October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which celebrates the positive contributions of workers with disabilities and inclusive employment policies and practices. Keshet is proud to be a leader in supporting people with disabilities in meaningful employment as well as offering vocational training and skill-building on-site at GADOL, Keshet’s adult day program. In honor of NDEAM, Luke, a GADOL team member, was interviewed about his current job experience. Wendy Lacey, GADOL Lead DSP and Luke’s job coach, also shares her perspective about Luke’s job and what it means to be an inclusive employer.
Question: Where do you work? How long have you worked there?
Luke: I work at Home Depot at The Glen. I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve worked there for many years.
Q: Tell us about your job. What do you do there?
L: I do returns there. That means I go to the front of the store to get all the returned items to put in a cart. I scan the items using a special app on my iPhone. That’s how I know what aisle it belongs to. Then, I go find the aisle, bay and price and put them back where they belong. If the item doesn’t come up when I scan it, I have to search by name to find it. These are all technology skills I’ve learned.
I have a snack break and do in-focus training videos on the computer. These are mandatory videos to learn new things about the job. I like learning new things! At the end of the day, I fix the aisles. When things are put back messy, I put the items back in their place. If I am respectful and work hard, I get a reward which is listening to my favorite song on the car ride home. My favorite song is I Love Rock N’ Roll by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.
Q: What do you like the best about your job?
L: My favorite part of working at Home Depot are my friendships with my coworkers. I know every person that works there. They are all friendly and helpful. I ask them questions like how theirweek is going. I can also ask them questions if I need help. Jeanette works in customer service. Sometimes when I’m putting away a return, the bag might be ripped and it can’t be put away like that. I bring it to customer service and they help me tape it back together. My coworkers are really nice and helpful to me.
Wendy: Luke’s co-workers really do love him! When he comes to work, he is always in a good mood and really wants to work hard and do a good job. They are so supportive of him and are constantly in awe of all the details he can remember about him.
Q: How does Wendy, your job coach, help you at work?
L: I do everything by myself but Wendy encourages me. We have great teamwork and she gives me new ideas about things. She’ll let me know if there is something unsafe in the aisle that I can fix better. If Wendy is not there, I ask a coworker to help me. No matter what, I never feel alone while at work.
W: I’m mostly observing Luke at work, and rarely interrupting anything that he is doing. If he needs help, he can ask. He does everything independently while working, and I’m there to support him when he needs it. Something we do together is work on conversation starters. During the car ride on the way to work, Luke decides something new to ask his coworkers rather than asking the same things everyday. I give him three different questions he can ask and then he chooses one. This also helps him to know what kinds of conversations are appropriate and respectful.
Q: How have your experiences at GADOL helped you in your job?
L: I have been at GADOL for many years. We do lots of job training and fun activities. I clean up my area and put things away. That trained me for putting away my returns at Home Depot.
Q: What makes Home Depot an inclusive place to work?
L: My coworkers got me a vanilla cake with colorful balloons for my birthday and sang me happy birthday. That made me feel really happy.
When I work, I get a paycheck. I can spend it on things that I need and want. It feels good to be rewarded for working hard. I also get vacation days. They are respectful when I need to take time off.
W: From my perspective, what makes Home Depot such a great place to work is that they treat Luke the same as all the other employees. He has the same work expectations as everyone else, and he has the same rewards. They include him on things that the rest of the team does. Everyone there is so respectful and kind towards him…not just his manager, but all the employees. He is doing meaningful, important work that employees without disabilities do there as well.
Q: Any final thoughts about your experience working at Home Depot?
L: I like working at Home Depot and want to work there for a while. It’s a great place to work and I feel very welcome there. They treat me so well. I’m happy when I get to go to work.
W: In the short time that I’ve been job coaching Luke, I am so proud of everything that he’s accomplished. I’ve known Luke for a long time, but seeing him at work is an entirely different experience. He feels so comfortable there, happy and is working so hard. When I hear from his coworkers that he has grown as well, I can’t help but feel emotional. I hope that other employers can see the inclusive and welcoming environment that Home Depot has created for Luke and it will inspire them to create more opportunities for people of all abilities to have jobs.