In high school, three professions interested me: law, medicine and counseling. Born in Southeast Missouri in the mid-20th century, these professions were not considered appropriate for a woman much less one with a disability. My vocational rehabilitation counselor and father decided it would be best for me to be trained as a teacher even though I had no interest in public school teaching… and so it was.
After college, I stumbled into a job working as an evaluator/instructor at a state-operated vocational rehabilitation facility. It was there I found my passion of working with people to help them realize their dreams. It seemed like a perfect fit as I have a strong work ethic, love solving puzzles and wanted to provide others with the vocational support that I had craved. The work required planning, determination and a large quantity of creativity… all qualities I thought I possessed. It also required more knowledge and education to provide the consumers all they deserved so within a few months I moved forward to attain that education.
Since I received my master’s in the late 70s, I have served consumers in a number of positions including as a counselor in both public and private sectors, public administration work with policy and compliance, and now in higher education/continuing education at the University of North Texas preparing others to serve consumers with disabilities.
When I survey my past work experience, it is clear that all three passions I had as a youth, for the law, medicine and counseling, were satisfied by embracing my chosen field. I am blessed to have found a vibrant profession for which I am still passionate after 40 years…still learning new things and endeavoring to make contributions.
Martha Garber is the Director of Applied Research & Development in Department of Disability & Addiction Rehabilitation at UNT. She develops career and employment programs for people with disabilities that serve as a platform for research and a base for rehabilitation students to gain practical experience.