Maria Hernandez is a graphic designer who graduated with Magna Cum Laude Honors from California State University-Dominguez Hills. She has worked for us as a graphic design contractor, so for Disability Pride Month we asked Maria to share her experiences thus far in her career and changing how employers view disability.
Q: Who are you/what is your background?
A: I am a graphic designer with Cerebral Palsy from Los Angeles, California, and I am passionate about graphic design because I am a visual person who loves to express myself. Growing up with this condition has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. Since I was little I always knew I was different, but I have never let my condition define me. This permanent life condition has given me the opportunity to view the world in an unconventional way through empowerment, empathy, acceptance, and perseverance.
Q: Have you had to overcome challenges with employers while building your career?
Yes, I definitely have. One of my biggest challenges has been overcoming the perception that many employers still have about people with disabilities, especially physical disabilities. Many employers still think that being “disabled” means being “unable”, which is not true. Some employers focused more on my condition than on my skills during an interview, which made me feel like they were not taking me seriously. One kept scanning me from top to bottom, and her eyes focused a lot on my crutches, which made me uncomfortable. I ended up getting the position, but I was treated like l had no idea what I was doing, and I was underpaid. I quickly moved on to find a new employer who would respect my talents and me.
Q: Based on your experiences in the working world thus far, do you think people can change the way they see disability?
Fortunately, many employers see beyond the disability and care about having an inclusive workplace, but it is important to highlight when something is not right so things can improve. Even though much has been done, there is still more to do. Sometimes people forget that anyone’s life can change in an instant.
I know that by sharing my experiences I may help others understand what people with disabilities may encounter, and I am helping create a greater understanding that people with disabilities want to contribute and feel useful within society like any other person.
Overall, I think that my experience in the working world has changed the way people see disability because it demonstrates to them that: ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.
Q. Any other words of advice?
I want to encourage others not to be afraid of reaching out to places that support causes that matter to you because there are many wonderful places out there in need of help, and will gladly accept the help.