Local Company Enables the Disabled

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Saturday October 13, 2007

Lew Stokes comes to work each day, sits in front of his computer and processes customer orders at Crutchfield's home office in Albemarle County. He's worked his 40 hour week and taken home a paycheck for the last nine years.

That's nothing remarkable except for the fact that Lew is legally blind.

"Lew is one of the most independent people I've ever met," says Crutchfield Vice President of Human Resources Mark Maynard. "He's more independent than most other employees and he has tremendous obstacles that he has to worry about, but it just doesn't come through at work."

It's not just Lew and the dozen or so other disabled Crutchfield employees that earned the company the distinction of "Employer of the Year" from the local Disabilities Service Board, but it's the company's attitude toward those workers.

"It seems like they focus on more of the abilities of the individual as opposed to the disability," says Robin Clark, Vice Chair of the region's Disabilities Service Board.

And in Lew's case, the company bent over backwards to make sure he could thrive at his job, going so far as to put in a special computer program that helps him hear the screen.

"This program has allowed me to show that I have abilities to do data entry and I now do some editing of customer reviews," he says.

For one wheelchair-bound employee, Crutchfield spent $10,000 to put in a ramp to go up three stairs and they never gave it a second thought.

"It's the right thing to do," Maynard concludes.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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