Working With a Disability: An Inside Job

A job seeker grabs a flyer advertising a job at Orange County One Stop Center in Westminster, Calif., Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. U
A job seeker grabs a flyer advertising a job at Orange County One Stop Center in Westminster, Calif., Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December, a steady gain that shows hiring held up during the tense negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff. The solid job growth wasn’t enough to push down the unemployment rate, which remained 7.8 percent last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The rate for November was revised up from an initially reported 7.7 percent. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By: Ben J.

By the time I was 22 years old I was motivated to reach for the stars and dream big. I felt any job was possible and not beyond my reach. In high school I had my first job coach, who unfortunately, was ready to throw in the towel. I asked question, but they just wanted me to find something so they could move on as quickly as possible.

As a result, I started doing my own research online and asking others I trusted about the job process. I started writing my resume and filling out applications that my job coach gave me. I felt unfulfilled sitting at a desk for several weeks before my job coach took me anywhere to meet with people out in the community for a possible job fit. At my sixth meeting, which took place at book store, I was asked to wear a suit. After that I became disinterested working with a job coach and finding a job altogether. A week later my job coach told me that I had been offered a job at a restaurant and I would start the following Monday. I became confused when I was told to be happy that I had been accepted anywhere because of my disability. That was my first realization that I was viewed on a lower level than many other people.

My first day on the job was just as confusing. I was irritated and unhappy not knowing what I was supposed to do. I only lasted two weeks but I was determined to try again at another restaurant. After looking at several places, I was told by all of them that they didn't have any work for me. Then I tried a couple of rest homes, because I wanted to work with people. For someone with a disability, change can be harder than a lot of people realize. At the rest home, they kept changing what I was supposed to do and when I was supposed to be there. So after just one week, I left. Just as the jobs were changing, so were my job coaches. By the time I was at my second rest home job, I was on job coach number four! It became difficult for me to believe that these people were actually here to help me find a job when they kept leaving. After high school I would go on to have three more job coaches. With job coach number seven, I got a teaching job at a day care and was there for nine months.

After a year of not working and being made to feel like I was a lost cause, a nobody, I started attending Outside the Box. Outside the Box has reminded me of what I once believed and they have given me more than I can ever repay them. I started last year with their work program and have been working with one of their job coaches. Now I feel like I'm on the same level. They understand what I need and are working with me to find a job. While we haven't had success yet, I'm not discouraged in trying to find one. They are not just trying to find me any job so they can move onto the next person. They are interested in where I'd like to work and are trying to find a place that would not only hire me, but would also be enjoyable for me.In the meantime, they have set up a volunteer opportunity for me at Outside the Box to increase my computer and word processing skills. Two days a week I sit down with an Outside the Box staff member and we go over filing and paperwork procedures. I have already learned a lot and am excited that I can add this experience to my resume!

Giving to Outside the Box's E-3 Campaign will help more individuals with disabilities be able to find jobs.

Ben J. is a participant at Outside the Box. He currently receives services from our Day, Art, and Employment Services Programs. The following excerpt chronicles Ben's experiences in the work force.