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Disability Empowerment

Finding Equal Work and Pay for People With Disabilities

Kayla McKeon

Manager of Grassroots Advocacy, National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)

I began advocating for people with disabilities 14 years ago as a motivational speaker. I educated others about my abilities as someone with Down syndrome, as well as the abilities of others who have disabilities. In 2017, I became the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome.

Today, through my job as the manager of grassroots advocacy at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), I share my story with members of Congress, and speak on behalf of myself and others to advocate for the rights of my community.

Self-advocacy is important to me and many others with Down syndrome because we need to speak our minds and not have someone do it for us. If someone is speaking for me or not talking to me directly, I am being left out. Empowerment means I am comfortable in my own skin. 

Gainful employment

Employment is essential for people with Down syndrome because it shows what we are capable of, and highlights our strengths and abilities instead of our disabilities. Being employed in a career I love gives me a routine to maintain and keeps me on my toes. I feel confident and professional doing my job and concentrating on my responsibilities. I also love being on a team of people with and without disabilities.

I hope I motivate others with Down syndrome to gain competitive, integrated employment. Through NDSS and our #DSWORKS® program, I have spoken to audiences at conferences across the country and engaged people through my blog and podcast Kayla’s Korner to educate others on how to attain a rewarding job. 

I believe a lot will change in the future. I hope to see legislation passed that allows people with Down syndrome to get married without losing benefits like Supplemental Security Income and that everyone receives equal pay for equal work.

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