Buena Tool Company owner Tom Good took a chance on a disabled high-school student worker earlier this year — and the experience opened his eyes to the skills the disabled community has to offer.
“Being a local family business, we’ve always been involved in local activities, especially with youth. My dad was a scoutmaster for over 30 years, and I was for 15. We’ve worked with many of the young men we’ve met there, and we had the pleasure of working with this young gentleman,” said Mr. Good during the 14th Annual Mayor’s Awards for businesses committed to employing and providing services to people with disabilities.
“He did come in with a lack of confidence, but by working and being accepted by his fellow employees, himself and by customers his confidence grew day by day. It was great to see him develop and grow, as with all the youth I’ve worked with over the years,” said Mr. Good.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo presented Mr. Good with an Outstanding Effort Award for a business owner that went “above and beyond” to help those with disabilities.
Mr. Good said the student was a junior in high school when he began working at Buena Tool Company in February.
At the end of the six-month internship, Mr. Good offered the student a job, but the student declined due to recovery from mouth surgery.
“I hired him after the program, but after the surgery…he couldn’t come back. He would be if he wanted to.”
Mayor Murillo said the Department of Rehabilitation and PathPoint, a local work training provider for disabled people, partnered to provide the student worker program.
Three other businesses were recognized at the awards breakfast which was hosted by the City at the Carrillo Recreation Center
Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects received the Design and Accessibility Award for creating innovative and accessible building designs, The Santa Barbara Zoo received the Non-Profit Award for including the disabled community in its programs and Karl Storz Imaging received the Employment Award for embracing the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Director of Facilities and Technical Services Rick Spitzer said when Facilities Administrator Mark Parker first interviewed at the medical device company, management noticed he had previous work experience that went beyond the basic job description.
“We sat down and we discussed his skillset and had him describe what he’s done in the past. It was a no brainer with Mark’s skillset. He even exceeded that, and we were able to give him additional duties beyond what we spoke about,” said Mr. Spitzer.
“The position was designed as more of a day porter…but we quickly figured out he had a level of understanding to be able to do safety things like our fire extinguishers. Making sure those things are where they’re supposed to be. He works on our production floor and manages all of our electronic waste. That has to be managed in a certain way to meet environmental goals and he manages that process very well,” said Mr. Spitzer who added that Mr. Parker’s personality has created camaraderie between his coworkers.
“More than anything, he integrates well with the employees. He kind of builds these relationships and it is changing the culture within our company. For someone who’s got disabilities and challenges, that’s the real success,” said Mr. Spitzer.
Santa Barbara Zoo Education Manager JJ McLeod noted that the zoo recently became a Certified Autism Center and provides staff training on the needs of guests on the autism spectrum.
The zoo also provides quiet spaces on site, sensory backpacks and noise cancelling headphones for those who need them.
“I have a son on the autism spectrum, and when I tried to sign him up for our summer camp his support staff would not give us an ok therefore, he was unable to go to that camp. So, I came back to the education department in the zoo and I said, ‘Hey does our community know we’re (autism) inclusive and when they do know we’re inclusive are we prepared with proper training and support?’”
“I am that parent that wants to sign my kid up for camp. To be able to do that at the Santa Barbara Zoo and trying to make it a place where everybody feels they belong is something that has long been in our mission. But these last two years have been incredible, specifically for the autism community,” said Ms. McLeod.
During her keynote speech, Dani Anderson, the Executive Director of Independent Living Resource Center, said disabled Americans suffer from workplace stigmas that make it difficult to get jobs and by extension live independently.
“How can we live comfortably without employment? How can we do our jobs without reasonable accommodations? How can we explain our qualifications when we’re seen as a liability? When we live in a world sees disability as a problem and not the inaccessible world, something is backward.”