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Day 10 of 31 Days SMA Topic: Being a Social Worker with SMA This is Heather Kerstetter (@letsdothisheather ) story: It’s funny how sometimes the perfect career path just kind of falls into your lap. I had spent a lot of time doing a lot of things: musical theatre, communication sciences, linguistics, etc. It wasn’t until my best friend with SMA passed away that I thought maybe I’d look into social work since she had impressed upon me that it might be something I’d be good at. I fell in love pretty much immediately. I graduated with my Masters of Social Work in May 2020. Disability is a social justice issue, and therefore is, at its heart, also a social work issue. The kind of social work I have focused my efforts on is probably not what you think of when you think of social work. People tend to imagine caseworkers and family services, but there’s a whole other side to social work that has a more policy-based lens. The kind of social work I do is make every possible attempt to change the systems that leave disabled people impoverished, dependent and marginalized. I have done policy work as it relates to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, public speaking on educational policies such as IDEA and Section 504, spoken to senators regarding enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act, and much more. Currently, I am working as a Program Specialist with an organization that seeks to build workforce capacity in the North Philadelphia area. My particular area of expertise, and what I am trying to impress upon employers/service providers in the area is that disabled people can work, want to work and will work provided that they have the proper accommodations. I am strategizing a best policies and practices guide that details both what rights disabled employees have, as well as how employers can navigate any potential barriers faced when hiring a disabled employee. Some advice for the SMA community: You don’t have to be a social worker or someone who speaks about public policy to make a difference. There is a world of opportunity out there for you; just living your life as a disabled person is an act of resistance. #SMAAwarenessMonth #SMAAwareness #31daysofsma2020
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