Locals advocating for people with disabilities, helping to make workplaces more inclusive

SALISBURY, Md.- Dom Sessa and Leslie Jefferson are on a mission to make a difference for people with disabilities, saying more inclusion built into the workplace is needed.

“People with disabilities do have a hard time finding employment, especially in this area finding employment, maintaining employment, it’s a very intimidating thing,” Jefferson, co-founder of The Quad Squad, said.

For Jefferson, her life changed last year, after being thrown out of her car during an accident, causing her to be wheelchair-bound with a spinal cord injury.

After the accident, Leslie was lucky enough to still be employed at Pohanka Salisbury, but she said for many, that’s not always the case.

“My friends and people I care about are having these issues and if I didn’t have Pohanka and I didn’t have my bosses and the people that I adore and work with every day where would I be,” Jefferson said.

She said Pohanka made changes to their building to make it more accessible for her, but not all with disabilities get that same accommodation.

“For example, if you hired me and the door to your bathroom is really really heavy and really really expensive to replace are you going to hire me knowing that you have to replace the bathroom door to your establishment? You’re not unfortunately and that’s just a bathroom door,” Jefferson said.

Meanwhile, Dom Sessa, a Commissioner for Maryland Commission on Disabilities, said a lack of inclusion isn’t anything new.

“I’ve been told, Dominique you’re just not employable with your health condition and that can really hurt people’s feelings, including my own,” Sessa said.

Sessa said seeing Pohanka be a leader for inclusion makes a difference something other businesses can learn from.

“Cause I think oftentimes problems in our rural communities is a lack of education because we have a perception of disability that it’s a liability,” Sessa said.

But, we’re told it’s not just businesses who can benefit from being educated.

“Our own biases sometimes really put us in cages and that’s what harms people, so I think the most important step is to listen to disabled people and realize that we are all learning all the time,” Sessa said.

Categories: Local News, Maryland