Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Success Stories, We Employ Ability!

02/02/17

OSCAR MARTINEZ, MODELL’S DEPARTMENT STORE

Oscar Martinez of Brooklyn recalls that when he first headed out into the workforce nearly two decades ago, he was nervous. He recalls being most concerned about how he would be perceived by his employer and his coworkers.  Martinez, who uses a wheelchair, has cerebral palsy - a neurological disorder that affects his body movement, muscle control and coordination. 

“I thought people would look at me, see me as disabled and think that I couldn’t do anything,” recalls Oscar.  “But I kept it up, I did what my employers asked of me at work, and now look at me.”

Fast forward more than 20 years later and the initial fears Oscar had about working seem far away. Modell’s Department Store, one of the country’s largest sporting goods retailers, hired him at their Bay Parkway store in Brooklyn.  He’s now that store’s longest tenured employee and has moved from attaching security tags to merchandise to greeting and assisting customers and breaking in new-hires.

Modell’s, who was recognized as corporate partner of the Year in 2014 by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, stressed that Oscar is everything they look for in an employee. “One of the great things about Oscar is he never lets up and is always willing to learn new things,” said Danillo Williams, manager at Modell’s.   “It’s not about what you can’t do, it’s what you can do and what you’re willing to do,” Williams continued.

Williams stresses that, for him, hiring people who are upbeat, friendly and personable is most important.   “Disability or not,” he says, “I think that’s the way to go.”

TINA CUTLER, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

For Tina Cutler, serving as a park ranger with the National Park Service is a career she loves. Since she began working at Fort Stanwix in Rome, NY more than 12 years ago Tina has become an expert in many things Fort Stanwix and her knowledge and enthusiasm for her job has definitely benefited her employer. 

Tina’s supervisor, Michelle Riter, who is the Chief of Visitor Experiences and has supervised Tina for two years, says that the Fort considers themselves fortunate to have Tina as an employee.  Not only does Tina come to work each day with a bright smiling face that immediately makes visitors feel welcome, but she is the only staff member in the Visitor Center that knows American Sign Language.  Riter says Tina’s skill has helped make Fort Stanwix a more accessible and enjoyable experience for people who are hearing impaired.   Fort Stanwix chose to feature Tina in a video where she talks about the Fort’s accessibility and her fluency in sign language.  It is one of 40 short YouTube videos produced this year about the Fort’s history that were made to commemorate its 40th Anniversary.

For Tina, 2016 has been especially exciting year as Fort Stanwix celebrates its 40th Anniversary and the National Park Service celebrates its 100th.  This year brought Tina an opportunity to help out with an outdoor cycling and kayaking program along the Erie Canal which she found to be great fun.  Tina relates that her favorite part of her job is working with the many groups of kids who routinely come to tour the Fort with their school groups.  She loves to explain to the children the different games kids played in the 18th century and point out the 18th century clothing that people once wore.