The MDDC is proud to announce that Donald Washington has been named the winner of our inaugural National Disability Employment Awareness Month essay contest.   Read Donald's essay here.

Matthew Bander, Russell Daniels, and Eric Rice also received certificates of recognition for their essays. Thank you to everyone who shared your story!

Putting The Work In

By Donald S. Washington

            In this day and age, getting a job is difficult due to the economy. It seems that everywhere you go; you see unemployment lines a mile long. When you finally get one, you have to work hard to keep it because you do not know how long it will remain. When an individual with a disability is faced with the daunting task of looking for a job, it is difficult because you need one for your personal sustainability. Our community has faced many obstacles in the real world socially and personally. Not many of us can get a job and keep it. However, at the end of the day, we are different. Our differences are our strengths and they should be embraced as assets not hindrances.

            When I turned the tender of age of 16, it was a good time. I was a little bit older. Wiser? I don’t know about that. I’m not perfect. Anyway, it was September 11th, 2001 when I first started to look for a job. I did not realize that it would take me a lot of months. But I did not give up on my search because I wanted to feel somewhat like a grown-up. On March 12, 2002, I was able to say that I got a job. I started working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Department of Radiology. I felt awesome because I did this while dealing with high-functioning autism in high school. To me, this was a big milestone because at the time, I did not know anybody with what I have that was juggling school and a job. At least the search for a job was complete. However, I knew that I had to do my best to keep it. I was going to work my hardest so I could make something good out of it.

            Being an autistic individual is sometimes not easy. I know this first hand because I have been dealing with it for the past 28 years. When it comes to my job, it is very demanding. I always do multiple tasks in a day. Sometimes I can get through them and sometimes I cannot. Every now and then, I get flustered when it comes to a few assignments but who doesn’t? I am not a perfect worker; no one is. However I try my very best and make sure the work gets done. I often do stumble at my job. There are times when I feel that I cannot do the job because my autism holds me back from reaching my full potential. One obstacle that I still face is communication. On a daily basis, I speak with doctors and patients. Each one is very different from the other. Whenever I try to talk and understand them from their angle, it is usually misinterpreted as me not caring. That makes me feel real low because it takes me back to the time when I first started to develop my speech and make friends, which was incredibly difficult. However, I realize that I have to be an adult and take it on the chin. Plus, I want to be able to show that I can do the work. Of course, I have my days when I am spot on with my communication, as I try my very best to be social with others. It is an everyday struggle working in a high-paced environment but I have been doing this for 11 years so I will to work hard in any capacity wherever I go.

            For me, success is something that does not come overnight. Outside of work, I have been able to be part of organizations such as the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, Citizens Advisory Board, and the Autism Speaks committee. At the end of the day, whether in work or any aspect of normal life, we deserve to work like everybody else. Because we are always going to be around ready to roll up our sleeves, we want to show what we are made of. After all, you cannot spell disability without ability.