With A Disability
When most people go to work, they don’t think about much more than doing their job, getting a paycheck and then going home. Most people that work don’t have any type of disability. People with disabilities that work have a little more to think about: Will I be accommodated? Will my employer give me a chance to advance and grow? Will my coworkers see that I can work just as hard as they can? Will the costumers/guests/clients see that I am a valuable and hard worker at the company I represent? If, like me, your answer to most of these questions is “No”, then something should change. In this blog, I will share experiences from all of my jobs, some good, most painful. I write this blog because I want people to see that disabled people can be just as valuable an asset as anyone else in the workforce.
My first job began one week after Hurricane Charlie hit Florida. It was McDonald’s of Forrest City. I was 18 and had just graduated high school. My first two days; I trained on back cash, which is commonly referred to as drive thru. I was in the first window with my trainer Jason. They put me there because they knew of my disability and had a chair in there for me to sit down. But I had no prior cash handling experience and did pretty poorly. To top it off, my trainer was impatient and I told this to the manager, Carlos. He spoke to Jason, then moved me to sweeping floors and cleaning up after people. After a while I wanted another go at training on something else. I would ask another manager , Trudy if they would train me and she kept saying yes. It never happened. During my job at McDonald’s, I felt degraded and stereotyped because I felt that they thought as a disabled person, all I could do was sweep floors and clean up after people. I started looking for another job; especially one at Sea World as at the time, I thought working in a theme park would be fun as my natural uncle worked for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for the first eight years of my life. I signed on with Quest Vocational Rehabilitation services which is a company that assists disabled people in finding and keeping a job. With the help of a gentleman named Carlos Jimanez, I landed a job at Sea World to start the day after my February 17 birthday. When I handed in my two week notice to Carlos at McDonald’s, they took me off the schedule early. I was unemployed for a week and a half.
My second and third jobs are with the same company so they will be in the same paragraph. My first position at Sea World was at Mama’s Kitchen, a restaurant now currently known as Artic Market. The supervisor was Cathy Hubbard, more about her later. I ended up doing the same thing I did at McDonald’s with a few new responsibilities added. At times I would help serve food on the counter and I would help serve food in the outside units surrounding the restaurant.
Cathy Hubbard a manager I had that I could not stand. One incident that still stays in my mind is the day I attended the wake of my husband’s maternal grandmother (who’s anniversary of death is coming up). He was my boyfriend at the time and newly so, so I decided I wanted to be there to support him and his family. I had the pleasure of meeting his grandmother one time before her death but it was still difficult. I have never been to any wake service or funeral service before that. When I returned to work after; as she was not part of my own family, I was still feeling the sadness of it. Cathy approached me and said something along the lines of “The guests think you look like you lost your best friend.” She said it in somewhat of a nasty way and I told her I just returned from a wake which she granted permission for me to go to.
In general, Cathy was always strict. As some of you may know, at one point Sea World was owned by Anheuser-Busch. When I worked their, August Busch III would occasionally visit the parks. When this happened, Cathy was at her worst, yelling at people and just plain being nasty . Eventually I began to refer to this situation as “Busch Freak Outs”.
Before I describe one funny experience I had at Sea World that involved a few stacks of trays , I will point out that I met my husband at Sea World and at the time we were dating . My husband and I were wiping them down and had already generated a few stacks of clean ones when I placed one on the stack and all of a sudden, the whole thing, both stacks of clean and dirty trays collapsed. One of the leads took a picture of it on her phone as we were all cracking up about it. She even showed it to Cathy who laughed for a change.
One good experience I had at Sea World started out with a bit of pain. I was suffering a major spasm in the corner of the restaurant when a guest approached me and said their table needed to be wiped down. I politely told her I was fighting a spasm but I would get over to her table as soon as I could. Instead of being nasty or inconsiderate about it, she said she understood and even helped me over to her table a little until the spasm finally died down. It was in Mama’s Kitchen I had my first brush of extreme physical pain. Eventually I asked for a transfer to a more sit down job. I also asked for the transfer to get away from Cathy.
The transfer I asked for led me to Discovery Cove and a restaurant called Laguna Grill. There I sat down, rolling silverware in the back of the restaurant. I had a supervisor named Paul Gober who was a great person for the most part. One good experience I remember here was being able to help another guest through the sand with his tray of food to a table. I somehow mentioned to him I have Cerebral palsy and he thought I was doing well and was very thankful and courteous to me.
After a few months of working at Discovery Cove with very few incidents that Cathy Hubbard became the supervisor of Laguna Grill. I forgot what happened to Paul, but I hated the fact that he had to leave to make way for Cathy. I feel if both of them were there, Paul would’ve been able to make things easier for me even in Cathy’s presence.
It was when Cathy Hubbard showed up at Discovery Cove that it was time for me to go. By now I no longer had Quest so I looked for another job on my own. I found Universal Orlando and started June 27, 2006. On my last day at Discovery Cove, I was trapped in the restaurant by a severe storm and in tears because I just wanted out.
At Universal, I finally got a job other than cleaning up after people and rolling silverware. I was a cashier for part of my time and a gameskeeper for part of my time. This is the most painful job to write about both physically and emotionally.
I started out at Marvel Superhero Island in front of the Hulk roller coaster at a cart that sold Hulk Merchandise. My trainer Moe who’s real name was Maureen was great. She treated me a lot better than Jason from McDonald’s.
It was after Marvel I ran into my hard times. I left Marvel because a new manager that reminded me every inch of Cathy Hubbard came on. I followed another manager named James Bryan that I thought was a nice guy to Amity Games. It was here in games that I ran into very inconsiderate guests and other issues.
There is one good experience I have to share during these tough times. Universal has a Diversity Team and during National Disability Employment Awareness Month one year, I was one of five people interviewed and photographed for a team member newsletter called Universal News. I was also on a panel consisting of the other four members of this Universal News segment where people that attended a Lunch and Learn were able to ask us questions. My husband was even allowed to attend this special session although he did not work for Universal.
One good experience I had in games was once I was full time, at the end of 2007, I was made an On The Job Trainer. The downside to this experience, I only had the position for two weeks.
Also in games, the guests constantly blamed me as the gameskeeper for the games being rigged when they lost when in truth the games were not rigged.
In the end, I left games to go back to merchandise. Again, I was outside and still had some rude guests who looked down on my constantly.
I had one guy who laughed at me one day in a store for the Twister…Ride it Out attraction. He asked me about the ride and I admitted I could not get on it because of a bad fear of fire. He did not know that it stemmed from something my younger brother did to me when we were very young. I was still upset that he laughed at me.
On the bright side, however, I had some very considerate guests and even a guest who handed me his rap CD which the songs are on my iPhone to this day and it was about two years ago.
The most painful part of my job at Universal Orlando, was being terminated the day after my mother’s birthday for something I believe could have been fixed if they had listened to me. I asked numerous times to be put indoors and they said no so I was outside in the cold, the heat, the rain, etc.
The exact details of my termination are painful for me to describe but are as follows. I was working outside as usual on my mother’s January 10 birthday and the weather was overcast but not too hot and not too cold. I made a few successful sales. The actual guest that caused my termination perceived me being rude to him when I asked him if he would come around to tmy left side. I did this because I cannot see on my right side and felt I could serve him better from my left side. I was told by my HR representative that this particular guest said I was rude. I had no reason to be rude and thinking back on it, I believe I was suffering extra physical pain due to the extreme cold snap we had about a day or two prior and it showed in my voice without my knowing it. I was sent home early that day and brought in at 2:00 P.M. the following day, January 11. Because of other incidents I’ve had they terminated me. Looking back on it, all of the incidents I had took place outdoors except for one that they sided with me on because they realized I was not yelling at the guest, but trying to solve the bigger problem of the situation that had occurred. In this situation, a lady came into the Aftermath store which is the gift shop to the Twister…Ride It Out attraction and asked me if I sold cigarettes. I said no, as we did not sell them at the time. Then I proceeded to ask her who told her that we sold cigarettes so I could have that person informed correctly and save future guests an unnecessary trip. This guest was given four express passes and I was suspended for a day and a half before my week long vacation to visit my mother. In the end, I was paid for this suspension and given a Back To Basics class for something I never did.
Now that Universal let me go I’m a happier person and their terminating me has led to many good events in my life including writing these blogs for www.wheelchairpride.com.
If you are disabled and work, please know no matter how worthless your management team, coworkers or guests might make you feel, you are still worth something and are better than what they think because they don’t know the true you. They just see your disability and stop there. Most of the experiences I had in this blog, anyone may have had, but the bad ones were harder for me. Companies like McDonald’s, Sea World, and Universal are just ruthless and only care about the money. They don’t care about the people that bring in those profits, the busers, patio people, cashiers, and gamekeepers. They are the front lines and if this blog touches any manager of a high ranking company and gets them to change their ways, I’m happy. It needs to be said and heard.