National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Working is Good for the Soul

Jackie Johnson was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. She has an associate of applied arts degree in advertising, design and Illustration; a Bachelor of Arts in integrative studies with a concentration in psychology; and a Master of Arts in teaching. She has worked in the education field and as a private artist. She’s currently working as an online teacher and professional coach.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Working is a tricky thing for many people with disabilities. We have to manage ambition and benefits. I’ve been working in different capacities since I was 19 years old, from interning to part-time and full-time paid positions. At every stage of my life, I’ve had to decide which was more important: making money, retaining benefits or contributing without receiving compensation (i.e. volunteering/interning). Most of the time, benefits outweighed making a wage or salary. However, contributing to some company or organization has always been a high priority.

Working is good for the soul.

Working can make a person feel fulfilled, accomplished and empowered. These three adjectives also create a healthy self-esteem, sense of self-worth and self-image.

My professional background has encompassed education and psychology. I initially wanted to be a classroom teacher working with fifth- and sixth-graders, but I soon realized that for greater physical health, I needed a career that was more flexible and less physically strenuous. I’m currently teaching ESL and providing professional coaching online to adult international students all over the world. I create my own schedule and set my own rates, and I’m supporting amazing students on every continent.

I’m considered a subcontractor where I’m working. In the government’s eyes, I’m self-employed. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. I have to pay my own taxes every year; Social Security evaluates my income annually, not monthly; and I have to be more aware of where I fall on the economic scale. So far, I’ve retained my benefits while feeling empowered and accomplished.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and it’s important every person with or without a disability realizes the value of working.

Contributing in some capacity changes lives. We all have talents and skills that can better our society. If you’re struggling to realize how you can work or what you can do, reach out to me and let’s talk about it. I love empowering people.

Are you, or do you know, a young adult seeking employment resources? Send your questions here: