It’s the dead of winter in January 2007, there is no movement outside, the cold dry air silent among stale frail trees. The sun has been scared away until it finds its way back again in Spring. I am in the 10th grade sitting stiffly in World History class. I am looking down at the notes my teacher printed out ahead of time for me. I tune him out for a moment as my mind drifts off to dreamland, thinking about the future. My future. What is my future going to look like with obtaining employment? Will I be going to college? Will I find an occupation and be successful? What steps must I take to get a job I really want? Will I achieve these things I want with having cerebral palsy? I then smiled to myself and replied: “Yes, I will, I just have to set my mind on the things I want to achieve. No one will do it for me! I am in for the ride!”
My name is Laura Andert. I am 31 years old and was born with a mild condition of cerebral palsy. Although I wasn’t old enough to comprehend what having this “mild CP” meant when I was officially diagnosed at 2 years old, something stirred up in my unconscious mind and was crying to get out. My healthcare team said I could go on in life with either walking or talking. I wanted to blurt out at them, “Excuse me, but I WILL go on in life with walking and talking! Thank you!” I proved them wrong. With every obstacle and challenge, I overcame and continue to overcome, persevering and being an advocate for myself are in my blood!
After accomplishing my goals thus far, a fire burning sensation has been inside to get my story out there to help other people just like me realize they can accomplish anything they set their mind to with having a disability! To those of you reading this, please believe me when I say this: “Yes, YOU CAN accomplish what you want to in your life.” Holding your head high, persevering through some barriers, and speaking up for what you need or want- I promise you can have a future you want. You with me, here!? Imagine me right next to you holding out my hand, reaching for your hand and looking right in your eyes, saying “Regardless of having a disability, YOU CAN accomplish anything you want to in your life!”
In 2009 after high school, I found college was not the path for me. I found out quickly that in the world of work I needed to advocate for myself. My favorite restaurant to eat at the time was Panera Bread-- yummy creamy tomato soup and bread! I fell in love with the idea of myself working there. From that dream on, I did everything I could to let Panera realize how interested and passionate I was by making phone calls and visits. My dream became a reality. I got the job. Panera Bread hired and made me a customized position instead of the original barista position I applied for, which involved getting corporate approval.
A few years later I started thinking about my long-term career goals. The hospitality department at LifeTime Fitness was on my heart. It took me two years of written and in-person communication to get a job there. When my loved ones around me supported me and said that I need to take a step back and let things be, as stubborn as I may be at times, I didn’t listen to them. Listening to my heart in what I needed to do next made my persevering and advocating stronger. Those two years of fighting to become an Operations Team member were extremely hard, yes, but I never gave up. I officially got this next dream job in 2011!
Then in 2017, after working seven years at LifeTime with the mindset to continue to climb up the ladder in pursuing a different position in the company, I had the intuition that there was something better for me to chase after.
In the late summer of 2019, I became an Operations Assistant working in a corporate setting for a digital Accessible company called WeCo Accessibility Service. This was next on my list in getting my next dream job! By multitasking with greeting clients, assisting my coworkers with whatever they needed, and doing office clerical tasks, I was thriving! I got the opportunity to work from home from time to time. In 2020, working from home came in handy well when the pandemic took place; I was really grateful for this option.
In the winter of 2021, I received an amazing job opportunity that was more than I asked for! I became a Disability Inclusion Business Partnership Consultant at Inclusive Networking! I had a passion in my heart to one day teach other individuals with disabilities the importance of perseverance and self-advocacy, and teach companies about hiring people with disabilities, but I didn’t know when that would happen. Well, Inclusive Networking helped to make my dream a reality! Grateful to be a part of this amazing team to be able to contribute to our mission with making employment pathways for individuals with disabilities! If it wasn’t for me speaking up and sharing what I have been through and how to incorporate my experience to educate others down the line, I would not be here right now.
Do you see a recurring pattern here!? If it wasn’t for the steps I took to accomplish my goals of going after my dream jobs, I know my career path would be a lot different. You can do this too, accomplish your goals and dreams if you are willing to put in the effort of persevering and advocating for yourself.
As I emphasize, You are the creator of your life! No one else will do it for you!