued for his or her contributions, every day of every month.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barbara Archer October 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I love your blog. I wish your values were instilled in all our young. I am also from California and it is sad how our children regard work ethic. It sounds like you have amazing parents. Thank you for the bit of inspiration.

2 Joan October 19, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Thanks for an enlightening story – all must work – and I mean ALL, EVERYONE, WE HAVE TO MANY ‘FREELOADERS’ WHO KNOW HOW TO WORK THE SYSTEM,IF you received disability, unemplyment, etc., then you must not test positive for drugs, be
available for any kind of work, cleaning, digging, serving, whatever…..stop the ‘non workers’ and the underpriviledgeed from raping the system….many of those below the poverty line want to stay there!!!

3 Marketing Consultant October 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

What a great post. I think the reason why so many feel despondent in current times, is because for some there is no expectation of employment. That said, it all starts at home and it’s so important that parents install in their children that they are valued and that they are expected to contribute.

4 Mindy October 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Thank you for what you have done and do everyday to support people with disabilities. Talent comes in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, culture and include those with disabilities. You are an inspiration to everyone not just those who have a disability. Come on World we all need to work together to make this a better place for our children, those with and without disabilities.

Ms. Martinez you rock!

5 Dawn November 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Kathy,
Thank you. Leadership from the top is wonderful. I am disabled too…..but I have not let it define me. Since my accident where I sustained permanent brain damage, I have written a book and become an inventor with an issued patent from the USPTO….yeah, ME! Huh, go figure! When I feel good, I work……I’m never going to give up……my life has changed…..I can’t work “normal” work hours…..but, that doesn’t mean I’m useless! None of us are. Thank you for enforcing that message to all Americans and may God Bless You, Dawn

6 Mary Cantrell November 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

Disability or being a handicap person is not a reason to quit and don’t mean no chance of working. In fact there are so many physically impaired individuals that has done so many great jobs.

Training, Education, Courage, Self-confidence, Pursuance and being a hardworking are just of the characteristics you should posses.

7 Article Writer November 27, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Yes, I agree. I used to do donations to the organizations which support disabilities. I would suggest all to do that to an extend you can.

8 Ledgz January 9, 2012 at 3:49 am

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

9 Pet Boarding January 17, 2012 at 9:26 am

My minor disability pales in comparison with blindness. I don’t think anyone could envision (no pun intended) life without sight. This year’s theme about improving opportunities that lead to jobs is solidly on target with total employment being down so far. That all being said, I am wondering how to fold a section for the blind in my http://whatowhere.com blog. I didn’t even think about that side of the fence until I read this article.
Thanks and please keep up the great work!

10 Appliance Repair January 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Growing up as a farm boy five decades ago allowed me to learn the value of hard work. I would not have learned this on my own. It was taught by my parents. As poor as we were and as hard as we worked, we are all now living comfortably based on that hard work.

Hats off to all parents who don’t let their kids slide along without working when young.

11 Running Cramps January 23, 2012 at 9:28 am

Not only does it foster a work ethic, but it brings the family together. Work together, eat together, relax together. A true family unit.
Thanks for the great article. Looking for more along this line.

12 David May 20, 2012 at 1:29 am

Love it! I couldn’t agree more, especially as a person with a disability myself. And I don’t want a handout, just a fair chance

13 Pet Boarding June 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

Over the last ~30 years we have employed numerous individuals with some type handicap. In general we have found them to be more dedicated and reliable than the average person.

14 reading glasses June 21, 2012 at 3:49 am

Having a visual impairment does not necessarily mean that a person has no ability to see. In fact, most individuals who are blind have some degree of sight. Also note that although people who are blind may depend more on their sense of hearing than some, they do not innately have a heightened ability to hear.

15 chiropractor plano tx July 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Couldn’t agree more as a person with a disability. Don’t need a handout

16 Dr. Jerome Fryer January 29, 2014 at 4:08 pm

As a Nanaimo Chiropractor I deal with many disabilities with my patients and have helped them overcome their disadvantages with new techniques and exercises that increases the mobility they do have. Bravo and great post!

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