The Empowered Woman

Everywhere I turn these days, I encounter a new focus on the empowered woman. There is one notable area within this subject that is sometimes overlooked. That is the independence, empowerment and relevance of the woman with a disability.

Woman looking through colorful clothing

Disability issues came to the forefront when our country took the lead with the American with Disabilities Act. Now corporations of all sizes are mobilizing to accommodate and hire people with various disabilities – seeking to bring the rate of hire equal to that of the general population. There is still work to be done, but Work Without Limits Sponsors and Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN) members are perfect examples of these types of disability inclusive employers.

Woman with physical difference painting nails

Women and girls of all ages may face barriers to equality, but women with disabilities can be more vulnerable and further marginalized. As a result, they often face greater barriers to both social and professional opportunities. As I have watched women with disabilities navigate these barriers, I have learned a lot from them throughout my life’s journey.

Woman listening to speaker on phone

I have appreciated their optimism and goal setting and learned from their self-confidence and security with body image. I have been emboldened by their aggressiveness in job seeking and the demand for inclusiveness. Their push to learn and be educated, to have families and jobs and growing responsibilities, to participate in sports, and command a presence excites and motivates me!

Woman sitting in chair sewing

Whether she has spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome or depression, women with disabilities are having children, working, playing active sports, and participating as proud leaders in their communities.

Two women on computer

Women with disabilities wear trendy clothes, obtain doctorate degrees, party with friends, water ski, and jump out of airplanes. Women with disabilities multitask, drive cars, invent, use technology and lead companies.

Woman with a disability sitting in gym with friend, smiling

Disability Images works only with real people who have authentic disabilities. We demonstrate a positive, engaged lifestyle that shows women, and men, who are strong in mind, body and soul.  I continue to be energized by all the people I meet, but especially by women with disabilities.

Woman with disability looking at book with husband

Disability Images logo

For empowering images of women and others with disabilties, visit here:

Visit Here

For empowering videos of women with disabilities, watch here on Work Without Limits’ Facebook:

Bo Tanner sitting in front of a pool

Bo Tanner:

Visit Here

Stephanie Major sitting in front of computer in cube

Stephanie Major:

Visit Here

Sue Maloney smiling in her shop

Sue Maloney:

Visit Here

Improving Health Care for People with Disabilities through Research and Education

In this video testimony, Dr. Linda Long-Bellil, Assistant Professor for the Center for Health Policy and Research at UMass Medical School and a member of the Work Without Limits training team, highlights her experience researching reproductive health for women with physical disabilities and teaching healthcare professionals how to provide quality healthcare to people with disabilities.

Watch her entire testimony here:


If you’re interested in learning more
about Dr. Linda Long-Bellil’s work visit here

Massachusetts Business Leadership Network attends Disability Inclusion Summit and Celebration

In 2010, Work Without Limits (WWL) created the Business to Business (B2B) Network to provide information and resources to employers interested in successfully employing people with disabilities. In 2014, the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) recognized the significant impact WWL was making in the disability employment space and invited WWL and the B2B Network to become the official MA affiliate of the USBLN, known as the Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN). Membership in the MABLN is a very important and valuable benefit of all employers’ sponsorship of WWL.

Photos By Jessica Lappin of Jessica Lappin Design

The MABLN is vital in maintaining contact among WWL sponsors in support of our collective goal of increasing the employment of people with disabilities so that it is equal to those without disabilities. MABLN members are private and public sector employers that are committed to diversity and inclusion, specifically the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their companies as employees, customers, and suppliers.

WWL facilitates regular MABLN meetings and webinars for members to share leading best practices to attract, recruit and retain employees with disabilities, market to and service customers with disabilities, include disability-owned businesses in company supply chains, and more. Semi-annually, in April and September, the MABLN meets in-person at one of our gracious host companies to continue the conversation around disability employment and to connect personally and expand professional networks.

Photos By Jessica Lappin of Jessica Lappin Design

This month’s meeting was hosted by MABLN member Laura Stout, Director of Contract Operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA). Stephanie Browne, BCBSMA Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion opened the meeting with a warm welcome saying, “We are excited to host today’s MABLN meeting and have the USBLN, a leading advocate for disability communities, with us. We have been partnering with Work Without Limits through our Empowering Abilities ERG led by Laura Stout, Pat Vogt, Ted Burke and Lee Steingisser, for many years. Through that relationship, we have helped to drive a culture that is inclusive and supportive of all associates regardless of their abilities here at Blue Cross. Specifically, our partnership has helped progress our 4C’s (career, culture, community, commerce) diversity & inclusion strategy that connects the work we do in D&I to our company’s organizational business goals and objectives.”

Photos By Jessica Lappin of Jessica Lappin Design

The meeting began with recognizing WWL’s 5 Year Sponsors for their dedication to WWL and the MABLN and especially their commitment to recruiting, hiring, and retaining people with disabilities in the workforce. Thank you to BCBSMA, Eastern Bank, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, John Hancock, MAPFRE Insurance, MIT Sloan Executive Education, National Grid, State Street, TD Bank, TJX Companies, and University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is amazing the growth these companies have made around disability inclusion in the workforce in just 5 short years.

We were incredibly honored to welcome Becky Curran from the USBLN as our keynote speaker. Becky touched on her personal story as a person with physical differences struggling to find employment. She also spoke about the Disability Equality Index (DEI); the USBLN’s annual disability inclusion benchmarking tool. MABLN members were captivated as Becky overviewed the DEI’s results – areas companies are excelling at in terms of disability inclusion, areas that are showing improvement, and areas that are in need of significant improvement. Becky also spoke about the Disability Supplier Diversity Program (DSDP), which is the leading third-party certifier of disability owned businesses (DOBEs) and a way in which employers in the network can become more actively engaged in expanding their disability supplier involvement and footprint.

Photos By Jessica Lappin of Jessica Lappin Design

Laura Stout of BCBSMA led panelists John Morrell of TD Bank, Carrie Mota of MAPFRE Insuranceand Colleen Moran of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network in a discussion highlighting the importance of providing disability inclusion training to all levels of employees as a best practice. Training themes these companies have offered include general and broad reaching topics such as disability awareness and etiquette. Other, more targeted audience trainings have included interviewing and conducting performance discussions with individuals with disabilities. All of the panelists reinforced how valuable employee training is at all levels to fight stigma, raise awareness, and effect inclusive change as part of an overall diversity strategy. This panel inspired many great ideas to deeper inclusion for people with disabilities in the workplace that reached beyond training. Educational sustainability such as implementing disability employee resource groups, reviewing job descriptions for inclusive language and skill based behavior, and including disability inclusion as part of new employee orientation programs was a key part of the discussion.

Photos By Jessica Lappin of Jessica Lappin Design

We are very grateful for all our sponsors and we are excited about what the future holds as employment rates among people with disabilities continues to climb!


In order to achieve your company’s
diversity goals like any of those
listed above, please contact us
to become a member of the MABLN.

Is Braille Relevant in 2018?

On January 4, 2018, millions of blind people worldwide paid homage to Louis Braille on what would have been his 209th birthday. The Braille system, which Louis began perfecting at the tender age of eleven, was adopted as the primary reading method of the blind by France in 1854 and started being used in the United States in 1860. Today, dynamic technological advances have caused the Braille literacy rate of blind children to decline. According to National Braille Press, only 12% of blind students learn Braille.

Upon completing my freshmen year of high school, I was hired for a summer job as a receptionist at Collette Vacations in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Collette had over 500 employees for whom I was responsible for connecting callers with. I placed the extension list in Braille, and referred to it to obtain proper contact information. As my responsibilities at Collette increased, I placed tour descriptions into Braille so I could respond to customer inquiries on tour highlights.

Braille remains important in my employment today. I work in the call center of Eversource Energy and receive emergency calls reporting gas leaks or odors. Each call is potentially a life-threatening situation, and I efficiently read a list of safety precautions, which have been transcribed into Braille. Last year, I was required to complete an oral presentation as part of a promotional exam. Utilizing Braille notes, I delivered the presentation with ease, and as a result I was promoted to a senior customer service position in October of 2017.

I know Braille books are cumbersome, Braille writers are heavy, and Braille displays are expensive, however, without Braille it would have been impossible for me to learn proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Additionally, without Braille I would not have been named to the Dean’s List at Fitchburg State University, or been recognized by Work Without Limits as their 2017 Employee of the Year. As we consider whether Braille is vital in 2018, remember that of the 85,000 blind adults in the United States who are employed, 90% are Braille literate. Louis Braille’s invention has been a gift to me. Braille knowledge places visually impaired people on an equal pedestal with sighted relatives, friends and colleagues. Braille impacts my employment today, and will continue to benefit me in the future.


If you would like to learn more about
reasonable workplace accommodations visit here



C3 Prepares College Students with Disabilities for Career Success

Campus Career Connect (C3) was created with the intent to aid transitioning young adults with disabilities from school to work and connect them to mentors within their desired career field. By promoting job readiness, inclusion, and advocacy trainings and advice, C3 mentors help make the transition from school to employment  positive and socially impactful. Mentoring on C3 can be found through the platform’s use of online events, local job listings, networking, resume building, soft and hard skill coaching, and an interactive forum space for questions and advice.

One year ago with funding from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) announced that it would partner with UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits initiative to launch a new online group mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities with the goal of improving employment outcomes. Additional funding from The Milbank Foundation enabled PYD to expand beyond community college students in Massachusetts to include students with disabilities in any type of higher education institution across the nation.

Designed to be user-friendly and accommodating to any specific needs a mentee or mentor may have, C3’s aim is to bring group mentoring to a national level for those looking for a more remote and flexible presence. C3 members participate in monthly webinars geared toward discussing pertinent employment-related topics such as financial literacy, resume building, and interview skills. Users also have access to disability-friendly employers through a partnership with Work Without Limit’s job board, and can seek advice and support from one another through private messages or group discussions.

Mentors come from companies such as:

Alira Health;

Carroll Center for the Blind;

Clifton Larson Allen;

CVS Health;

Department of Children and Families;

EPI-USE America, Inc;

Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston;

FordwardWorks Consulting;


Haircuts Ltd;

John Hancock;

Maine State Chamber of Commerce;

MAPFRE Insurance;

MA Commission for the Blind;

Metrowest Regional Transit Authority;

National Ability Center;

National Organization on Disability;

Our Space Our Place;

Partners for Youth with Disabilities;

Sikorsky Aircraft;

UMass Medical School;

US Department of Transportation;

Work Without Limits


“C3 organizes additional information and provides a way to connect through the internet and also allows for communication beyond the in person meetings. The accessibility is great.” (Massachusetts Commission for the Blind; mentor)

How It Came To Be

C3 was designed to address the root causes in the current statistics showing that people with disabilities continue to face large barriers to schooling and employment, especially during the college to career transition.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that:

  • In 2016 the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10.6%; more than double than people with disabilities at 4.6%
  • 70% of 25 to 64-year old adults with disabilities are not participating in the labor force (not actively seeking or have been denied access to search for careers)
  • Students with disabilities are just as likely as their peers without disabilities to attend post-secondary classes, but they are significantly less likely to receive a degree
  • Students with disabilities that graduate with a post-secondary degree are two to four times less likely than their comparable peers without disabilities to find a job
  • If they do find a job, according to the American Institutes for Research, people with disabilities on average receive 37% less pay than their co-workers without disabilities—and that pay gap only gets larger the more higher education they have!

These disparities are huge and need to be addressed now. C3 was designed to specifically bring support to college students with disabilities that are seeking employment.

Back in October 2017, we heard from our users that C3 has helped shaped their confidence in finding employment. Our C3 mentoring staff was excited to share the success story of one of our mentees. Based on the tools and resources shared through the C3 along with their one-on-one career mentor, one mentee reported that they were more confident and ready for the job market. The mentee recently applied and was hired for a full-time position working in human services, their field of interest. They have credited the C3 network with equipping them with the skills and support to pursue their passion.

What Users Are Saying

“I like being able to connect with other volunteer mentors on C3 and read their profiles/stories. They’re very inspiring and motivating.” (mentee; University of California, Berkley)

“I’ve enjoyed the relationship I’ve built with a mentor and the communication part that was crucial to build the relationship.” (mentee; University of California, Berkley)


If you are interested in learning more about C3,
contact C3 Coordinator Deep Chinappa