Over the past year, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hiring has been a hot topic among employers tackling longstanding inequities in the workplace. iHire has no shortage of tips to create a diverse and inclusive environment. Being an inclusive workspace for all backgrounds is the right thing to do, full stop. It is also better for companies that embrace DEI in their bottom line.
In that vein, October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which peaked with a WorkInSports Podcast episode where VP of Content and Engaged Learning Brian Clapp broached the topic of hiring people with disabilities. The Podcast featured Special Olympics athlete Ben Collins and Director of Awareness Planning Megan Gausemel.
To close out the month, I would like to share Darrin White’s story. Darrin was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. He has been in a wheelchair since age 11, with movement limited mainly to his right hand. He currently works as a part-time, freelance sports statistician for Miami (Ohio)’s athletic department.
“When I was young, my first experience noticing not doing things as well as other kids was going up stairs,” Darrin said. “Running was difficult, and I fell a lot. There was a time that I fell hard, and my mom said, ‘You really did a number on your head and as a kid.’ I registered that there was an actual number on my head, so I asked, ‘What number is it?’
Every year, it gets a little harder to do some things. The most progression happens in the younger years, and then it starts to plateau some. What helped me most was keeping a good attitude, and my faith keeps me going as well.”
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Despite the numbers improving by nearly 4% from 2020, people with disabilities are over twice as likely to be unemployed (9.7%) as those without a disability (4.5%). In 2018, when Darrin graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology from Wright State University, 79.2% of people with disabilities were not in the labor force. Undeterred, he used his interest in statistics and genetic diseases to work in a paid internship doing clinical research with Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Gene Therapy lab in Columbus, Ohio. He later served as a data analyst for the Department of Defense for a six-month paid internship. A few months into his search for full-time employment, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“During my last semester at Wright State, I learned about the Workforce Recruitment Program, which partners with universities and helps students get internships and a possible job,” Darrin said. “My internship (with the Department of Defense) lasted around six months, where I was learning statistical work. After that ended, I searched for jobs unsuccessfully, partially due to COVID, which made things more difficult on the search – even to find a remote job.”
During the pandemic, Darrin’s love of statistics moved him over to sports, where he worked with QwikCut as a statistician, inputting statistics from game clips for high school athletes looking to get recruited to play collegiately.
His statistical prowess drew him to his current freelance gig, where I met Darrin earlier in October at a Miami (Ohio) volleyball match on a freelance stats assignment of my own. Darrin served as my inputter, entering statistics into the scoring computer as I called out the stat commands in real time. Given his background in statistical research, he found this position to be in his wheelhouse.
“[When I moved from clinical research], I was looking for something that I could do well,” Darrin said. “Most of the clinical research jobs didn’t quite fit, as a lot of them require you to be in the lab and don’t have as much availability for strictly computer work.”
While Darrin enjoys working as a statistician, he views his current position as a role he is quite good at as a part-time side job. His true passion is in writing, and he is working on publishing a Christian fiction series under the pen name Owen Lee Grace, beginning with his current book, The Wall, a futuristic story based on the Book of Revelations that includes a zombie outbreak in 2065. Still, he has advice for employers who are evaluating candidates with disabilities for their openings.
“I would say that a disability isn’t always a hindrance,” Darrin concluded. “It can make someone more resourceful and helps a person learn to be more independent and work hard, even though there are challenges.”