FSACentral is proud to once again celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month by featuring people with disabilities who are out in the workforce.
Name: Rachel Long
Hometown: Pensacola, Florida
Length of time at current job: 13 years
What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about accessing or keeping employment?
Keep going and don't give up. Set your mind to it and you can and will succeed. Don’t let anyone tell you you are not important or capable. You can do it!
What advice would you give employers about hiring a person with a disability?
They should understand that people with disabilities can do anything they set their minds to do. They are as capable as anyone else on this earth to do a job and to have a job -- it just might take more time helping them and working with them. We have our support people, our job coaches, companions. That’s what all those services are out there for. My job coach came and worked with me every day until I felt like I could be on my own.
What’s the most important employment-related challenge you face as a person with a disability?
Being able to voice my opinion about how I feel when someone is rude or angry with me. Some people don't understand my sensitivity. However, I’ve come a long way and feel comfortable talking to new co-workers about the best way to communicate with me.
How should we be advocating for better employment opportunities and practices in Florida?
We should be advocating for more training and hiring opportunities for people with disabilities – so they'll be ready when the time comes for them to go to work.
Which agency was the most helpful to you in accessing and maintaining employment?
VR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) has helped me the most and is currently helping me with training for my next career. I'm hoping to change careers some day to work in business to help people with disabilities.
In your opinion, how does employing a person with a disability help their quality of life?
Working helps them overcome fear and challenges that they have faced in their lives. At first, I let (rudeness) get to me but now I speak up and say, “Hey, I didn’t like that.” Or, if I don’t feel comfortable telling that co-worker, I tell my supervisor. My supervisors are always checking on me. I didn’t give up even though a lot of times I wanted to.
FSACentral would like to thank Rachel for her time and thoughtful answers.