Uniting for Change is a grassroots network of self-advocates that is growing the self-advocacy movement in Georgia. Along with family members, allies and supporters, self-advocates work on “uniting Georgians and influencing change by speaking up and taking control of our lives.”
Below is an article from Laura Owen, a member of the Uniting for Change Leadership Collective, about what having an inclusive job means to her as a person with disabilities and a self-advocate.
My name is Laura Owen and I am 44 years old. I am happily employed at Big Lots in Athens, Georgia. I have always wanted a job where I was able to help people because I am a people-person. I also wanted to work somewhere where people would treat me as an equal. For the past several years I tried to find a job with a job coach and had no luck. It seemed that I was not qualified for most jobs and there were few part-time positions. Full-time jobs would be too hard on me because of my physical challenges.
Then, in November my friend (and Direct Support Professional), Delores, and I were in Big Lots. They had a “Now Hiring” sign up, so my job coach and I went back to see if they had a paper application. We learned that the way to apply to Big Lots is online, so my job coach and I immediately went to his phone and completed the application. The application was not hard to complete. I filled it out on a Monday and the next Friday the manager called me for an interview for next Tuesday. I was very excited, and a little nervous.
I went to the interview and we sat down and we talked about me and he wanted to learn more about me and understand my disability. We had a good time and cut up and we both told some jokes. After we were done before I left he asked me if I wanted a job putting stuff back on the shelves and keeping the store clean. I accepted because I wanted the job.
I started my job in January 2021. The people at Big Lots are very understanding and treat me as an equal. They help me when they see I need help, so I really don’t need my job coach anymore. They also treat me as though I am a part of the Big Lots family.
Since I have been working, I feel like I am accomplishing a goal I set for myself and I am a lot happier. I want to make sure people know to not give up and to know that a job is out there for them. I am a self-advocate for people with disabilities and a member of Uniting for Change.