Meet Amanda Burke, recently named Head of Getting Hired shortly after the anniversary of the ADA in July. Amanda resides in Dayton, Ohio, where she is an active member of her local and regional community. She has served and supported several Boards and organizations in multiple roles that include being the Chair of the Dayton Area Associate Board and Red Cross Board member. In her free time, Amanda enjoys renovating her historical home (Built-in 1890 and survived the Great Flood of 1913) and spending time kayaking with her pup, Belle Ekolu (her 6-year-old, 3 leg Pomeranian).
Tell our blog readers about your experiences with having a disability, and what impacts it has made on your life.
I am very fortunate that I grew up with parents that made me feel like I could do anything. My disability was never a roadblock. Disability was not a word we used often as I had a “varied ability”. I can’t do things the way an able-bodied person can but I can still accomplish things in my own way. At an early age, I realized that it’s the decisions and choices that you make not the conditions you have or are in that truly dictate your path. I’ve had to have several therapists, doctors, and specialists who all impacted me in different ways throughout my life and into my adulthood. The diversity of thought that they exposed to my family and me is what has allowed me to thrive. The more feedback and insight you get the more you can apply to figure out how to progress. I realized through these recommendations and impacts that progression, not perfection is the true goal.
Do you mind disclosing a little bit more about your personal disability?
I have a form of Cerebral Palsy known as Spastic Hemiplegia that was caused by a fetal stroke while still in the womb. Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. The word “spastic” refers to muscle tightness, joint stiffness, and jerky movements, while “hemiplegia” refers to paralysis or impacts to one side of the body. Take a minute and flex your arm as hard as you can. Now imagine that you are having random, uncontrollable spasms from your fingers to your shoulder - that is what the right side of my body feels like 24/7.
Why is disability inclusion important to you?
It’s crazy to sit back and realize that the ADA (American Disabilities Act) was signed into law a mere 31 years ago. I believe we have made progress since its inception but as 2020 has shown us through ongoing social un-justice, it is abundantly clear that we have a long way to go to truly achieve equity for everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, or ability. The keyword in that question for me is inclusion. Inclusion is embracing differences and fostering an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and sharing what’s on their minds without fear of being treated differently.
Why is it important for companies to make disability inclusion a priority and/or have disability-inclusive workplaces?
Inclusivity, accessibility, and flexible workplaces/spaces and policies help everyone work better. Disabled or varied-able individuals are less likely to be employed compared to their able-bodied counterparts. It is the largest untapped labor pool that is currently out there. The impacts of novel coronavirus sent a large portion of the world’s population home to work unexpectedly. It showed in many ways that accommodations can be made to have individuals be productive outside of the traditional working space. I am hopeful that this will positively impact companies in expanding their workforce to include more disabled individuals and more accessible workplaces/spaces and policies.
How has Allegis Group supported you in your career?
Allegis Group is the reason why I have felt more confident sharing my story. In my youth, I would avoid the conversation or I would just say I had surgery to mask or cover who I really was. Two years into my career here I had a recruiting partner that I decided to disclose my condition to. I was petrified. I couldn’t get through the conversation without crying because I had this deep feeling that once he found out he would look at me differently. I wouldn’t be Amanda Burke the top performing, developing leader but would now be weak, disabled, handicapped Amanda Burke. He looked me in my eyes and said, “You are an even bigger, bada** business woman than I ever knew”. That conversation started to break down the walls that I had about disclosing. I got very comfortable talking about my disability in a one-on-one environment. That then moved to small groups at training I participated in or that I facilitated. The biggest milestone for me was being chosen to speak on a panel where for the first time in my career I confidently introduced myself as a black biracial, woman with a disability. I stepped into my power that day! And here we are now – I get to share parts of my story with all of you
What advice do you have for others who are thinking of sharing their story/disclosing their disability?
Do it! USE YOUR VOICE! SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!! The more you can show up as your true authentic self, the more opportunity you are giving yourself to truly be set up to succeed! It may seem scary at first, but your varied-ability makes you YOU.
What’s one thing that you want people to know about people with disabilities?
‘Disability’ is just a label. It is not a definition of who someone is, it is simply something that is part of who someone is. We are all imperfect beings, who do things in varied ways. We all have varied abilities 😊
Connect with Amanda!
Check out this sound clip featuring Amanda Burke!