In Their Own Words – Perspectives in View: The Tough Road of Disability Employment

My name is Linda Wynkoop. My mom says, “I’m a guerrera.” She’s right, I am a warrior! And I am an advocate for myself, all students, all my colleagues, and for justice. I am also a visually impaired, Latin x female with the genetic visual impaired disease called, Stargardt. Stargardt is a rare genetic eye condition that usually starts during childhood and often results in a slow loss of central vision. In my professional career I have been an educator for 17 years, and a Metro Nashville Public School teacher for 14 years.

During my years of employment as a person with a disability, I have had some great experiences like having the honor of working under the Metro Nashville Public School Superintendent, Dr. Adrienne Battle, as my principal at Glencliff High School.  Dr. Battle, who was a mentor and provided guidance for all teachers, knew about my disability but didn’t see me as a disabled teacher. Dr. Battle treated me as a teacher who loved and had a passion for progression and guided me to be an effective teacher, which helped me flourish in my role.

Unfortunately, my years as a teacher haven’t always had glowing moments, particularly because of my disability. I had situations where my intelligence and disability were questioned.  These incidents were addressed. However, as a professional, it is painful.

Currently, I am in an English Language Fellowship program and learning leadership skills. As I am learning, and drawing on my own experiences, I see that it’s even more important that students need to see special needs teachers in the classroom. Special Needs teachers advocate for all students, especially students with disabilities. Also, principals, teachers, and counselors need to have empathy for teachers that have a disability.

I have also learned that I need to voice the issues to have change. If injustice is occurring and not being addressed, change cannot occur.  Change is uncomfortable and voicing your concerns is scary, but to have a brighter tomorrow, the administration needs to be trained on special needs rights and altruistic treatment of teachers. Special needs teachers, students, and employees need to be treated with equity.

If an employee observes injustices, there are different avenues to report these occurrences and great resources for employees with disabilities to be successful in their jobs.

My road to employment may have not always been easy, but I am very lucky to have a job that I am passionate about, and I am grateful every day to have this job!  Please seek employment that you are passionate about because you are protected by law and there are resources to help you be successful in your workplace.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.