Stephanie Major cites hard work and the training she received at Middlesex Community College as important factors leading to her employment successes. As a part-time Administrative Assistant at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), Ms. Major supports the staff of BenePLAN, a benefits planning and assistance service for people with disabilities. An outgoing young woman who enjoys the company of her coworkers, Ms. Major uses her people skills in her second job, as a weekend usher at Showcase Cinemas, where she has been employed for eight years.
Even for a person without being diagnosed as developmentally disabled with multiple learning disabilities, maintaining focus on the job can be a challenge. For Ms. Major, who lives with her disability, success in the workplace has come with persistence and support on the job. Job coaches from the MA Department of Developmental Disabilities Regional Employment Services helped her to learn the tasks required in her job at UMMS, from preparing mailings and presentation materials to filing, typing, and assisting at events. Once she was comfortable working on her own, the job coaches withdrew.
“People don’t see me as a disabled person; they just see me as a person.”
UMMS has provided ongoing support, by giving Ms. Major a label maker so that she doesn’t have to hand write labels for file folders, and by having her coworkers provide samples of the mailings and presentations that they need to have compiled, giving Ms. Major a concrete model from which to work. “Stephanie is extremely bright, and once she is given the direction she will just do it”, says Barbara Lee, Ms. Major’s supervisor at the medical school. “She has been an excellent member of our team. Like anyone else, you’re hiring someone for their abilities, not their disability.”
With the help of a job counselor at her high school, Ms. Major landed a job at Showcase Cinema during her senior year. She has benefitted from the willingness of fellow staff members to teach her how to do the job, which involves tearing tickets and directing patrons to the proper theater. Her enjoyment of “dealing with people” adds to her enjoyment of the job, where she has made friends and gets to watch movies for free. Her coworkers are supportive, providing backup support when the lines get too long, something that happens frequently, Ms. Major points out, especially when a new Harry Potter movie is released.
“People with disabilities”, says Kathy Petkauskos, Senior Program Director of Work Without Limits, “are like anyone else, and an employer really should treat them like they would any other employee and have the same expectations. They may need to provide them with an accommodation to do their job, but the expectation should be that once that accommodation is made, they should be able to do their job.”
Ms. Major echoes this sentiment, claiming that “people don’t see me as a disabled person; they just see me as a person.”