Connie Lewis, a job coach at PRIDE Industries, had a rough start in life. Born to an underprivileged family in Alabama, her parents struggled to provide for their three young daughters. To make ends meet, Connie’s family lived with her grandmother. Life was not easy.
Connie’s mother had a hunch that one of her little girls was hard-of-hearing. She also seemed to be developing a speech impediment. Unfortunately, the family was unable to provide the necessary medical care and quality of life she deserved. At five years old, Connie was put up for adoption.
After her adoption, life quickly changed for Connie. Her adoptive parents provided a new beginning. Connie’s adoptive mother was a speech therapist and an audiologist. Soon after her adoption, Connie received a set of hearing aids that also helped her gain speech. The use of hearing aids provided a completely new world for Connie.
Connie did her best to adjust to her new life while maintaining a relationship with her biological family. After graduating from high school, Connie attended the Alabama School for the Deaf where she met her husband, who is also deaf. They married and had two daughters. For the first few years, Connie stayed at home with her daughters. When she decided to join the workforce, Connie struggled to find and keep employment due to her disability. Connie never complained; she focused on the future, knowing she would find the right opportunity.
On April 2013, Connie connected with the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Novosel (formerly Fort Rucker), Alabama. Connie was hired as a job coach providing American Sign Language (ASL) translation at the base.
“This is what I was looking for,” Connie says. “I can practice using ASL with PRIDE’s deaf employees while helping with their job needs.” Job coaches are dedicated and talented individuals who understand individuals’ unique needs and provide support to ensure success at work.
“Connie was a huge part of the Fort Novosel start-up as she helped our employees with disabilities transition into their new jobs,” says Stephany Marshall, a PRIDE Rehabilitation Counselor, and Connie’s supervisor. “She has played a vital role as a facilitator in communication between our employees who are deaf and their supervisors and co-workers.”
PRIDE’s mission to help individuals with a wide range of disabilities succeed at work; assistive technologies play a vital role in supporting individuals with hearing or sight challenges. P3™ enabled tablets and mobile devices provide on-demand live ASL translator for better communication at work. Connie was supplied with a tablet loaded with P3™ communication software as additional support for hard-of-hearing and deaf employees at the base.
PRIDE’s structured support services include job coaches, case managers, counselors, and supervisors who understand each person’s strengths and challenges. Support services help individuals get the assistance they need and remove obstacles to employment.
Connie is motivated by helping others find success and self-esteem; she finds fulfillment in her work at PRIDE.
“Connie attributes her love for the job to her disability; having been hearing impaired her whole life and unable to verbally communicate until the age of five,” Marshall says. “Connie can relate to and understand the obstacles and challenges individuals with disabilities experience.”