Working as a Self-Advocate:

A Spotlight on Wiley Johnson

Wiley Johnson has been a part-time/temporary employee at NC State University since 2016. He works during the academic year in the NCSU Talley Student Union restaurant area wiping off tables; sweeping and mopping; taking out trash, recycling and compost; and refilling condiments and napkins. He used to work at Food Lion and Old Navy, but neither could offer him as many hours as he wanted to work. He was initially hired at NCSU in 2016 as a dishwasher in the catering department, but transferred to his current position in November of 2017.

At NC State, Wiley has been a successful self-advocate, asking for more responsibilities and a different shift that would be better for him and his schedule. At the end of the spring semester, they said they wanted him to return to work this fall, and they are accommodating his request to work earlier in the day. He’ll also be working with his job coach for the later part of his shift. She’ll support him by, for example, helping him figure out what to do if it seems that there’s no more work left but he still has time left in his shift.

Wiley was also recently offered a summer job at Blue Ridge Cinema as an usher/porter. There have been delays in the hiring process for this job, but he expects to be work there one shift per week. He hopes that this new job will allow him to work more hours over Christmas and next summer, when he is off at NCSU. In the meantime, he also had a painting exhibited at the Pleiades Art Gallery in Durham during its recent exhibit “The Walls We Build: (dis)Ability,” along with King Nobuyoshi Godwin. (Click here to check out some of Wiley’s art on his Facebook page). He also had a painting exhibited at Visual Art Exchange’s “Ultralight” exhibit in 2017 and 2018 and multiple years at NCMH’s “Brushes with Life” exhibit. Wiley has long wanted his own website to display his work. He and his mother have recently received suggestions from Arts Access, so he hopes to share with everyone a link to his new website soon!

Along with his jobs and his art, Wiley has enjoyed volunteering at animal shelters, thrift shops, and the YMCA in the past. His volunteer jobs were the keys for him to develop the stamina and work skills he needs for paid employment. Wiley also attributes some of his work success to the Employer of Record program through Alliance. This program allows his mother to advertise, recruit and supervise supported employment and community, living and support staff who are better matches for him than staff from a traditional agency. It also allows Wiley to help chose his own staff, educate them on how to best support him, and terminate them when necessary. Wiley isn’t eligible for supported living since employers of record aren’t eligible for that service under the waiver. His living situation is classified as independent living by Alliance, but his parents provide a great deal of support and coordination beyond waiver services. He lives in a townhouse with a non-staff housemate near his parents, who coordinate their own form of “supported living.”

“I like enjoying life,” says Wiley. His idea of good life includes engaging work, arts and culture, lots of day trips, and interaction with friends – all thanks to his support network, which includes his parents as well as First in Families’ Life Times Connections, and his own abilities and self-advocacy. Wiley is truly an example of how, when given resources and training, individuals with IDD can have a fulfilling life full of choices and opportunities – just like anyone else.