Brian Cox is a student in ServiceSource Delaware’s FrameWORK for Success school-to-work program, which he entered when he transitioned from Delcastle High School in August 2016. His is a story of collaboration and accommodation and one innately indicative of ServiceSource Delaware’s (SSDE) mission of delivering exceptional services through innovative training and support. The key players include New Castle County Vo-Tech Para-professional Kelly Balmer, SSDE Employment Consultant Erin Doordan, and SSDE Packaging General Manager Pierre Wright. The beneficiary of their insight and collaboration is Brian.
Brian is a member of the production department packaging team assigned to the assembly of trays of various-sized soil pots used in the study of the effect of agricultural chemicals following application to a given crop or the soil in which the crop is grown. Balmer assists Brian on the job as needed. Doordan oversees all student assignments. Wright manages all production operations. “When working with the larger pots and trays, Brian’s movements are quick and confident,” Doordan noted. “But we noticed that he was easily distracted when working with the smaller pots. He’d frequently stop before a tray was filled or wait for staff to direct him back to the task. In short time, he’d stop again.”
This was not standard for Brian. He is a hard worker and he wants to do a good job. It turns out that Brian was becoming frustrated when placing the small pots in the tray slots. He would miss a slot and lose his momentum because the trays are black and the slot opening against the dark table top background provided too little contrast for him to see it clearly. He also kept his neck bent and head in a downward position to see what he was doing because the tray was resting flat on the work table. This caused discomfort, which he relieved by lifting his head up and looking around. This frustrated him even more because he was being less productive.
Several brainstorming efforts by Balmer and Doordan to improve the work station fell short before Wright noticed their attempts to assist Brian and engineered a solution that was basic and direct, yet ingenious. An elevated, adjustable-tilt tray stand was fabricated by pressure fitting lengths of ¾” PVC piping with several T-elbow and 90◦ fittings and sized to accept a wooden fixture, which had previously been designed to the dimensions of the assembly tray by Concord High School students in an Ability One Challenge. The stand rides atop Brian’s wheelchair tray. A white fabric mat mounted on suction cups and placed under the tray clearly displays the black slots for the pot assembly and prevents it from sliding on the wheelchair tray. As each tray is filled with the appropriate number of pots, Brian can stack it on his work table and continue with the next tray. A table stand that is positioned adjacent to his wheelchair provides an area for enough supplies to enable Brian to function independently for a longer time, allowing Balmer to attend to other duties.
Doordan commented, “Brian is now more productive, focused and self-sufficient. That is so important in life. We all want to contribute, to be independent, and to be successful. It cost very little to make these accommodations. But it did take caring, initiative and skill to pull it off.”
SSDE Regional Executive Director Dennis Dapolito noted, “This is what our organization is all about – helping individuals with a disability maximize their potential and be the best they can be. The collaboration and teamwork demonstrated by the team here at ServiceSource Delaware is why we have such a long and successful history of improving the lives of Delawareans with disabilities.”