FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and one Fort Wayne organization provides both employment and programs for those with disabilities.
Turnstone Center is known for their athletic programs that provide an opportunity for those living with a disability to participate. The center also works with people living with disabilities to create employment opportunities.
Lisa Czechowski is an accounting assistant at Turnstone. She is living with a disability, which has challenged her ability to join the workforce in the past.
“I am legally blind, and I have an eye condition called cone rod dystrophy. I’ve had it since birth so it’s congenital. And mine is a progressive condition, so as I get older I will continue to lose more of my vision,” Czechowski said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers are required to have reasonable accommodations in place for employees living with disabilities.
In Czechowski’s case, Turnstone has allowed for her to use her own magnifiers while working in the accounting office. The Center added touch points to office phones to make them easier to use. Turnstone has also allowed Czechowski to bring her own computer software, which magnifies the text on the screen.
“That’s a big component and I’m coming to the table with the solutions to allow be to access a computer and it’s at no cost to the employer,” Czechowski said.
Czechowski’s co-workers say that they have made adjustments, such as writing in larger text or refraining from using bright colors, such as highlighters. Nonetheless, they say that the simple changes on their end have allowed Czechowski to flourish in her position.
“If we had just looked at her and said oh she’s blind. I don’t know, accounting really? All that detail? I don’t know if we can handle that. If we had said that, we wouldn’t have her. It wouldn’t be as good as it is now,” said Melissa Hostetler, Controller at Turnstone Center.
Along with working at Turnstone Center, Czechowski has competed with the national goalball team. She said that her worth with athletic events has served as a motivator, on that parallels the work she completes in the accounting office.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover. There’s a lot of great applicants out there with disabilities. Give them a chance to show their awesomeness to your organization or business,” Czechowski said.