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

The Stigma of Mental Illness: Both Sides of the Coin

My name is Megan Northup and I have a mental illness. I have been in the hospital many times over the past five years, which has led me to miss weeks of work at a time.  I used to feel shame upon returning to work because no one except my boss and a few close co-workers knew where I had been or why. Initially, I felt like my mental illness was a secret that I had to keep because nobody at work talked about it. If I mentioned it, I always felt like I had directly addressed the elephant in the room, and no one knew how to respond. However, as time went on, I realized that it was not those I worked with who were uncomfortable with my mental illness, it was me. I saw it as a mark against my character and I thought it defined who I was as a person. Despite the internal or external stigma I felt at work upon returning from a hospitalization, I overcame it. I came to work every day and just did the best I could. This was not always easy. I struggled to concentrate on tasks because some of my medications made me extremely tired. I found that things I could usually handle just fine when I was feeling well could cause me to breakdown to the point that I wanted to quit. However, I knew quitting was not the answer as I got far more from work than just a paycheck on Friday. Work gave me a normalcy that I felt was missing from my life. To do my work and do it well gave me my confidence back and helped my self-esteem, which was almost nonexistent. Being productive again made me feel great and part of something bigger. That connection to my work helped in my recovery from my mental illness.

My Own History with the Stigma of Mental Illness

If I think back to my days at American International College as a young occupational therapy student who had yet to experience my first psychiatric crisis, I realize that even then I struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation almost daily.  I realize that I also struggled back then with the stigma of mental illness. I struggled so much so that I refused to do fieldwork in a psychiatric setting due to the fact I identified with what the clients were going through. I did not want to be associated in anyway with mental illness.  Life, however, sometimes has a funny way of coming full circle and years later I would find myself in the hospital, on a locked psychiatric unit, and those people I once stigmatized were my peers.

What I learned from being on a Psychiatric Unit

The biggest shock I received from being on a psychiatric unit was that the people around me were just normal everyday people. Yes, I may have met them at a low point in their life. Yes, they were all struggling with whatever issues they had but despite this, they were some of the nicest, most kind, and empathic people I had ever met. They were each trying their hardest to get back to their lives, spouses, children, hobbies, and jobs. I know that many of the people I have met are on disability income and do not work due to the difficulties they face on a daily basis. However, I firmly believe that given the chance and the right supports, many of them would be able to work and benefit from working as I have.  People with mental illnesses have a lot to offer employers: they are resilient, resourceful, and creative. They have overcome adversity, are well-spoken and well-read, and all have something to offer society. I have met individuals who are teachers, veterans, waiters, engineers, and students – all who are a part of an untapped talent pool frequently overlooked due to stigma and misconceptions. All they need is a chance.

What I Think

Sometimes I think our fear of things that are different or unknown can make us wary of interacting with, getting to know, or working with people who we view as different from ourselves. In the media, on television, and in the movies we see individuals with mental illnesses portrayed in a negative light, but these depictions of a few people with mental illnesses should not define a whole group of people who are as diverse in personality, skills, and life experiences as you and I. Therefore, I ask you to look beyond the stigma and misconceptions, and give people with mental illnesses a chance to prove themselves and to be productive, contributing members of our society.

Watch the Work Without Limits Team “Bursting the Stigma” In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month 2016



Visit Mental Health America to learn more about mental illness and the affect of stigma


Work Without Limits 3rd Annual Disability Mentoring Day

Work Without Limits (WWL) is excited to announce that applications are open for the 3rd Annual Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), taking place on Friday, April 27, 2018 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is a large-scale national effort to promote career development for candidates with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships.

How does it work?

Mentees are job seekers with disabilities who are 18 years or older and who are seeking to gain exposure to a professional working environment.  Each mentee completes an application where they are asked to provide information on their career goals and aspirations. Based on their answers, the mentee is paired with a mentor who works in a career that is similar to the mentee’s career goal.  On the actual Disability Mentoring Day, the mentee goes to the selected company for the day to meet their mentor and learn about the necessary skills needed for that particular role.

Companies who host the mentees are members of the MABLN, an association of businesses and employers that are committed to including people with disabilities in their workplaces.  Mentors from these companies are identified and matched to mentees according to career tracks and interests. The employers and mentors who participate in DMD are proven disability employment and inclusive hiring champions, and are eager to welcome mentees!

What are possible activities that may happen on DMD?

It’s possible that only one mentee will be matched with a company, but it is more probable that there will be a small group of perhaps 3-5 mentees at each company. Although each company is encouraged to get creative with the structure of their DMD, there are many agenda similarities across companies. A typical day might include:

  • Welcome and Mentor/Mentee Meet & Greet
  • Company Overview
  • Facility Tour
  • Application and hiring process overview with Human Resources
  • 1:1 mentor/mentee job shadowing and meeting time
  • Lunch 1:1 with mentor or in a small group

Mentees should plan to take part in all aspects of the Mentor’s work day, whether it be attending meetings, participating in conference calls, running a cash register, or one of the many other activities.

DMD is a great opportunity for mentees to learn about the culture of a particular company, to get hands on experience in a particular field, and above all, to build a professional network that they can leverage as they transition into work and throughout their careers!

In the pilot year of DMD (2016), 29 mentees and 10 employers participated. In the 2nd year (2017), 43 mentees and 9 employers participated. For our current year (2018), there are 7 employers participating. These companies include: Eastern Bank; Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston; John Hancock; MassMutual; National Grid; TJX Companies Inc.; and UMass Medical School.

How does one become a Mentee?

Mentees can refer themselves  or be referred by WWL Community Partner Organizations that include Asperger/Autism Network (AANE); Berkshire Works Career Center; Bridgewater State University; BU Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation; Carroll Center for the Blind; Community Work Services; Epilepsy Foundation of New England; Quinsigamond Community College; Massachusetts Commission for the Blind; Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD); Regional Employment Collaboratives; Triangle; and Work, Inc. Special thank you to our community partners for actively promoting DMD and sourcing mentees!

What do prior participants have to say about their experience with DMD?

In 2017, 96.3% of mentees thought they were matched successfully and 93.5% of mentors thought they were matched successfully.

Mentees who have participated in DMD in prior years have told us that their favorite part of DMD was:

“Meeting with my Mentor privately was a great opportunity I never could have realized without the creation of this day.”

“Five complete hours of enjoying the working experience with motivation galore from great hands-on exposure to kind hearted people who went out of their way to make me feel right at home!”

“My favorite part of the day was meeting other mentors and seeing what they did for jobs.”

“Getting to know people in the departments, press room and consumer line. Also getting to meet the incredible Attorney General Maura Healy.”

“My Mentor was very professional, and his current research project is related to my professional background.”

And Mentors told us:

“My mentee’s professional interests allowed us to explore how my role and career path could provide some valuable information for consideration in his career path goals.”

“We had three wonderful Mentees who were a great match for the office and made all of our efforts worthwhile. We felt like we hit the jackpot with the matches!”

“I see benefits of working with someone with autism, and that those benefits can outweigh the drawbacks!”

“The purpose of DMD is to encourage a person to participate in the world- introduce them to the work world. You do not need to know their disability to do that. ”

“DMD taught me how prepared and qualified individuals with disabilities are to work with, in some cases with little accommodation.”

“My mentee was absolutely delightful and was engaged throughout the day. He was very eager to meet and talk to as many people as possible!”

It’s not too late to apply for DMD
but slots are filling up quickly!
Deadline to apply is next Friday,
March 23rd. Sign up here!

My daughter, Noelle: Finding herself in her work

Our daughter, Noelle, is on the cusp of adulthood. She’s an engaging 21-year-old with Down Syndrome, who is excited about what the future holds. We’ve helped her develop a vision of the life she wants to lead and employment is an important part of it. Why? A job will provide structure, purpose, and fulfillment to her life. It will help define her identity, influencing how she sees herself in the community and how the community sees her. How will this happen? Through the opportunities that employment provides for relationships, achievement and community inclusion.

Relationships – Life is more fun with friends! Young adults with disabilities can face challenges building and maintaining friendships. To avoid social isolation, they need opportunities to build and sustain meaningful relationships. The workplace can provide the types of opportunities for social interaction that can help build friendships. Noelle has experienced this in her volunteer role at a local nursing home. She has used her wit and charm to connect with patients in ways that others have not, bringing happiness to them and their families. The staff have embraced her too, surprising her last month with a birthday cake and delivering a collective smile!

Achievement – Employment provides opportunities for achievement, and achievement provides opportunities for fulfillment. A job can present daily opportunities for task completion and skill development; helping individuals with disabilities build their identity. Noelle exudes pride when she completes tasks and masters skills. You can’t wipe the smile off her face when we enter the local restaurant where she interns. She excitedly explains her role at the restaurant and introduces us to her manager. The impact of her workplace achievements are self-evident.

Noelle practices her elevator pitch during
a PwC sponsored session on job seeking skills.

Community Inclusion – If you are not present in the community, are you really part of the community? Too often individuals with disabilities lack employment opportunities in their local communities. The benefits of working near home are obvious – reduced commuting times, familiar settings, and, most importantly, the opportunity to be seen. Being seen allows one to experience the benefits of the community and interact with neighbors, friends, teachers, and family. Noelle loves being seen! Seeing acquaintances at local stores, restaurants, and other community settings can be the highlight of her day. Having these opportunities at work would have a meaningful impact on her life.

The impact of employment extends beyond the traditional wage for services model of an employer/employee relationship. A job often influences an individual’s identity – how they see themselves and how others see them. This is especially true for individuals with disabilities. As Noelle begins to search for jobs in earnest, our focus will be on helping her find a position that provides opportunities for relationships, achievement, and community inclusion.

Employment for individuals with disabilities should provide opportunities for relationships, achievement and community inclusion.


If you are a person with a disability seeking inclusive employment or an employer seeking diverse
candaites sign up to Work Without Limits Job Board


If you are an employer seeking great talent such
as Noelle, join our Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN) to gain access to all WWL has to offer!

Providing Quality Disability Benefits Planning Services Since 2000

In 2000 and as part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, the U.S. Social Security Administration awarded a number of benefits planning grants to community providers throughout the country. These grants, now referred to as Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) grants, aimed to assist recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to better understand the myriad of work rules and reporting requirements regarding these public benefit programs. Two grants were awarded in Massachusetts:

  • The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission named their program, Project IMPACT. This program is still in existence today and services Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Bristol, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties.
  • Resource Partnership, a private non-profit organization based in Natick, MA, named their program, BenePLAN. At the time of the grant, Kathy Petkauskos, current director of Work Without Limits (WWL), was the Executive Director of the Resource Partnership. In 2008 the BenePLAN grant and program transitioned over to UMass Medical School as part of the WWL Initiative, which aims to improve the employment rates for individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts.  This program services individuals living in Middlesex, Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties.

    As part of Work Without Limits brand management process, BenePLAN has been renamed Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling. This rebranding provides a seamless integration of benefits counseling services into the larger picture of inclusive employment that has been the hallmark of Work Without Limits since its inception in 2008.
    Despite the name change, the WWL Benefits Counseling staff continue to provide comprehensive benefits counseling services in our territory. The mission of the benefits counseling program is to inform SSDI and SSI recipients about the effect of work income on all public benefits, not just their Social Security benefits. To date, WWL Benefits Counseling has provided services to thousands of Massachusetts residents.

    Through the hard work and dedication of our highly skilled team of Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs), WWL Benefits Counseling provides one-on-one counseling to individuals receiving SSDI and or SSI.

    Our CWIC team, consisting of myself, Brian Forsythe, as well as my colleagues Barbara Lee, Marjorie Longo and Winnie Siano, explains the effect of work income on not only SSDI and SSI, but also MassHealth, Medicare, SNAP, EAEDC, TAFDC and Public Housing. Understanding the effect of work income on public benefits makes the decision to return to work less challenging.

    In addition to providing benefits counseling, the WWL Benefits Counseling team also provides a number of training programs geared toward state agency and community provider staff who work with individuals with disabilities who are working or looking to return to work. We additionally provide overview presentations to parents and caregivers looking to understand how work will affect their child’s public benefits.

    Work Without Limits also provides Benefits Counseling services to Social Security beneficiaries through the Work Without Limits Administrative Employment Network (WWL AEN).  Individuals enrolled in this program have assigned their Social Security Ticket to Work to the WWL AEN and have achieved or are seeking to achieve independence from SSI or SSDI payments.  Benefits Counseling services through the WWL AEN are designed to help individuals build a bridge to financial security free from public benefits.

    Learn more about WWL Benefits Counseling 

    Register to one of our Nuts & Bolts training

    If you would like to learn more about WWL AEN

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

When people think about making money, they usually think of getting a job, which is a good way to go – stability. However, what about entrepreneurship? It may be a harder path to take because it involves spending time researching markets, understanding certain processes in business, accessing capital, and networking with the right people in your industry. The list goes on.

For me, being an entrepreneur is not only the path to becoming a millionaire, it is also a path to adding value to people’s lives by creating opportunities such as hiring persons with disabilities – like myself! Since I became paralyzed from Bacterial Spinal Meningitis at the age of fourteen, I’ve been receiving Social Security benefits that have enabled me to become a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and CEO of Ray Grand Apparel. Though I never wanted to stay on Social Security forever, the benefits have been a great resource for me to survive and have the majority of my needs met. Social Security income, however, isn’t enough for me to thrive and live a fulfilled life. I believe entrepreneurship is the gateway to financial freedom. Having personal experience overcoming challenges gives me the grit to stick it out through the tough times in my business.  Who wants to be a millionaire? I do and I’m sure most people do, however it requires sacrifice, discipline, hard work and of course entrepreneurship!  Some people may say starting a business may be too risky—finding enough capital and/or resources and I understand.  On the other hand, if you have a talent, are passionate about an idea, a social issue, or people, you have something that can help reconstruct our world in some capacity. Your talents, ideas, and passions can add value to someone’s life. You can turn your ideas into money when you invest quality time.

How did I start my business?

I thought to myself … there has to be a way that I could still receive Social Security benefits to meet my basic needs and work on my business without it affecting those benefits. As many individuals with disabilities know, the amount of money required for even daily health care supplies required to live is expensive. Aware of this challenge, I scheduled an appointment with my local Vocational Rehabilitation Office and met with my counselor to discuss my goals. She told me about PASS, which stands for Plan to Achieve Self-Support. PASS is a ‘work incentive’ for people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI). PASS provides beneficiaries receiving social security benefits with a framework to develop a business plan, as well as setting aside money to advance toward achieving education or employment goals including jumpstarting a business. Yes! There is hope and I was about to make it happen – and so can you!

How did I survive in business throughout the years?

Starting a small business has its risks and rewards. There are a few things I’ve learned on how to maintain a successful business. Cultivating personal and business relationships helped me to build a network. I value all people regardless of their role or title in a company. Someone’s title should not dictate how you treat them. Measure someone based on their character and who they are. Every person matters. You never know what relationship may be your next million dollar deal.

It is also important to connect with your customers whether it’s through email, phone, or social media. Build a rapport with your customers and show them that you value them. Follow up with your customers and get feedback to make sure they are satisfied with your products and services.

You also want to set goals for your business. What is the purpose of your business, why does it exist, and how do you want to make a difference?  Your WHY is your purpose. Your purpose is your message. Your message is how you connect to your customer and then to the world. “Everybody has information, but very few connect.” – John Maxwell.


For more information on working
and social security benefits, contact the
Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling team

For tips on how to start your own business,
contact the U.S. Small Business Administration

Charting Our Own Future

As we celebrate Black History month, it is important that we acknowledge the many connections between the civil rights movement and the disability rights movement. Similar to African-Americans, persons with disabilities have fought for full participation and inclusion in society.  Though great leaders have charted the course of both movements, it was the collective impact of ordinary people deciding to get involved that contributed to making life better for everyone.

It was 12 years ago during a conversation with friends about the persistent high unemployment rate among minorities who are blind that I was inspired to found Our Space Our Place, Inc. (OSOP), an after school and career exploration program for middle and high school youth who are blind.  Two-thirds of people who are blind and want to work are unemployed.  Our goal is to change this reality for future generations.

By offering a year-round program, we provide a place where being blind or having low vision is not a student’s defining characteristic, and we allow students to explore and develop important and valued aspects of their personalities, talents, and skills. In doing so, we fulfill our mission to prepare students who are blind to be involved in activities in their local community, develop friendships, lead activities, gain self-confidence, and explore career and educational options.

Because blindness is a low incidence disability, individuals who are blind are often socially isolated and must regularly deal with the negative perceptions of their blindness on their own. We purposely house our program at a community center in order to facilitate social integration and demonstrate that blind people can and do pursue activities similar to those without disabilities.

We develop partnerships with organizations in the community, which enables us to create allies and expand our students’ involvement in the community. For example, we developed a partnership with Create-A-Cook to hold cooking classes for our students. When we began the relationship, Create-A- Cook had never worked with people who were blind and were unsure whether the classes would proceed successfully. Today, Create-A-Cook’s chefs are confident in their ability to teach people who are blind to cook, and in turn, our students have learned and have grown in their confidence to prepare meals.

We have found internships for our students at the Braille and Talking Book Library. Working at the library gave one of our students his first job experience and taught his family that he could use paratransit by himself to get to and from work. At the outset, this student and his family were unsure about his future, but are now able to envision a successful path. OSOP facilitates opportunities that will allow our students to live full and active lives in their communities.

For more information about Our Space Our Place

Kerry’s Sister

I was three. She was new and seemed really small. In the early years we shared a room. For a while, she had a tent over her crib with cold, wet fog blowing into it. It hummed all night. I wasn’t supposed to touch her because it could make her sick, but sometimes mom let me go inside the tent anyway. I don’t know if that tent was there for days, weeks or even months, but I remember the tent.

As I got bigger and ran faster, she didn’t. She also didn’t really want to play with me. Mom used to stretch her on the floor like I stretched my green Gumby doll. She would play bicycle with her legs and make snow angels on the hardwood. Mom also used to put a big popsicle stick in her mouth and move her tongue all around while she made weird noises. Mom used to let me play along sometimes, too, but I never wanted to do that gross popsicle stick game.

One winter it snowed so much it was over my head. My dad built underground snow tunnels that connected to the igloo my two older brother’s built. They let me go inside and we had hot chocolate and peanut butter & bacon sandwiches. It was the best day ever.

Kerry Boggis and her mom, Leslie Boggis.

I went to school. My sister stayed home with mom and got better at walking and talking. My dad sold TVs and traveled a lot. He always came home with little gifts for us. One year, I got a Swatch Watch with the rubber face protector. It was SO cool. After a few years, Mom went back to work and we went to daycare, but my brothers didn’t go. I hated that place. No one ever wanted to play with me. I spent a lot of time and anger trying to figure out why my sister was a “retard” and why the short bus was so funny. We both cried a lot there. I don’t know if it was weeks or months, but thankfully, my mom took us out of that place.

Soon, my sister and I started to fight. She drove me crazy. She never wanted to do what I wanted and her cries sent everyone running. She had a huge stupid back brace and I got so mad at her once, I pushed her off a chair. She dislocated her knee. I ran to the top of the stairs and sat there crying. I listened to everyone run around, call the ambulance, get her ice … and figure out what to do with me. I felt horrible. She had enough problems and I just had to go and add to them. I knew that’s what everyone was thinking. I don’t remember if I even got in trouble.

I really liked school. I liked the feeling of getting an “A”. I liked playing basketball and softball and working part time and babysitting and doing every theater production and just being really, really busy. I liked being good at stuff. Maybe I was escaping something? Maybe I just liked finding out who I was outside of being Kerry’s sister? Maybe I was just following my mom’s directions that I heard repeated in our house over and over again throughout the years, “You can do it. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you differently. You can do anything.”

The Boggis siblings

My mom never listened to what the doctors told her. If she did, Kerry would never have grown up in our house or learned to walk and talk. She most certainly would not have become an independent working woman with two jobs and hold a Board of Director’s seat. She would not have lived in her own apartment, fallen in love and then lost that love, become a budding horseback rider or make the best fresh rolls from scratch you’ve ever tasted. My mom would not have gone on to serve and inspire hundreds of NH families within the disabled community for years as the Manager of Consumer Directed Services at Gateways Community Services or worked to effect policy change for individuals and families at the NH State House.

The childhood memories I share here are pieced together, mere slices of time and perhaps not even in chronological order, but as any good self-psychoanalyst would say, they have made me who I am today. It’s why I value difference and inclusion … and fight for it. Having witnessed my mom and sister’s hard work pay off, I know first-hand that anything is possible.

Aunty Kerry with 3 of her 4 nieces and her nephew.

I now have three daughters of my own. Best friends one minute-worst enemies the next. Like I did growing up, I know they are listening to every word I say, watching every move my husband and I make and are teaching each other exponentially through every good and bad interaction. Being Kerry’s sister isn’t always easy, but it’s pretty darn cool too. I don’t think I tell her that enough, so Kerry, I love you. Thank you for teaching me and making me be better… and please bring your rolls to Easter!

The Boggis family

Click here to learn more about how support
and/or employ individuals with disabilities

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Individuals and Families:

  • Our Job Board is a great place to upload your resume and find that perfect job with known employer disability champions
  • Our certified Benefits Counseling team provides education and counseling for individuals and families as well as training for Community Partners around the impact working has on public benefits
  • Our Community Partners provide tremendous targeted support and resources


  • Become a Sponsor of Work Without Limits and member of The Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN). Sponsorship includes access to our Job Board, resources, registration at our annual conference and access to a network of engaged employers all focused on becoming Employers of Choice for people with disabilities

What Do We Mean When We Say Disability?

Oftentimes when we are conducting disability etiquette and other similar training’s for employers, the first question we get is: what do you mean when you say disability? It’s a very good question because disability is different for everyone; it varies from person to person, and can change over time. It’s important to understand this in order to better serve employees, clients, and others involved in your business.  So, what do we mean when we say disability?

Disability is a broad term that includes a wide range of conditions that occur across the life span.  Apparent disabilities often come to mind first such as:

  • Mobility impairments — for example, someone who uses a wheelchair
  • Intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome
  • Blindness

Disability also includes conditions that may not be apparent such as learning disabilities, low vision, chronic illnesses, and mental health conditions.

Did you know that 80% of people with disabilities acquire their disability sometime during their lifetime, and 20% are born with their disability?

People who are born with their disability may be more comfortable with their disability. It’s what they’ve known their whole life; it is part of who they are as a person.

For others, their disability may be new to them and they could be anywhere on the continuum of adjusting to a new way of life. Examples of this could include someone who sustains a spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident and now uses a wheelchair.  Or, it could be someone recently diagnosed with a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or depression.

For persons who are newly diagnosed with a disability, they may go through a process of adjustment. Keep in mind that disability does not change a person; a person with a newly acquired disability is the same person they were before, therefore, it is important not to treat them any differently.

Also bear in mind that someone may acquire a disability mid-career. Their career may have been interrupted for a period of time while they were undergoing treatment or rehabilitation. Someone in this situation may be looking to re-enter the labor market after a period of absence. They may be looking to pick up where their career left off – in the same or similar position, with the same or similar employer, with or without an accommodation. Or, they may be looking for a job that is completely different from what they did before. Their disability could now prevent them from doing the job they did previously; they have been re-trained and are re-tooled for a new career. This also means they could be seeking an entry-level position even though they may be at an age where you’d expect them to be mid-career.

Another scenario may be someone who is looking to do a related position but not at the level they were at before. In this particular situation, a candidate may appear over-qualified.  An example of this may be someone who held a high-level position with a lot of responsibility and stress and who experienced a psychiatric illness. After treatment they decide to resume their career but in a role with less responsibility and stress in an attempt to be successful both at work and in their personal life.

Disability can also be age-related. Shifting perceptions of retirement, increased workplace flexibility and the aging of the baby boomer generation are all contributing to people working longer. Mature workers may develop disabilities as they age, or existing disabilities may become more significant.

Also, veterans who are returning from active military duty may have acquired a disability – or multiple disabilities, often caused by blast-related trauma. These can include physical, cognitive and psychological in nature.

Finally, people with disabilities cross all segments of the employee and candidate population. A person with a disability can be of any age, gender, race and ethnic background, and they can also be members of the LGBTQ community. People with disabilities come from all walks of life and are the only protected class of employees that any of us can join at any time. As a matter of fact, 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have or will experience a disability.

To learn more about disability etiquette
and other trainings we offer employers

If you would like to get involved with the
MA Business Leadership Network
to learn from and share with your peers