October 14, 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 has worked his 40 hour week and taken home a paycheck for the last nine years.
Nothing remarkable except for the fact that Lew is legally blind.
"Lew is one of the most independent people I've ever met. 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," said Mark Maynard, VP of Human Resources.
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," said board member Robin Clark.
In Lew's case, the company's bent over backwards to make sure he can 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 now I do some editing of customer reviews," said Lew.
For one wheelchair-bound employee, Crutchfield spent $10,000 to build an access ramp to go up three stairs, and they never gave it a second thought.
Why do that? They do it because it's the right thing to do. And it is that kind of attitude that won Crutchfield the award.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The folks at Crutchfield want other companies out there to know that if someone is qualified for a job, you should never be afraid to hire them just because they have special needs.
Sounds like pretty good advice.