Disabled Women Make History: Izzie Bullock

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Life After Paralysis on September 12, 2022 # Disabled Women Make History

Izzie“Finding people who loved me when I did not know how to love myself and who wanted me to be the best version of myself was the foundation of my leadership skills.”

Izzie Bullock on employment of people with disabilities, lessons learned, and bringing your own seat to the table.

“I initially learned about Centers for Independent Living (CILs) through vocational rehab. I was referred to my local CIL for benefits counseling to learn about maintaining Medicaid while working full-time after graduating with my Master’s. Before this, I never knew such an organization existed or had heard of the independent living philosophy. I fell in love with the benefits counseling service and the CIL’s mission - I knew I had to work there,” said Izzie Bullock, a proud dog mom from Michigan who is engaged to her high school sweetheart. “Within a week of regularly checking their website, there was an opening for an Employment Specialist. Previously, I was working two part-time jobs at two different universities: a career counselor at one university and a disability services specialist at the other university, making an Employment Specialist at a disability advocacy organization the perfect fit!”

Since starting as an Employment Specialist three years ago, Izzie has worked her way up in her organization and was recently promoted to Employment Program Manager at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, where she oversees employment and benefits counseling services. Izzie plays a critical role in helping people with disabilities obtain employment, which is especially important considering that in 2021 the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was twice as high as for those without disabilities. One barrier to employment that disabled people experience is not understanding how employment will impact their benefits. Izzie is able to help people understand how their public and Social Security benefits are impacted by work because she is a Certified Work Incentives Practitioner. “To me, this role is the most important role I play because there are so many misconceptions about benefits and work that cause fear around working. When people receive the proper education about the work incentives, it opens a world of possibility and financial independence.”

As a proud disabled woman, Izzie understands that she is also making an impact by showing other people with disabilities who are seeking jobs exactly what is possible. “Having a person with a disability work in employment services and hold a leadership role is representation. It highlights that people with disabilities can actively participate in competitive employment and be promoted to leadership roles,” Izzie shared. “I am also able to provide peer support. I can relate to the vulnerability one can feel when disclosing their disability to their employer.”

Not only can Izzie relate to the vulnerability that some people with disabilities may feel in the employment world, but she can also share lessons learned from barriers she’s encountered as a disabled woman in the working world. For example, the biggest barrier she’s faced is constantly needing to prove herself as a disabled woman. “Having a visible disability means that when people meet me for the first time, they make assumptions about what I can and cannot do,” Izzie explained. “People will talk to my personal care attendant and not me even though I am the one to initiate the interaction. I am a work in progress when it comes to fighting the urge to demonstrate my worth to others, to overshare my accomplishments to show I am capable. I am capable and worthy, and I do not need to prove it to anyone.”

IzzieBeing able to support and mentor other people with disabilities is important to Izzie because she did not have any disabled peers or mentors until she was in her late teens. In fact, she grew up feeling like she had to hide her disability in order to fit in. “I grew up thinking my disability was the problem and not the inaccessibility of society being the problem. It was not until I met my fiancé who has a disability and other disabled girls in high school and college that I started embracing my disability.”

Now her advice to other disabled girls and women is to find your people! “Meeting other disabled peers - people who understood me and encouraged me to be more - was life-altering in the best way. Finding people who loved me when I did not know how to love myself and who wanted me to be the best version of myself was the foundation of my leadership skills. My other tip would be do not wait for a seat at the table, when there is no seat, bring a chair. We cannot wait for society to give us space; we have to take up space!”

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.