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This week, I am doing another article in my Who’s Who in Delaware series which focuses on Delawareans with disabilities. today’s spotlight is on Aaron Harper. I met Aaron in an adult advocacy group for people with disabilities which I am part of. I learned more about him through my interview. I also acquired knowledge about Aaron’s disability,
which I had not known about. Since October is
National Disability Employment Awareness Month,
I start this profile focusing on Aaron’s employment.
Aaron currently works as a trainer for Discover Card. He trains new employees on job functions at a call center. This includes customer service training. His job is currently remote due to the pandemic. Previously, he was a stock boy for Happy Harry’s in high school. Due to disability limitations, Aaron was unable to do heavy lifting. The store manager accommodated him by assisting with that task as needed. He was hired at Discover Card after college graduation. Aaron has been employed by Discover Card for 25 years. He did not experience any difficulties getting disability services prior to passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This is because by the time Aaron entered the workforce, the ADA was already federal law. When workplace accommodations have been necessary, he has been able to get them. It is also worth explaining Aaron’s disability so that readers can learn about it.
Arthrogryposis is a joint stiffening disease which usually results in individuals having weakened arm and hand strength, smaller shoulders, angled wrists and various feet deformities such as club or cup feet. At birth, Aaron’s wrist was bent at a 90 degree angle. He had over 17 surgeries as a child because of the disability. In recent years, Aaron’s feet and wrists were surgically altered. His wrists are now in a straight position and he can now stand for short periods. Four years ago, Aaron had hip surgery for a full hip replacement. Due to lack of arm strength, he leans against an object to lift his hands. He uses a dressing stick to help pick up items from the ground. When shopping, Aaron uses an electric scooter when going himself. When going out with a friend, he uses a wheelchair. Aaron loves the freedom and independence of living on his own. He can do whatever he wants to do at home. However, Aaron sometimes wishes he had someone around more often to assist with things such as reaching items and cooking. He pays for an aide to assist for 2 hours every two weeks, total of 4 hours per month. Relying solely on friends to help was not reliable. Aaron tries to plan for the aide’s assistance so he can use the help effectively. His disability presents challenges due to physical limitations. Aaron stated that his faith makes him stronger. Strength for him is also determined by how disability challenges are responded to. Example: when learning to tie his shoes as a child, Aaron needed to be creative. After tying one shoe, he found a way to have one of his friends tie the other shoe so he could go out to play. From that experience, Aaron learned about the value of friendship. There are other things worth noting about Aaron.
Aaron has a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Some of his special skills are understanding basics of Microsoft Office, Problem-solving, communication and being detail-oriented. He chose an accounting degree over psychology in order to earn more money. Aaron stated that his job with Discover Card enables him to fulfill his passion to help people. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys creative writing and posting to social media. He is a football and basketball fan. He listens to a variety of music, though he prefers Contemporary Christian or soft rock. He enjoys slow songs. Aaron writes poetry and has been published 3 times. However, it has been a while since publication of his poems. Aaron wants people to know that he is an optimistic person, glass half full. This includes a positive attitude about life. Aaron gives the following advice for people with disabilities. It applies both to those with his own disability and the broader disability community. “Struggling at some things is your best friend because it forces you to learn to do something a different way. Set your own limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Well said, Aaron!
Question for readers: What strategies do you use to overcome disability-related struggles? I will return next week with another article.