Self-Advocate Profile: Deborah Melideo

By SourceAmerica Staff 06/10/2022
2022 Grassroots Advocate Deborah Melideo

Everyone has a story. When self-advocates with disabilities share their personal experiences with lawmakers, co-workers, and the public, they help raise awareness about the importance of creating career opportunities for this talented – yet underemployed – segment of the workforce. Meet Deborah Melideo!

Deborah Melideo is celebrating a successful 17-year career at Skils'kin in Spokane, Washington. The secret of her success? She says, "I'm pretty stubborn!"

After graduating from high school in 2004, Deborah got her first (and only job!) with Skils’kin in May of 2005. Like many of her peers with disabilities, Deborah has faced the challenge of people underestimating her - something they won’t do twice. "I have cerebral palsy, so I have some physical barriers… some things I cannot do, but some things I just can't do all the time, like lifting boxes. Some people wouldn’t let me try until I demanded my chance."

As a self-advocate with a disability, Deborah has a simple message for policymakers and everyone else – "Don't underestimate us."

Deborah's determination is evident in the extra responsibilities she has taken on at work. Typically working with a three- or four-person crew performing janitorial services, Deborah also trains other trainers. Her tenure with Skils'kin has given her the experience to tackle the responsibility of training new supervisors, showing them how the crews work and the most efficient way of performing tasks.

As is the case with many 2022 SourceAmerica® Grassroots Advocacy Conference attendees, having an AbilityOne® Program job provided Deborah with independence and responsibility. Her job allowed her to move out of her parents' house and get her own apartment. She has been living on her own for as long as she has been working. Deborah's dream is "to show the world what I can do and make the world a better place."

Want to learn more about advocating for career opportunities for people with disabilities? Email or visit our Employment Advocacy webpage.