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In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’d like to share with you a story about one of our coworkers, Ashley Sisti. Many of you know Ashley, who manages your award renewal orders. What you likely do not know is that Ashley is a T10/T11 paraplegic. In 2008, just six weeks before her graduation from the University of Virginia, Ashley was in an equestrian accident that fractured her spine and put her in a wheelchair. Just as she was getting ready to head out into the world, her life took a traumatic and, for most of us, unimaginable turn.
In the three years since her fall, Ashley has put her life back together with remarkable courage and composure. At 22, she moved to San Diego on her own to continue her rehabilitation with Awakenings Health Institute, an extraordinary community-based organization that specializes in holistic healing for people with neurological disorders and disabilities. A year later, she was chosen to participate in the Breakthrough to Independence sponsored by the Stem Cell Health Alliance. She also has danced with Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company and has been featured on San Diego television as part of Head North’s Day in a Chair program.
If you take time to check out the above, you’ll learn what we at Rivanna already know: Ashley is a star! She’s a star who needs to work for a living, of course, and that’s where Rivanna comes in. To support herself and maintain her rigorous rehabilitation schedule, Ashley needed a job that offered fair wages, flex time, and a supportive, accessible work environment. She also wanted to work in an organization that would appreciate her many strengths and enable her to do good work for a good cause. We didn’t develop our progressive, accessible workplace specifically with Ashley in mind, but I am certainly glad that all of that was in place when it came time for us to offer her a job. Employers out there take note: when you foster an inclusive work environment, you can attract and retain real talent. We definitely have!