People who stutter often face challenges finding employment. After graduating summa cum laude from Sacramento State University, Alex Naumann should have had no trouble getting a job. But despite being bright, professional, and having a great work ethic, he struggled.
“That was largely because I’m a person who stutters,” said Alex.
Finding employment can be challenging for anyone, but for people with disabilities, it’s doubly so. Data published by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics bear this out: People with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as those without disabilities.
Employment Helpline Leads to Internship
Alex decided to reach out for help. “I signed up with the California Department of Rehabilitation, and my counselor gave me a list of vendors that included PRIDE Industries. That company was familiar to me, so I contacted their I AM ABLE Employment Helpline.”
On calling the Helpline, Alex was referred to Employment Specialist Sara Robinson, who made him aware of an internship opportunity with The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation.
“Sara and I both thought it would be a good opportunity,” said Alex, “because it would allow me to gain knowledge, learn skills, and demonstrate my current abilities while building experience that I could take with me to my next job.”
With that, Alex arrived for his first day of work at PRIDE Industries this August, where he was surprised, in a good way, by his welcome.
A Welcoming Work Environment for People Who Stutter
“From the start, I was greeted with exceptional acceptance,” Alex said. “Something I’m not used to in the world.”
For Alex and many people who stutter, this kind of welcoming environment isn’t typical. Elsewhere, when introducing himself, he has been laughed at or asked if he had forgotten his own name.
“Nothing like that happened here,” he said. “I was met with patience and understanding.”
Freed up from some of the barriers he has typically faced, Alex has been working hard as a member of the Foundation team. In fact, the initiative he’s working on is the very one that helps fund both the I AM ABLE Employment Helpline and PRIDE Industries internships: the Employee Giving Campaign.
“I’m incredibly excited to help with the Employee Giving Campaign this year,” said Alex. “I get to prove myself as a hard worker while helping to fund future interns in the same circumstance I was in.”
A Chance to Put Skills to Use and Learn New Ones
In his internship, Alex is developing many professional skills that he didn’t previously have.
“I’m getting exposed to life in a professional office setting, including all of the protocols that go along with that,” said Alex. “I’m also getting the opportunity to hone my writing skills.”
“Alex’s written communication skills are at a high level,” said Michele Bennyhoff, Director of The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation. “His ability to be genuine with donors comes naturally as he produces letters of gratitude and other communications—all while learning new software.”
Alex has learned to use a variety of software platforms, including Microsoft Office 365 and Monday.com—with Salesforce next up.
He’s also learning about teamwork in the professional world.
“My experience working with others here is much different from when I was in school,” he said. “Here, the concept of teamwork has been strong—with multiple people collaborating on the same project. I will take that value to my next job.”
Alex has also had the opportunity to put his degree to use, assisting PRIDE Industries Videographer Christian Naranjo.
“I really enjoyed helping Christian,” said Alex. “I got insight into how a one-man video crew, with proper knowledge and gear, can do the work of many people.”
Christian enjoyed the collaboration as well.
“Alex was excited to help out and see what goes into a PRIDE Industries production,” he said. “It had been a while since he’d worked on a a video project, so he was getting back into the rhythm of things and asking questions along the way. You can see that he has a great passion for the craft.”
Accommodations for People with Disabilities Are Inexpensive
According to the National Stuttering Association, stuttering affects the speech of one out of every 100 people—over 70 million, worldwide. This means if a company has 500 employees, five of them likely stutter.
Some organizations fear that accommodations—for people who stutter or for any employee with a disability—are costly. They aren’t. Over 49 percent of companies surveyed said accommodations cost nothing, while the rest of the companies reported spending no more than $300 per employee with a disability over the span of their employment. What’s more, employers report that these measures usually pay for themselves.
Acceptance: A Basic Human Need That’s Also Good for Business
Sometimes an accommodation is simply an attitude.
“Beyond my friends and family, I’m not used to the level of acceptance I’ve received here at PRIDE Industries,” said Alex. “I’ve never experienced that in the work world.”
Closely linked to belonging, acceptance in the workplace is vital—and not just at a personal level. Employees who feel accepted perform better.
Since 1966, PRIDE Industries has understood that this level of inclusivity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also good for business.