Marilee Adamski-Smith is a disability advocate from Stevens Point. She owns and operates her own multimedia solutions business and is very involved in her community. In 2012, she participated in BPDD’s Mosaic Art Contest and the Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign. Marilee says she just wants everyone – with or without a disability – to be treated equally.
You participated in Take Your Legislator to Work campaign last year. Why did you decide to participate?
I participated because I wanted to raise awareness that anyone with a disability in Wisconsin can participate in gainful employment and have a meaningful job in the community. Having a job means that we pay taxes and rely less on programs and services. I own my own business, so I felt that I was a good example of someone that has a disability and is able to work at a job in the community. I figured that it would be a great opportunity to show my legislators that I am able to run a business even though I have a disability.
What did you gain from this experience?
I met with Sen. Julie Lassa and Rep. Louis Molepske. They both came to my workplace, which is my home, to see what I do for my business. Sen. Lassa and Rep. Molepske were very down-to-earth and easy to talk to. They both understand the importance of having people with disabilities living and working out in the community. Now when I go to the state Capitol to talk to the legislators, I look forward to visiting with Sen. Lassa because we had that personal contact when she came to my home and saw what I do for a living. I look forward to participating in the Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign again because I would like Rep. Katrina Shankland to have the same opportunity to come and see how important it is for people with disabilities to work out in the community.
What type of work do you do?
My business is Adamski-Smith Multimedia Solutions. I am a graphic designer and I design logos, business cards, brochures and posters. I also provide other multimedia services, like video editing, video authoring, slideshows, web design, and hosting.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I decided to start my own business because when I graduated from college, with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in Advertising, I had a very hard time finding a job that I qualified for. I was with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for over a year and a half before I told them that I would like to start my own business. Owning my own business was a life-long dream of mine. Throughout college I interned at a few places and came to realize that I like being my own boss. I’m able to work at my own pace, on my own time, and get everything done without someone telling me what to do.
You’re involved in many organizations that advocate for people with disabilities. What are your roles in these organizations?
At the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin (ILCW), I’m an executive committee member, membership committee chair, and a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) transportation and empowerment committee member. I’m a member of Community Care of Central Wisconsin where I work as the graphic designer for their newsletter and catalog projects, as well as a member of the Member Quality Committee and Self-Directed Employment Advisory Meeting.
I’m also a member of the Midstate Independent Living Consultants (MILC), a volunteer for the Special Olympics Summer Games, and a graphic designer for Community Friends/Community Partners/Roch Point Steering Committee. I’m a member of National ADAPT and I recently founded Central Wisconsin ADAPT.
Last year you were awarded two prizes with the Mosaic Art Contest. What went into those projects?
I was completely surprised to win two awards for my artwork! I entered a couple pieces of artwork that were related to disability advocacy. The photograph that I submitted, “Down with Discrimination,” shows a person in a wheelchair not able to enter a college building because of the front steps. I chose this photograph because it represents how we as people with disabilities are still struggling with discrimination but we all have the power and ability to make a difference by fighting for equal rights.
The second piece I submitted was called, “Dancing with Swayze.” It is a scene from the movie “Dirty Dancing” where Johnny (Patrick Swayze) is teaching Baby (Jennifer Grey) the mambo, but instead of Baby, I am the one dancing with Johnny. I chose this work because everyone has the ability to dream big in order to achieve great things in life. Even though I am in a wheelchair it doesn’t mean I can’t have a romantic relationship and fall in love. I created “Dancing with Swayze” because this scene is my favorite scene in the movie. As you can tell, they are starting to fall in love with each other, and I wanted to fall in love like that someday. I made a decision that I was determined to find that kind of love…and I did!
What do you want to see happen in Wisconsin for people with disabilities?
I am passionate about all things in the SPIL, as well as self-advocacy, employment, and self-determination. People with disabilities are just like anyone else, they may need help in certain things, but we have the right to be able to live in the community, work, and live the way you would want to live your own life. I would like everyone to be treated equally.