Things are looking up for Justin Igama; he is earning his kinesiology degree while working as an associate at Amazon, Inc to achieve his dream of becoming a physical therapist.
“Navigating my mobility issues inspired this career path, along with the desire to help others. I can relate to patients since I have experienced many challenges and breakthroughs myself.”
Justin has cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and mobility. Individuals with cerebral palsy experience symptoms differently, including paralysis, inability to walk, and communication limitations. According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, one in three people affected cannot walk, and one in five cannot talk.
“I was three years old when I was diagnosed with CP,” said Justin. “It feels like my brain doesn’t communicate well with my muscles. My disability made me insecure and doubt my abilities; however, it made me develop resilience and determination. My involvement in sports such as wrestling and boxing helped me to realize that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.”
In 2016, while starting college, Justin attempted to find work to support himself. After several months of struggling to find a position, he was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Inclusive Talent Solutions in Sacramento, CA. With help from Job Coach John Edwards, he practiced interviewing and fine-tuned his resume.
“I learned that a positive first impression is key to engaging employers,” says Justin. “I made an effort to speak properly and to dress well. However, after multiple interviews, I noticed that my disability and use of a cane might have convinced many that I could not do a job involving lifting and walking. It was very frustrating.”
In less than a year, PRIDE placed Justin into an associate trainee position at Amazon’s Sacramento Fulfillment Center. He was responsible for sorting items to be delivered to PRIME Now customers. “There were many challenges at first, including learning a variety of new instructions and rules,” said Justin. “I had to work hard to prove myself.”
Applying skills that he learned from his PRIDE training, Justin reached out to his supervisor to identify areas to improve. He took the advice given and continued to receive consistent positive ratings. His Job Coach John Edwards was always there, providing Justin with encouragement and advice.
As Justin’s skills improved and he gained confidence, management took notice; Amazon offered him a permanent position in November 2017.
“It felt great to prove that I am capable of working in competitive employment with people without disabilities,” said Justin. “They treat me as an important part of the team. With this job, I have earned independence and can support myself financially while I complete my studies.”
“I hope that my story helps others with cerebral palsy to realize that they can achieve successful employment. There will be challenges along the way, but with hard work, perseverance, and a support team, they can accomplish their dreams.”