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Valley woman strives to make a difference for people with disabilities in the workplace

PHOENIX (KSAZ) - October is National Disability Awareness Month. One in every five people in the U.S. in the workforce has some kind of disability. One Valley woman is working to make people more aware of and to celebrate people with disabilities.

Natalie Alloway is a forensic scientist, a crime lab worker in the drug and toxicology department at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who tests evidence.

Alloway is also deaf.

"In school everyone knew what to do with a deaf student that path was kind of paved for me, but going into the workforce a lot of companies didn't know what to do with a deaf employee, so it was difficult to secure a job, it was difficult to be asked for interviews," said Alloway.

Alloway attended Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., which she describes as the first and only post secondary school for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. She graduated with a degree in chemistry and then went on to get her masters in forensic science.

In 2012 she was hired on with DPS.

"I tend not to tell companies or hiring entities that I'm deaf until I actually secure that job interview," says Alloway. "Once I get that job interview, I contact their human resources department, I tell them I'm going to need an interpreter for the job interview."

Alloway learned early on that finding gainful employment is not always easy for a person with a disability, thankful for agencies like the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which was established in 1977.

"For example, with DPS, when they're ready to hire a deaf person, they contact our office in the event that they don't know how to successfully on board a new deaf employee, they'll bring us in to make sure it's a deaf friendly environment," said Beca Bailey with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The environment here in the lab is one that has allowed Alloway to succeed like she hopes others with disabilities can do.