Ashley McGrath Shares Her Experiences Growing Up with a Disability in Her Autobiography UnabASHed by Disability

Ashley McGrath photo

Palm Bay, FL – When Ashley McGrath was only three months old, doctors told her parents that she may not live to see her first birthday. She was born with a rare genetic condition, campomelic syndrome, that causes serious bone abnormalities and weak muscles, and the doctors believed that it would create serious limitations even if she did survive.

Almost 30 years have passed since then, and Ashley has accomplished more than they could have thought possible. She has a graduate degree, a job, and a published autobiography — and she owes it all to her own determination and a little help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job.

Ashley first came to VR in 2003 when she was a senior in high school beginning to think about her plans after graduation. She wanted to attend college, so she met with her VR counselor, Karen Johnson, for help achieving her goal.

During her time in college, VR provided a hearing aid system to ensure she would be able to participate fully in all of her classes. The assistance paid off; after years of hard work, Ashley earned her Master’s degree from the University of Central Florida in 2010.

After she graduated, she returned to her counselor for help finding a job. In 2014, she found the perfect position -- a quality analyst at a call monitoring company, J. Lodge. “You've probably called a company to speak with a sales representative and heard someone say, ‘This call is being monitored for quality purposes,’” Ashley says. “As a quality analyst, I monitor calls. I evaluate the sales agents’ interactions with customers and make sure they’re doing their job properly.”

Quality analyst isn’t Ashley’s only job title; she’s also a published author with her autobiography, UnabASHed by Disability, released in 2014. “It describes my childhood as an individual with physical disabilities,” Ashley explains. “Despite its description of my challenges, my book is of an inspirational nature. Writing it was very rewarding.”

Ashley has also shared her life’s experiences at the "Start with the End in Mind" Transition Planning Conference at Viera High School. “I spoke about how children with disabilities can overcome their limitations to lead productive lives,” says Ashley. “My presentation focused on how I completed high school and then college before becoming employed.”

With so much on her schedule, Ashley is busy — but she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. In the future, she hopes to continue working while pursuing additional speaking engagements and writing a children’s book dealing with special needs.

For now, Ashley is grateful for the opportunity to prove herself on the job — and she believes that others with disabilities can also achieve success at work. “Employers should give people with disabilities a chance,” says Ashley. “They are motivated to work and therefore would be diligent and loyal employees.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. The employer-focused website, https://abilitieswork.employflorida.com/, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 90 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,760 Floridians with significant disabilities get or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.