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Shannon Webster poses with her mother

Shannon Webster has been a disability advocate since middle school, when she wrote a speech about her experience living with cerebral palsy. Throughout her life, Shannon often found herself having to discover her own way to do things: “I’ve always tried to keep up with everyone—I knew I just might look a little different doing it.”

Her philosophy was tested when it was time for her to get her driver’s license. Practically, she could not take the training alongside her peers—she needed hand controls to drive the car. However, her high school coordinated with the Marianjoy Driver Rehabilitation Program, a certified driving school and the most comprehensive of its kind in Illinois, to help her achieve her goal of obtaining a driver’s license. At Marianjoy, Shannon was trained using a high-tech evaluation vehicle with adaptive equipment. “I loved the driving program at Marianjoy. I’m grateful they have the technology to allow people like me that chance to drive,” says Shannon. “The driving program gave me great independence and the ability to be self-reliant. It was one step further into adulthood; it leveled the playing field with my peers.”

Shannon wanted to spread that message of accessibility and disability advocacy to the public, so she decided to major in communications at Marquette University, supported by a Marianjoy Scholarship in 2010. “The scholarship confirmed I was going in the right direction—it was support and validation. The future was bright,” she says. “I knew even if there were thorns along the way, the outcome would be great.”

Now, Shannon is putting that message into practice in her own job as a Recruiting Coordinator at one of the largest employers in the area—ComEd. She continually pushes for improvement in the forward-thinking company for how to make her workplace more accommodating and welcoming to people with disabilities. “I love being an advocate in a corporate setting,” she says. “I’m passionate about communicating with others. One story can have an impact on many. The common denominator is everyone wants to be recognized; we’re all on this journey together.”

Shannon’s journey with Marianjoy came full-circle this year when she worked alongside AbilityLinks, Marianjoy’s disability employment network, at multiple ADA25 Chicago events promoting strategies of inclusivity. Her advice to people with disabilities: “Don’t be afraid to advocate—or find someone who will for you. Believe that your ability can overcome any disability.”