Disabled woman gains work experience through Rochester peer mentorship program

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are about 36 million women across the United States who live with a disability. 

Amy Edmunds is one of them. 

What You Need To Know

– The CDC reports there are about 36 million women across the country who live with a disability
– According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for women with disabilities was 7.4% in 2022, compared to 3.4% for women without disabilities
– Empowering People’s Independence (EPI) and Disability EmpowHer Networks are two nonprofits who work with people living with disabilities
– The organizations invite the community to their fundraising event on Wednesday evening at Three Heads Brewing

“It’s just a lot of obstacles,” she said.

Edmunds just moved into her own place. It’s an exciting time that’s reminding her she can do anything she sets her mind to. 

“I always wanted to have my own pet someday, like a dog,” she said. “I want two dogs and maybe be a part-time breeder as well and sell puppies. I always wanted to open up my own business someday.” 

Edmunds says what she really wants to do is be a cosmetologist. 

“I’ve seen people that have different types of styles that I want to learn and then make people feel good about themselves when I do it,” she said.

Like anyone living with a disability, it can be difficult for her to find a job she has a passion for. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment rates for women with disabilities were 7.4%, compared to 3.4% for women without a disability. 

“It’s really hard because I got to go to school for it,” she said. “And plus some of the jobs I wanted to do need experience. How are you supposed to get experience if you don’t have it?” 

Edmunds lives with intellectual and psychological disabilities, so she says it’s extra challenging to find a job she feels confident doing. 

“Sometimes I get high anxiety and I get a little upset, kind of,” Edmunds said. “If someone orders something and I get nervous because I’m afraid I might give them the wrong thing and get yelled at by a customer.” 

Edmunds is a high school graduate, active church goer and member of multiple clubs and organizations throughout the community. That’s how she found Empowering People’s Independence (EPI). The nonprofit focuses on supporting people who live with disabilities to help them reach their goals throughout the different stages of their lives. 

EPI is partnering up with Disability EmpowHer Networks, a nonprofit with similar goals. Disability EmpowHer Network recognizes extra challenges for girls and young ladies to graduate from high school and get jobs as they grow up, so they work to empower their community through mentoring and transformational learning experiences. 

The two organizations are working together to help provide women of all ages with these mentorship opportunities to help everyone get the support they need. The groups are hosting a fundraising event on Wed., June 14 at Three Heads Brewing. 

It’s events like these that Edmunds and her peer mentor, Mandie McGinnis, work together to organize. Edmunds and McGinnis became friends in January. McGinnis lives with invisible disabilities and says she learns a lot from her mentorship with Edmunds. McGinnis is also the lead coordinator for Disability EmpowHer Networks’ Roc+ programming department. She always did the planning herself, until she realized she and Edmunds shared a passion. 

“I give her ideas and she said, ‘How about you be my helper?’” Edmunds said. 

Edmunds helps out by practicing her organizational and planning skills. She likes hanging out with a new friend, and gaining some experience she can go on to use to get her dream job. 

“Having opportunity not just for entry-level positions, but to have a lead coordinator position or to be an executive director,” McGinnis said. “Those are very, very important for women with disabilities to have a presence in all aspects, whether you want to be a cosmetologist, whether you want to be a director of a company or have your own company, having the access to that is greatly important.” 

The two friends are working together to help themselves reach their next steps. For Edmunds, it’s preparing for her next big life goals. 

“My main thing is I really want to live in my own house and stuff, but the three basic goals like do all my meds by myself, do most that keep everything cleaned up,” she explained. “It’s helpful to learn on my own and grow and achieve my goals and stuff.”

The fundraiser at Three Heads Brewing will start at 5 p.m. Music will begin at 6 p.m. The event is free to the public, however $5 donations are encouraged. Money raised goes towards the next group events for the women to keep planning together.