Disability Employment Awareness Month

A photo of Florencio, a 2014 Staff Associate
Florencio Craig is one of Access Living's current Staff Associates. Originally from Maywood, Illinois, Florencio became a person with a disability from a gunshot wound in 2005. In honor of October's Disability Employment Awareness month, Florencio shares some of the challenges of finding a job as a person with a disability and how Access Living is shaping his career goals.

A wheelchair user, Florencio cannot conceal his disability while job hunting. Unfortunately, this can be a problem. Even when the essential job functions are in no way impacted by the disability, it seems that interviewers are sometimes hesitant. Why the hesitation? Oftentimes employers perceive persons in wheelchairs as potential liabilities if they fall out of their chair, or they might worry about the expenses involved with modifying their restrooms if they are inaccessible.

Although employers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the various types of accommodations for employees with disabilities (many which are inexpensive), Florencio's experiences echo that of many other job hunters with disabilities. Regardless of such obstacles, Florencio advocates for himself while on an interview. "I don't need as many accommodations as they might think. I'm very independent. I always try to let them know that when I'm interviewing."

Access Living addresses this issue through employment advocacy and by giving Staff Associates such as Florencio on the job training. Access Living's Staff Associate program is a part time program offering persons with disabilities the opportunity to learn on-the job skills. Florencio provides assistance to Access Living's Housing Counselor by speaking with consumers about available housing and making calls throughout the city to find out which libraries, computer labs and homeless shelters are accessible. Additionally, Florencio assists the receptionist and the Independent Living Department with filing and consumer trainings. Though he's only been at Access Living for a few months, he says, "I definitely enjoy the work. My job here helped me discover a passion for helping people. I don't necessarily feel like an intern. I feel like part of the family."

Florencio is currently attending Kennedy King College and is pursuing an Associate's in Business Management. After he completes the Staff Associate program he wants to continue working with issues pertaining to housing. He says passionately, "Everyone should be comfortable in their own home." Whenever Florencio has a free moment, he spends it reading or with family.

About Access Living's Staff Associate Program

The Staff Associate program is a part time program offering persons with disabilities the opportunity to learn on-the job skills. Graduates of the Staff Associate program have access to post-graduate support, including updates about the job market and current leads.

For more information about the Staff Associate program, or how to join, contact Darius Barwacz at dbarwacz@accessliving.org or at 312-640-2151.

Employment Advocacy

For questions or concerns about the employment rights of people with disabilities, contact Rene Luna of Disabled Americans Want Work Now, rluna@accessliving.org