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Raising awareness for people living with disabilities, job challenges

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — March is National Disability Awareness Month, and there are more than 1 million people living with disabilities in Indiana.

Advocacy agencies are working to raise awareness about the challenges many people face, and employment is a key issue impacting people living with disabilities. In the COVID-19 pandemic, many lost their jobs and more are living at or near the poverty line.

Advocates say it’s important to raise awareness about widespread issues while spotlighting accomplishments. Indiana Advancing Employment, Connecting People awards recognized some of Indiana’s finest who work with people living with disabilities.

Award recipient Brandy Dickerson said, “With my cerebral palsy people will put you in a box and think you’re not able to achieve that goal.”

The Lois Curtis Award recognizes someone who advocates inclusive, individualized, and community-based employment. Dickerson took home this award.

Dickerson is a job retention specialist with Easterseals Crossroads. She is providing on site training and support for others living with a disability to maintain employment.

“I’ve come full circle. I went from having education, to finding work, to now being the person that’s on the provider side,” Dickerson said.

Her goal wasn’t the award. The reward was helping others like she had been helped.

“If they don’t work, they’re not able to pay certain bills. It’s just like everybody else.”

March is National Disability Awareness Month. David Dreith, Easterseals Crossroads president, said disability will impact 25% of our lives.

“Sometimes that disability just gives you a unique perspective on the world that someone without a disability just doesn’t have,” Dreith said.