John H. - Special Projects Coordinator, LIFE/RUN CIL
In 1995, John sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident. As a result, he had several seizures and short and long term memory loss. He also developed narcolepsy with cataplexy attacks —a chronic sleep disorder with sudden muscular weakness that can result in a total body collapse.
Because of his injury, John lost two jobs within a month of his accident and turned to LIFE/RUN Center for Independent Living in Lubbock, Texas, in search of help. In addition to receiving services from LIFE/RUN, John also became a volunteer, working for LIFE/RUN, for the American Red Cross, and later serving as a member of the National Disability Task Force with the National American Red Cross.
John also started back to college, after a break of 25 years, graduating with honor from Lubbock Christian University with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree. Next he earned a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas in Arlington, receiving his Master Social Work license in 2005.
A few weeks after graduation, John accepted a job at LIFE/RUN Center for Independent Living and has worked there ever since. He manages a case load of 30 clients, helping people with disabilities receive Social Security benefits, fill out applications for food stamps, find housing and, in general, assisting them with whatever they need in order to live independently in the community. As Special Projects Coordinator, he also supervises a staff of two and oversees a $250,000 energy assistance program that helps approximately 400 people each year.
As the result of his head injury, John has difficulty paying attention, so he uses a day timer to keep his schedule and relies on the Outlook calendar computer software to remind him of appointments. Reading is difficult, so John uses free screen reader software from Readplease.com.
The Center switched to a four-day work week in which all staff work 10 hour days, four days a week. John and another staff member tried it for a month. However, because of his head injury, John is so mentally exhausted by the end of an 8-hour work day that it is difficult for him to do anything else. By 4:30 on one of the long days, he says, “I was useless.”
John and another co-worker requested a modified schedule in which they would return to the typical 5-day work week. Their requests were granted, and the two come into work on the 5th day, lock the door, answer phones, and catch up with their paperwork. The accommodation of a modified schedule was a winning situation all around because it allowed John to maximize his productivity at work.
Because of his disabilities, John is unable to drive and does not have a Texas driver’s license—something that immediately ruled him out during the third interview at two other social work jobs for which he had applied. However, LIFE/RUN provides him with bus passes and staff to drive him to places like the Social Security Administration office.
John notes that LIFE/RUN has accommodated him in other ways. “Last October I discovered that I had spinal stenosis and required several surgeries. I had enough sick leave and vacation time, so I didn’t lose any salary but I did need to go on partial duties for a little while. The Center was real understanding about that, and I was able to return to full duties before very long.”