“The Billboard Queen” – Desperation City U.S.A.

Ladyjustice has been fortunate to have a consistent work history for more than 30 years with very few gaps.  However, the two gaps that occurred, can take a toll on a person’s psyche. 


If you will, consider the fact that a person with a physical disability can, over time, see the remnants of middle age catching up.  If that person is consistently running the halls of the nursing homes and hospitals from morning ‘til night, trying to see all of her patients who also need to be seen by other therapists, the days are hectic and tiresome.  A “verbal tug of war” ensues to have access to each patient.  It is not so much the elderly patient who makes one tired, but the fact that the therapist has to change her schedule “36 times a day.”  

Ladyjustice was known in all of her assigned settings as the “swallowing therapist” with her metal cart filled with paraphernalia to assess those with swallowing difficulties… tongue depressor, laryngeal mirror, flashlight, gloves, various types of sample foods and beverages and the horrid “Thick-It,” (a powdery substance used to thicken thin liquids such as coffee, various juices etc.) 

At that point in time, as a “40 something lady”, Ladyjustice had no assistive devices (canes or crutches), but she did have designs on moving to Phoenix to embrace the warm weather climate year ‘round.  (Which she ultimately did, FYI…)


Truth Time:

One Saturday, LJ was consulting at a local nursing home, rushing around and prepping for another bedside swallowing assessment. Incidentally, have you ever noticed that the typical floors in a nursing home or hospital are not only clean…but highly polished/waxed?  Those floors have a sheen that could reveal every facial flaw if you look closely!  And, for someone with cerebral palsy, these floors have always been a hazard due to their tendency to be slippery. 

On that Saturday, this blogger was nearly ready to do her assessment, but forgot to retrieve a liquid – orange juice.  As this was not one of LJ’s regular nursing homes, she went back and forth, back and forth in front of the nurse’s station, getting needed supplies. 

If readers are unfamiliar with the likes of a small, understaffed nursing facility, often, the most cognitively impaired patients are “lined up” in front of the nurse’s station desk for purposes of observation. 

LJ’s final trip was to retrieve a large pitcher of orange juice.  Suddenly, LJ slipped on the “overly glossy floor,” down went Ladyjustice and the OJ…all over the floor! 

LJ looked up… and not a muscle moved.  Not one of the patient’s facial expressions changed!  (Dementia at work.)  If it weren’t so tragic… it would be funny, LJ thought! LJ was not injured physically… She knows how to fall after all these years…   But, the scene was surreal and tragic LJ felt a myriad of emotions for the dementia patients and for herself! 

Ladies and gentleman, that episode was the pinnacle point at which this blogger said to herself, “Donna, you can’t do this anymore!”  LJ had her sights set on Phoenix…

FYI…Ultimately, that is what she did!


The Next Chapter:

After a 13 month “valiant try” to switch careers in Phoenix, this blogger returned to Southern New England a somewhat defeated woman and took a temporary job in a large nursing home once again!   After being laid off, there was a vast dry spell of 14 months and another huge effort to “re-invent oneself,” this time with the goal of victim advocacy for state government….  Easier said than done!  

The long days on the phone, at the local library doing research and creating resumes were the norm.  Even with a couple of mentors who were  good connections within state government, it actually took LJ nearly two years to secure a position in state government from the first level of interest to the actual hiring.  ‘Such an exclusive club!  


The Billboard Queen in the Making:

As the unemployment funds dwindled, massive networking, calling and resume mailing continued.  However, Ladyjustice decided to take a bold step…where no astronaut or unemployed person had ever ventured… at least in Connecticut history.  This author decided to re-invent the public relations vehicle for herself

(Not unlike what Imagine Publicity does now!) 

Well before the appearance of social media, Ladyjustice chose to research and market herself on a strategically placed billboard.  This blogger did not want to rely solely on the billboard alone, for WHAT IF:  The billboard was not in a high traffic area? What if the location site she chose was too expensive?  What if the billboard was not viewed by enough people due to road construction or some unforeseen circumstance?  What if it didn’t work?  What if…? What if…? 

Never fear….LJ was determined to market herself uniquely using radio, newspaper and TV interviews in combination with the billboard.  And… that’s just what occurred!

1)       Ladyjustice was able to be a guest on a popular AM radio talks how format with a large market share…interviewed by a high profile CT news anchorwoman (Diane Smith);

2)      Ladyjustice arranged newspaper interviews with “the oldest published newspaper in the country” – the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Register. Billboard company staff, a disability expert, and former colleague and longtime friend/former President of Survivors of Homicide, Inc., Mr. Gary Merton was also interviewed to provide depth of information. 

3)      A quirky TV human interest reporter, named Dan Kane for our CBS affiliate, as well as a Fox station reporter stood with Ladyjustice in the weeds (literally) in front of the forthcoming “person-advertisement” location in the dead of January winter, year 2000. 

Ladyjustice was definitely “thinking out of the employment box” and taking a gamble. Nearly 12 years ago, this large double billboard, positioned on a secondary road with 18,000 cars passing per day was quite a sight to behold!   This blogger was hoping and praying that her $700 investment and $150 digital photo would get the most bang for her buck! 

At that point in time, a billboard could be rented from the New Haven company for a two week interval and essentially get another two weeks for free if it was not previously reserved.   LJ was lucky wand was able to obtain a four week time period.  The billboard company even contributed a vinyl sign that said

“Good Luck, Donna!    How Sweet….  (Or, as they say today… Sweet!) 

 During the year 2000, should a customer want a billboard on one of the major Connecticut highways of say, I-91, I-84 or I -95, be prepared to spend $5,000 for the same time period with many more cars traveling past.  This was too rich for the blood of Ladyjustice during her unemployment period.  And, even now, common sense would prevail, as an employed person; LJ would not venture to spend such an amount as “a mere private citizen”…even in Desperation City,  “Anywhere U.S. A.” 


The Focus:  The Unemployed Disabled & Crime Victim Advocacy: 

Melissa Marshall is a Connecticut resident, JD, legal consultant, ADA expert and a person who happens to have two disabilities – multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

She is now the Executive Director of the Connecticut Business Leadership Network. 

She, like Ladyjustice, is undeterred when it comes to her missions in life and her passions.  For the billboard article, her comments put things in perspective regarding the employment outlook at the time for those with disabilities.  She was quoted as saying, “The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is around 75%,” part of which she blames on discrimination. “It’s even higher for women with disabilities… Discrimination is hard to prove, but it’s easier with the disabled, because some people blatantly say it.” 

In June 2011, a Labor Force Summary for Persons with Disabilities revealed that nationally, the overall job rate data for 2010 for non-disabled persons was 9.4 as compared to 14.8 (for those disabled actively looking for a job and looking four weeks prior to the survey.)  

Within the same summary, the ratio of disabled employed compared to the overall population was 18.6% as compared to the non-disabled employed at 63.5%.  People who did not fit their criteria, “had given up looking” for a job, and those disabled persons who prefer to remain unemployed were not included. 

[Note-LJ- The percentage of persons who are unemployed and legally blind/visually impaired or totally blind, remains at 70% over several years despite numerous advances in technology, skilled trainers and motivated disabled clients willing to work.]

For more details regarding the former Economic Labor Force Survey concerning persons with disabilities, go to: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.


Crime Victim Advocacy: 

Ladyjustice’s goal was to begin a paid position working as a crime victim advocate exclusively.  The billboard content, limited though it was, yielded several calls and curiosities…  Once hired into state government service, this blogger took several written exams over the years and scored high, and interviewed well.  However, whatever the forces at play, and despite the skills and passion, such a position in

Connecticut remains elusive. And so… LJ has other plans in other locations where she will be appreciated.


Calls and Other Benefits: 

When the big bold word “Advocate” was seen by one caller, she sounded so forlorn and needy, that LJ thought she really wanted to speak to Dr. Laura….  Despite this, LJ tried to assist the caller with disability related issues.  [In LJ’s opinion, Dr. Laura is RUDE, RUDE, RUDE, irrespective of her advice or views on life issues.] 

Another benefit was that the DRG Billboard yielded an increased awareness of the plight of some very employable disabled via use of the radio, TV and newspaper exposure. 

Ladyjustice was able to establish a relationship with a financial services company   and subsequent financial counselor for her personal needs.  Although this well known company tried to persuade LJ to become a financial sales person as well, and “make a very good living,” it was not her cup of tea…  In fact, boring, boring, boring….  This blogger would rather be interested, engaged in helping others in the special interest areas she loves versus being rich any day! 


Once this author was well established at her current job setting within state government, a Human Resources Specialist related that our former Governor saw the infamous billboard of LJ, was embarrassed and stated, “Let’s get that women a job …and off a billboard.”  The truth is… this never happened.  This was a fairy tale story. Everything that Ladyjustice received was through her own hard work and considerable efforts based on qualifications.  Few people have the ability as a private citizen to embarrass a Governor. However, it is a good story for cocktail parties! 

So long for now…. And remember to “think out of the box!” 


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