September 29, 2023


by: marketing


Tags: advocacy, client story, disability employment


Categories: Newsletter Articles

Accomplishing Goals Through Advocacy: Samantha’s Story

Accomplishing Goals Through Advocacy: Samantha’s Story

Determined and a true go-getter, Samantha is an employU client and disability advocate. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, Samantha grew up doing chores and playing outdoors with other kids in the neighborhood. She excelled in academics and was very shy. It wasn’t until adulthood that she truly allowed herself to flourish.   

In 2018, a secondary disability left Samantha with symptoms that caused her to transition from using a 4-wheel walker to a wheelchair, but Samantha did not let that hold her back. By advocating for herself and requesting assistance from the state, she received services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) under the Medicaid Waiver and began utilizing personal supports (caregivers) to assist her with her daily needs. Instead of looking at the wheelchair as a hindrance, she saw it as a key to freedom. She researched activities to do within her community and found All People’s Life Center (APLC) in Temple Terrace and began participating in adaptive sports. APLC helped her find the confidence she had always wanted. She played practically every sport they could offer including archery, pickleball, badminton, tennis, swimming, track and field sports, and table tennis. She enjoyed table tennis so much that she ended up crossing paths with the recruiter from the USA Paralympic Table Tennis team and later became part of that team.   

Participating in adaptive sports is how Samantha found confidence to expand her social skills, but she wanted to do more. At the time ABLE United asked account holders if they were interested in becoming ABLE United ambassadors. Samantha went for it. 

Shortly after becoming an ABLE United ambassador, Samantha had a meeting with her Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor. While at her meeting she described to her counselor what the Social Security Administration (SSA) was doing in regard to her Social Security benefits. The counselor told Samantha that she was explaining the situation in a way that made these very complex processes understandable, and that skill alone would make her a great Certified Work Incentives Practitioner (C-WIP). From there on, with help from VR, Samantha took the course and completed her case study to become a C-WIP.    

Looking for even more to do, Samantha went to her Center for Independent Living (CIL) and ended up meeting their grassroots support group leader. This, in turn, led her to the organization Ms. Wheelchair Florida. In 2020, Samantha participated in the Ms. Wheelchair Florida competition where she learned how to build on her advocacy and public speaking skills. She ended up winning the competition and due to the pandemic, she is the only state titleholder with a 2-year reign.  

Though transitioning to a more online presence during this time was challenging to many, this came fairly easily to Samantha. She used various online platforms to let others know about her Ms. Wheelchair Florida platform, to expand transportation options in the community for individuals with disabilities. She ended up building a following because she was not only sharing disability resources, but she was also showing others how she was living her life to the fullest with a disability.  

Wanting to know learn more about how to advocate effectively, she signed up for every single disability advocacy training she could. This included Partners in Policymaking (PIP), Project SALT (Self-Advocate Leadership Training), Leadership in Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND), and Florida Self-Advocates and Network’D (FL-SAND).   

All of these trainings taught Samantha how to advocate for herself and how to teach others to advocate. Even though these are stellar achievements, there is one area that Samantha has always felt she needed assistance in and that is finding paid employment. After having two self-employment jobs, both of which only lasted a short time, Samantha decided to seek the assistance of employU to find more steady work that she could rely on. She worked with her job coach Marci to find steady work that also incorporates her skill sets and her interests. Recently, she participated in an On-The-Job-Training (OJT) with employU’s marketing team, helping them create marketing materials about the work incentives that exist to help individuals with disabilities work while receiving Social Security benefits. Her next OJT she will be with employU to shadow one of their C-WIPs to gain more hands-on skills in benefits planning.   

The OJTs that Samantha is participating in are helping her expand her skills. She has learned how to work in a project-based environment from home, keep deadlines, and what it means to be a subject-matter expert. When asked what the key to success is, Samantha says, “Never give up, always keep trying, and do things when you feel you are ready.”  

For more information on our employment services visit . 


Contact Us