Letter to Governor & DHS from A Team Member/ Self-Advocate

To Whom It May Concern: 

My name is Jennifer Weigand and I’ve been working here at Opportunities, since 1993. Prior to 1993, I was in college studying to be a psychologist to work with people with disabilities, such as mine, that I have now. My disability is Schizo-affective Disorder and Epilepsy. I did not graduate from college because my disability occurred while I was in college and that is why I am working here at Opportunities. Because of my disability I’ve tried working out in the community, but it does not work. When I become stressed I get in a bad panic attack and I walk off the job. Employers do not understand my disability and I would be fired if I walked off the job and that’s why I like Opportunities. They understand my disability and I am able to work at my own pace. 

I like working at Opportunities, Incorporated because they understand my disability and they let me work at my own pace. I have had an occupational therapist to help me with my hygiene skills, grocery shopping, and cooking and cleaning skills. I graduated from that program. I also have a case manager; I’ve had several since starting at Opportunities. When I first started, I was on an attendance contract to get me to come in everyday I was scheduled. When I first started, I would call in sick, when I was really not sick. My case manager helps me when I need to talk about something personal. 

It makes me upset to think DHS wants to change the way Opportunities and other facilities around the state run. There’s nowhere for me to go. I’ve tried working out in the community, but when I work out in the community, I get too stressed out. That’s what happens with my disability, that’s why I need a place like Opportunities to go work. I would probably have to stay at home all day and I do not like staying at home all day doing nothing. Many people say that all people with disabilities can work in the community, but those people are not me! I want to choose where I work not have someone at DHS tell me where I have to work. 

There are a lot of people here with disabilities who will not be able to work in the community, they have nowhere else to go, besides OI or other places in the state to work. There are some workers who would not comprehend what employers are asking them what to do. If some had to go into the community, they would have to make their rate, their work, and some just couldn’t do it. Some have temper tantrums and employers wouldn’t understand it, and they’d fire them. Consumers should make the decision on when they are ready to leave, not DHS, it’s not DHS’s job to tell us when we are ready. DHS is not their mother or father, and DHS doesn’t know when we are ready for community work. 

Walk in our shoes for a day, try having a disability. It’s hard. Trying to get up every day and go in to work. Probably people would get teased or laughed at if they had to go into the community and work. So that’s why we need places like Opportunities for them to come in and work. So just think before you make this decision, think before you act, before you make this decision.  Think long and hard before you make this decision that will affect thousands of people with disabilities around this state. We all need a place to work and have friends just like everyone else. 

Thank you,
Jennifer Weigand 

A TEAM Wisconsin  

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