Welcome back to another installment of “Ask Adrian Anything.” This series gives our readers an opportunity to communicate directly with Adrian, a No Boundaries participant, about his experiences in the workplace, living independently and out in the community. In light of last month’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we wanted to learn more about Adrian’s employment experiences. He is a good example of what someone with a disability can do. Adrian is a published writer published writer who lives semi-independently in Chicago and has a full life that includes employment, writing, and independence. Below is our Q&A:
Q: Tell us about your employment situation:
A: I have been working at a tile showroom called The Fine Line in the River North area of Chicago for over 4 years. It’s a part time job but the hours are consistent. My responsibilities vary, but they include doing inventory, cleaning, working with their sample cards, and some heavy lifting.
How did you find this position? Did you have a job coach?
I was an intern at the Planet Access Company store in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. A coworker told me she had a friend who was looking to hire someone. She mentioned that I was a very good worker with a good work ethic, so I got the chance to interview for the potential job. After some time and the interview, I got the job.
When I first started working and volunteering, I did have a job coach. After a while I didn’t need the extra support. I did not have a job coach when I got the job at The Fine Line tile showroom. By the time I got that job, I had plenty of work and volunteer experience that helped me in this position.
What skills do you have that helped you get this job?
It helped that I am very detail-oriented and have good, clear penmanship. My positive attitude and organization skills also were helpful. I am pretty good at self-advocating, too, so if anything gets to be too much, I will ask for support.
What skills and other things have you learned while being competitively employed?
I’ve picked up several skills while in the working world. I’ve learned to be willing to try new things and to multitask when necessary. My public speaking and customer service skills have improved over the years, too.
And I’ve learned that a lot of skills are transferable, such as listening, organization, written/verbal communication, office work and cleaning.
How do you get to your workplace? Also explain how using public transportation helps you be more independent:
I travel to and from work independently. I take the CTA Brown Line to and from work. I also use Metra to get to and from Evanston, where I attend No Boundaries and Heartwords, a creative writing workshop at Center for Independent Futures.
I think the fixed-route transportation system here is great. Using it gives me a way to get around Chicagoland. I can get to places without having my parents always giving me a ride.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I’m not working, I do a lot of writing. I write poetry and have over 250 poems on my own writing blog. Two of my poems are published in a book called A Room Of Golden Shells. I also write song lyrics and fictional stories and read. I’m currently reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Sometimes on the weekends I like to play video games and watch TV. Recently I find myself watching more of Law and Order SVU, and shows like Chicago Med, Chicago PD and Chicago Fire.
How do you balance your work life with your social life?
The Fine Line is closed on the weekends, so anything I do with friends and/or family is usually on weekends. Occasionally I will have a few social events during the week, and I will admit that it can be hard to balance. But I manage to figure it out. I can improvise for the most part.
I use poetry to express how I feel. The fictional stories I write have become an escape from reality. I like to create alternate realities and write about my many alter egos. It’s a fun way to see how I can handle many different situations. If I become a superhero in the process, that is just a fun perk.
How has employment improved your quality of life?
Aside from the benefits of earning money, having a job allows me to be more independent. It also gives me something to do, something that creates a schedule that has to be followed. For me, that’s a good thing because it helps me to stay organized.
Would you recommend employment to others with disabilities? Why?
I would recommend people with disabilities to apply for jobs. Not only does it open up so many new doors, but it gives you that feeling of real accomplishment. It creates independence and that is something we all want. So go out and give it your best shot.
What advice would you give to employers about hiring people with disabilities?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because someone looks the way they do, does not mean they can’t do the job. People with disabilities have more to offer than people realize. Employers should give us a chance.
Tom Petty sings, “[…] In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around, But I’ll stand my ground, And I won’t back down”. What that says is even if society, in general, wants us to believe we can’t do anything, they are so wrong.