Wiggins Advises to Have Practical Employment Goals
FSACentral is proud to once again celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month by featuring people with disabilities sharing their advice, opinions & experiences.
Victoria Wiggins has been in the advocacy business for many years. Not only has she been a public defender representing low-income clients appealing their cases, but she also volunteers to serve people with disabilities, the terminally ill, and veterans.
When Victoria is not practicing law, she volunteers to assist senior veterans and with a hospice organization. She has also volunteered with disability organizations such as Family Care Council, the Commission for the Transportaion Disadvantaged, and Disability Rights Florida.
Employer: State of Florida, Public Defender Office
Position: Assistant Public Defender
Duties & Responsibilities: Represents low-income clients on appeal
Years on the job: 26.5 years
What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about accessing or keeping employment?
1. Have practical employment goals that align with your real abilities rather than going after a dream job. No one can do anything he or she wants to do without the physical and mental ability to do so.
2. Remember the ADA only gives you the right to be considered for a position. It doesn’t give you the right to a job if another non-disabled applicant has the same qualifications as you do. So, look your best and be confident during your interview.
3. Ask for the least amount of accommodations and be willing to suggest accommodations that are simple, if possible. The easier you make it for your boss to work with you the more likely you will maintain your employment.
4. Take action when you know your boss is discriminating against you. First, address issues in a letter to your supervisor or boss and request a meeting with the HR person present. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, seek legal counsel.
What advice would you give employers about hiring a person with a disability? Look beyond apparent disabilities when considering applicants who are disabled because they will probably work harder than a non-disabled applicant. Don’t make disabled employees mascots for PR purposes. (I have had this happen twice in my career). Include employees with disabilities as much as possible in discussions about office protocols and diversity and mission statements.
In your opinion, how does employing a person with a disability help their quality of life? To me, honestly, it’s a stupid question to ask how does employment help the quality of life for a disabled person? It should not even be asked! If a person has any ability to work, it’s his or her obligation to work to society! As a person who has cerebral palsy, severe fibromyalgia, and arthritis who still works full time and volunteers, this question is indicative of what is wrong with the mindset of people with disabilities and the advocates. As long as employment is viewed as an option rather than necessity for and by people with disabilities, progress will continue to be stagnant in this area.
FSACentral would like to thank Victoria for her time and thoughtful answers.