In My Own Words: Sarah
(excerpt from Search's 2013 Annual Report.)
My name is Sarah and I am the Business Assistant at JJ’s List, Search’s newest social enterprise. I manage the jjslist.com Disability-Aware Business Directory.
I communicate with businesses by phone and email. I manage the bookkeeping, coordinate the jjslist.com Disability-Awareness Trainings, and I organize the JJ’s List - Pace suburban bus “Hop on the Bus to Independence” program for schools and organizations in six Chicagoland counties. I also am a dedicated mentor to volunteers and co-workers!
Oh. And I have a disability. I use support for processing information, learning and selforganizing. I sometimes use a job coach to help me do my job in the most productive way possible. I became an independent contractor for JJ’s List because JJ Hanley saw I had the necessary skills and work ethic. That was the first time in my life that I felt like I had abilities that someone needed instead of me needing help.
Part of my job is talking about my disability and being a self-advocate for others and myself. I would love to say this is the easiest part of my job, but in some ways it is the hardest. In school I was always a verbal self-advocate when it came to the services I needed. I thought that when I became an adult that my disability would go away. It didn’t, and now I know that I will always need to self-advocate for the support I need. I think in order to become a true self-advocate one must truly embrace their own disabilities.
Recently, I presented to 30 human resources professionals at Wintrust corporate headquarters, along with my colleague Nicole Heimdal. We are working with Wintrust and North Shore Community Bank to help them do a better job of hiring people with disabilities.
I am honored to be part of the Search family. Getting to know all the Search staff members has made it easier to think of my disability as an asset rather than a challenge. It means a lot to me that Search is walking the walk of employing people with disabilities. When I first met the Search staff I thought they were going to think, ‘Why is she working here?’ This is partly because I never thought of myself as a professional. But, when I interact with staff I feel like I am just one co-worker interacting with another coworker and we are on equal footing.