2016 Employment First Summit  Trailblazing:  Charting Our Employment Path

How Employment Benefits People with Disabilities
Sheri Marney, Nancy Johnson, Ian Kuenzie, Kathy Lobb, Dylan Eagan

Many people with disabilities want to work but worry that doing so could jeopardize their vital health and long term care coverage. Programs like Working Healthy offer people with disabilities who are working or interested in working the opportunity to keep their KanCare coverage while on the job. Through Working Healthy people can earn more, save more, achieve their career goals, and still maintain their health coverage. WORK can provide waiver like supports to Working Healthy members to assist with personal needs and supported employment. Side effects of employment are not only improved financial status but improved mental health and increased level of independence. Not only do people with disabilities benefit from employment but the employer benefits from a more diversified staff and the local community benefits from having more inclusive businesses. Our panel of speakers will share their personal experiences with becoming employed and how they have benefited from the employment.

Sherri Marney is the WORK Program Manager for Working Healthy. She received her B. S. in Human Services Management in 2010 from the University of Phoenix. She began working with the Working Healthy team in 2007. From 2007 through 2009 she worked on the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment as a Senior Administrative Specialist and from 2009 through 2013 she worked as a Senior Administrative Specialist with Working Healthy and WORK. In 2013 she became the WORK Program Manager.

Nancy Johnson was born with optic nerve hypoplasia – the optic nerve did not develop completely.  She is near-blind, with enough sight to avoid obstacles, identify colors, and slowly read very large print at extremely close range.  Senses of smell and taste are impaired.  Touch and hearing are good.

Nancy graduated high school in 1959 from the Kansas School for the Blind, which was a fully residential program at the time.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech therapy from Wichita State University in 1964, was certified in elementary education from Kansas Wesleyan University in 1967, and earned a Master’s degree in education with emphasis on adult education and training through the University of Phoenix Online in 2013.  She uses Braille and text-to-speech technology, and portable electronic visual aids as appropriate.

Short-term employment while searching for the “real job” included special education instructor, typist, day care provider, and door-to-door sales among others.  The “real job,” which lasted 29 years, was rehabilitation teacher with Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  The program was discontinued the end of 2009.  Nancy traveled to clients’ homes and helped people with significant vision loss or blindness adjust to the vision loss and learn the adaptive techniques they would need to return to employment or to regain their independence.  Since 2010, Nancy has volunteered with the Kansas Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  She manages the office, edits the organization’s quarterly newsletter, provides information and referral, and is in her fourth year as president of the organization. 

Nancy was married 41 years to a man who became totally blind.  They had two children and two granddaughters.  Hobbies include latch hooking, reading, playing autoharp, trying to stay physically active, and spoiling two little dogs.