Great, Use-Now Tips on Career Success with a Disability
By Lisa Wells, Cure Medical
FFor many people with disabilities, finding gainful employment that’s flexible enough to meet their needs can be challenging. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8.4% in 2016, which is approximately twice the rate for people without disabilities.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we hope you’ll enjoy this savvy career advice from familiar faces you’ll recognize at the Abilities Expo!
United Spinal Leader Rick Hayden Shares His Keys to Career Success
Paralyzed more than 40 years ago, at a time when disability acceptance wasn’t the norm, United Spinal Chapter Leader Rick Hayden learned early on after his spinal cord injury that the secret to his employment success would come in the way he chose to pursue it.
With a lengthy professional background in wheelchair manufacturing and sales, as well as with the Veterans Administration, Rick attributes his ability to grow throughout his career to three factors:
- Have an education
- Get a professional mentor
- Always strive to improve your work ethic
Rick says, “I was willing to be mentored and learned all I could about the equipment available for people with a wide variety of disabilities.” He also attended college after his SCI to provide him with an educational foundation that he could build a career on.
Learn more ways that Rick is building employment opportunities for United Spinal Association members served by his chapter in Southern California.
Abilities Expo Ambassador Sarah Best Discusses Work Modifications
A native New Yorker with cerebral palsy, Sarah resides in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. She is determined and driven to go places and do things that she is passionate about. She says, "I get things done because I have learned that nothing in life comes easy. Everything requires work. Sometimes the work is very, very hard, like physical therapy. It is difficult for me to walk because of my CP, but I try. I work on my muscles and coordination." Sarah currently works in the Marketing Department for Convaid Products, a pediatric mobility equipment manufacturer, and she assists Cure Medical, an intermittent catheter manufacturer, with digital marketing.
“My best advice for someone who is job hunting, if they use a wheelchair, is to view their disability as a positive aspect because they will be able to show companies that they have been able to be successful in spite of challenges,” Sarah advises. “Applying for jobs shows employers that the person is putting themselves out there. Secondly, don’t be shy. Lastly, be persistent. If you want a job, go and get it and let companies know that you would like to be a part of their team. With the right qualifications and a positive attitude, I’m living proof that you can get almost any job that you want to go after.”
Sarah also says that if modifications are needed, related to their disability, in order for the person to do the job, they shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up to request those accommodations, as she says the hiring organization should be willing to make modifications that are required in order for the person to do the job in full capacity.
Rollettes Dance Performer Maria Rabaino Shares Her Resume Strategy
Rollettes’ star Maria Rabaino sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident before she entered the workforce full-time. So when she first began applying for jobs as a wheelchair user, she decided to take a different approach to pursuing employment.
Maria says that for work outside of the disability industry, she chooses to leave her specific disability out of her resume. “Only because my paralysis has nothing to do with my ability to get the job done,” she adds. “I know what I am capable of, and obviously the hiring manager will find that out along with my physical appearance when I show up for the interview. By that point though, they will have already seen my qualifications for the role.”
When Maria isn’t performing with the Rollettes nationwide, she also serves as a product advocate for Permobil at Abilities Expo events. Beyond her busy show schedule, Maria also works in the real estate industry in her hometown of Monterrey, California.
Discover more ways that Maria continues to grow as a wheeling professional while learning how she wants you to be boundless as well.
WCMX Champion Jerry Diaz Achieves His Artistic Goals
As one of the top-ranked WCMX riders in the world, Orlando resident Jerry Diaz has a real talent for handling his wheelchair. He seems to merge with the metal frame as he races up skate ramps, down grind rails and spins effortlessly on one wheel.
In 2011, Jerry survived a spinal cord injury after attempting to take his own life. (Read more about Jerry’s story here.)
He says it was different before his injury when looking for a job because he would just take whatever he could get. “I’d probably just get any job, like some warehouse job. Some lousy job that I’d probably hate,” Jerry shares.
But, post-SCI, Jerry felt like he had to dig a little deeper. He had to consider his talents and skill sets and couple those with what he was physically capable of doing. It’s not always an easy process, but it can be pretty powerful to learn new things about yourself.
“I had to really think about what else I could be good at. I always liked working with my hands, so I thought I could do some sort of construction. I’d considered woodworking, but never really pulled the trigger,” Jerry reveals. “Then one day, I told myself, I just gotta do something.”
Marrying his love for metal in WCMX, and his natural artistic talent, Jerry decided to become a professional welder who also commissions metal sculptures for patrons and clients. So he went back to school on a mission to create metal art while simultaneously creating a better future for himself.
Jerry received his professional certification in Industrial welding more than a year ago and landed a great gig after graduation at a custom fabrication shop. Over the last couple years, Jerry has continued to hone his welding skills and is now able to make all sorts of incredible things out of metal objects—one of his favorites being a beautiful metal rose. He has even made trophies for WCMX tournaments!
Enjoy more of Jerry’s advice for going after your goals with a SCI.
Observed each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.
Discover more NDEAM resources.
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