Individuals With Disabilities Who Are in the Workforce: Interview with Jacob Huff

It’s been a few months since we interviewed individuals with disabilities in the workforce for our blog, and I can think of no better person to bring them back than with Jacob Huff.  I’ve known Jacob for over ten years, and he’s one of my best friends. He has grown so much since I met him, and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Tell me a bit about yourself, what you enjoy doing in your free time, and your disability. 

I currently live in Beavercreek Ohio.  I graduated from Centerville High School in 2013 and started attending Wright State University in the fall of 2013.  I am active in my church where I have participated in leadership roles for Vacation Bible School, volunteered in their food pantry, (First Dawn Food Pantry), and I currently help facilitate the church’s Facebook live chats during their Sunday services.  I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family, going to live music events and other performing arts, working out/exercising, and singing. I have Cerebral Palsy, which affects the muscles and mobility in the body. It is a birth defect caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain at, or shortly after birth.  How it affects each person, including the severity depends on where the lack of oxygen occurred in the brain and how long it lasted.    

What do you do for a living?

I am a Licensed Social Worker at the Area Agency on Aging in Dayton [Ohio] working in their intake department.  

Why did you choose that job or career?

I decided to become a Social Worker because I want to devote my career to helping others.  Having a disability, there were many times growing up where I wanted to help out, like doing things around the house or yard work, but couldn’t due to my physical limitations.  Becoming a social worker has allowed me to help many people from different walks of life by using my personal strengths and abilities.

What do you love about your job and what do you find difficult?

I love that I get to help and impact so many lives each and every day.  The workload can be challenging at times, but it’s a great thing because that means that people know about our agency and are actively seeking help when they need it.  It’s great to see the amount self-advocacy I encounter each day.

What’s your favorite memory of your career so far? What are you most proud of?

My favorite memory so far would have to be going up main street in downtown Dayton to go to work on my first day.  Seeing the building as I was approaching it made me think of everything it took to get to that point.  It not only is my first job as a social worker, but it is my very first job ever. It is a very special moment I’ll never forget.  I am proud of how much I have grown as a professional in the short amount of time I have been working. I started the job on June 10 of 2019.  Granted in the social work field and life in general, there is always something new to learn and the learning process is life long. However, for only been working there for 6 months, I have much more confidence in myself working in the field than I ever have. 

Did you go to college? Where did you go?

I went to Wright State University from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2018.

What kinds of accommodations did your college give you, both in and out of class?

I received extended time on tests, my textbooks in alternate format, and an out-of-class reader/writer.

What was job hunting like? Do you think your disability had any affect on your job hunt?

It took me 11 months to get employed.  I actively job searched for 15 to 20 hours a week looking for open positions, applying for jobs, and sending resumes.  I do believe my disability affected my job hunt. Since I cannot drive, there were many that I could not apply for because the hours were not compatible with getting reliable transportation, or because the position required doing home visits.  It would be unethical for someone to drive me to the appointments.

What accommodations does your workplace provide? 

I am very fortunate that my work place was already extremely accessible.  The desk in my cubicle already had the accommodation to raise or lower, so I was able to put the desk at a height that was ideal.  An accommodation my work and I did was put the intake mail slot at a height where I can reach it so I can put my outgoing mail in the correct slot independently. 

What are some things that make your job difficult, in relation to your disability?

I cannot think of anything other than having to be in my chair the entire day can sometimes be hard because it can make my body stiff and sometimes cramp up.  It is certainly an adjustment, but it is slowly getting better.

What advice would you give to someone with a disability who wants to go into your field?

The advice I would give is to have patience and persistence.  Many people with disabilities know what it is like to need help either from another person or entity like an agency or organization.  Because of this, a social worker with a disability has the opportunity to practice much empathy with their clients, which is something that is extremely valuable for the clients they will work with.

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