Brandy Dickerson is a lead retention specialist in the Employment Division at Easterseals Crossroads. She has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities for her entire career as she works toward competitive, inclusive employment for approximately 40 individuals each year. On a daily basis, Brandy assists people with disabilities by providing education toward self-advocacy, which can include benefits counseling to address and reduce fears around work and the potential loss of benefits in gaining employment. Brandy works with people in our community to break down barriers that prevent inclusion for people with disabilities.
“Not only is Brandy an advocate for individuals with disabilities, she is also an example of a person with a disability living life to the fullest. She wears multiple hats, works several jobs and has a rich/vibrant life full of activities with family and friends,” said Wade Wingler, Vice President, Easterseals Crossroads.
Learn More about Brandy
Brandy has cerebral palsy, which is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Noted as a common motor disability that begins during childhood, cerebral is associated with the brain and palsy is associated with weakness or problems using the muscles.
Brandy’s mom started her in physical therapy at one and half years of age. A friend recommended an early intervention program to Brandy’s young mother recognizing the disability that was later defined as cerebral palsy for Brandy. Brandy’s mother learned to advocate for Brandy refusing some procedures and embracing others; and her family participated in her physical therapy and speech therapy. Her entire family assisted her with writing, reading, walking and many other life skills. Brandy did not learn to read until later in elementary school when she perfected her ability to memorize words and then sound them out. Brandy’s mother found the benefits of early intervention to assist with later life for her daughter even before early intervention was widely recognized as beneficial for young children.
Learn more about early intervention services at Easterseals Crossroads.
Throughout the years, Brandy has felt as though she had to prove herself in ways that individuals without disabilities have not had to do. “Sometimes an employer’s expectations of me seemed low because of my disability. After I showed the employer that I could do the job that I was hired to do, the expectations of me were readjusted,” said Brandy.
Misperception of her ability has challenged Brandy at times. “My muscles become weak when I am physically tired or when I am extremely nervous. As a driver, I have been pulled over by police officers in the past because of confusion about my disability. Since my muscles can become weak, which can affect my walking, officers have questioned my sobriety after seeing me get in a car. I have had to assure officers that I am not drunk, I am just going home to sleep. So far, I have been lucky in that I have not been arrested, which has not been the case for other people I know who have cerebral palsy,” said Brandy.
“My childhood doctor told my mom that I would not be able to accomplish much in my life,” said Brandy.
That was in the mid-1970s and since then, Brandy has:
- Learned to ride a bike
- Canoed Boundary Waters in Minnesota and Canada
- Climbed a tree that had no branches
- Snow skied and water skied
- Graduated college
- Been employed as an independent advocate and employment advocate for people with disabilities
- Been (and currently still is) an active member of the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities
- Worked weekends as a supervisor/runner/expeditor for a catering company for large venue sports events
- Bought her own condo
- Obtained her real estate broker license
- Obtained her license to drive her own car
- Bungee jumped in New Zealand
- Traveled around Australia, Europe, Mexico, Canada, Caribbean and most of the US
“I guess my childhood doctor was completely wrong when he said that I would not accomplish much in my life. My future goals are like anyone else – I would love to see myself eating healthier and I would love to exercise more. I still want to parachute out of a plane. Professionally, I would like to continue to obtain educational training regarding employment and disability services. I feel that continuing education will help me better serve those with whom I work,” said Brandy.
“I know I will never be a waitress or a surgeon. I admire waitresses who can carry lots of glasses and plates and not fall! My hands and arms are not sturdy, so carrying that much weight would be a disaster. I also know that I will never be a surgeon because my hands are not stable. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a singer. I was a big Olivia Newton-John fan and wanted to be like her. If I practice, I can sing, but I don’t have the voice and the talent to be famous,” said Brandy.
Realizing the importance of her goals and dreams has helped Brandy achieve so much of what is important to her. “Some days, a great day for me is when I see beautiful scenery. It reminds me of how much God loves us. That truly makes my day,” said Brandy.
Diversity and Inclusion
Brandy knows that a community is more diverse and inclusive when it is exposed to more people with disabilities who are working, engaging, socializing and being active. “The strength of a community is dependent upon understanding that a person with a disability is not a hero. Disability is just one part of a person. A person with a disability just wants to be treated as any other person would want to be treated.,” said Brandy.
“Brandy never lets her own disability limit her in any area of her life; her personal goal is to educate and advocate on disability in her words and actions, yet most of all by example. Brandy’s motto in life is based on determination and never giving up. She believes that all things are possible when focusing on the end result,” said Marjorie Duryea, Director of Employment Programs, Easterseals Crossroads.
Easterseals Crossroads is leading the way to 100% equity, inclusion and access for people with disabilities, families and communities. As a business, learn more about employment services at Easterseals Crossroads.