Your self-directed employment assistant

For this month’s blog, I am going to veer away from previous entries where I highlight a specific individual with a disability by touching on anecdotes from an interview I have conducted with them. Instead I am going to discuss the tale of Allison Cohen Hall, retail associate extraordinaire hailing from the Boston Area, who was featured on a wonderful website that describes the real work stories of individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Next month we should be back to my regularly fashioned blog entries, my dear readers.

I was initially captivated by Allison because I noticed in her a kindred spirit. After having different positions in her community and working in a “very boring” sheltered workshop, she decided that she wanted more. Though I know nothing of what it is like to be an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability, as a woman with a physical disability I know all too well the harsh reality of how our world sometimes puts limits on our abilities without our consent. When Allison took interest in the Crate & Barrel store at her local mall, it was with the support and guidance of her job coach (which she acquired through the adult day service provided to her by the Charles River Center in Boston) that landed her the job. At first her coach had a day-to-day presence while Allison worked her shifts at Crate & Barrel, but over time was able to scale back and allow the staff at her place of work to achieve more prominence in assisting her. This might entail working through problems that may arise by troubleshooting directly with Allison to solve them and making sure to maintain a supportive attitude with zero signs of being patronizing. Not only does that apply to the employer, but to the other employees as well. It is very important that when a member of a staffing team may need extra assistance that their peers are knowledgable on the best way to assist them in order for them to complete their job tasks while maintaining their autonomy and dignity. This was the case for Allison who ended up creating relationships with her working colleagues as the years went by. Due to the longevity of her position, her confidence in her skills increased, as well as her independence. Another reason for her success was learning to communicate with her supervisor and peers when she was experiencing an issue and to verbalize it. As a workplace, Crate & Barrel exceeded at fully supporting Allison--speaking as an individual with a disability it is imperative that my workplace take a vested interest in my success by putting in time and extra communication to allow me to be the best I can be at my job. Also, the open communication between Allison’s work and her job coach ensured that everyone was always on the same page regarding collaboration and problem solving.  

In the end, Allison was unfortunately laid off due to the economic recession. However, she spent 6.5 years working two days a week as a devoted and valued employee at Crate & Barrel. She completed floor stocking, occasionally helped customers, as well as assisting with the bridal registries. Allison gained a strong sense of independence and autonomy, and increased her confidence in her skills and her relations with others. Her story is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when you seek out what you desire in a job through the support of those that believe in you. To read further on Allison, and other success stories, check this out. 

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