October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). In honor of NDEAM, we wanted to highlight the success of Matthew LaChapelle, a former No Boundaries participant. Matthew has had success with employment and is a great example of what someone with a disability can do. Matthew lives independently in Evanston and has a full life that includes employment, recreation and continued education toward his dream of becoming a paid actor. We recently caught up with him to find out more:
Tell us a little bit about your current employment situation:
I have been working at Lou’s for almost six years! My work anniversary is in November. I work weekends at the pizzeria as a host. I ask people how many they have in their group, match them to a table and seat them. After customers are seated, I tell them who their server will be. If they have pre-ordered their food, I check to make sure it’s almost ready.
I started at Trader Joe’s in February 2019. I work 3-4 days a week. My responsibilities at Trader Joe’s include helping customers find what they need. For example, when customers ask where to find coffee, I will walk them to the coffee. Then I tell them my name and let them know they can ask me for more help. I am also responsible for getting carts from outside and putting them in the cart corral, helping cashiers, and carrying out groceries for customers.
Tell us what you enjoy about your work:
I love interacting with my co-workers at both jobs. I enjoy talking with them about the week and weekend. It feels great to talk to so many people. Since I have been at Lou’s for over 5 years, I feel that we are like a family. I enjoy talking to customers who come for pizza, too. I sometimes get to see family and high school friends at Lou’s. I like my co-workers and customers at Trader Joe’s, too, but I don’t know them as well.
How has working impacted your life?
Working is great because you earn your own money, get to meet people, and can be more independent. The money I earn from two jobs helps me pay the rent, buy what I want, and travel with my family. I try to save money for the future, too. Work keeps me really busy and helps me have a full life.
Tell us how you get to and from work?
I live in Evanston and both jobs are in Evanston. When I work at Trader Joe’s I walk or take my bike because it is close to where I live. If it rains I take the Pace Bus. When I work at Lou Malnati’s I use my Ventra card and take the L train.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I am not working I go to A.B.L.E., a theater group for people with disabilities. I love to act. I also go to the gym and work out, hang out, play sports, and play video games. I like to play PS4. I also like to watch movies, Netflix, and Hulu.
Focusing on my acting outside of work and getting exercise helps me with stress and to stay balanced. I have a lot of friends, but I am trying to meet new people at Center for Independent Futures and hang out with them.
Do you have any supports?
My tutor, DeeDee, supports me with a lot of things like chores, budgeting, cooking and scheduling on Google Calendar. She also helps me figure out how to get places and how much money I need to put on my Ventra card.
What advice would you give others to about working and being independent?
The advice I would give to people would be to find a job that you love. For example, if you like sports, you should look for a job in a sports store. Then you will love what you do.
I would also tell people to learn how to take the bus and train, because then you can go places on your own. If you are living by yourself, try your best to do things. But it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. Also try to make good friends!
What advice would you give to employers about hiring people with disabilities?
We are people that are just like you. We can do a lot of jobs well. We are strong people and we do not give up on our dreams and hopes. Trust me on that. I am living it right now and it feels so good to my heart!