In honor of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, two UCP of Greater Cleveland staff members, Lora Onafuwa, the Adult Day Support Lead at the Westlake facility, and Lakissha Cloud, the Vocational Services Float, share their experiences about working with adults with disabilities.
Why did you decide to work with people with disabilities?
Lora: When I first got out of high school, I decided to try working in the disability field. But then I became a state-tested Nursing Assistant, so I started working in hospitals and nursing homes. At the hospital, I found I was most happy when I was working with patients who had disabilities. I realized I missed working in that field, so I found UCP of Greater Cleveland. A lot of people assume that the job is really difficult and trying. Yes, the job can be challenging at times, but overall it’s really fun and rewarding.
Lakissha: I have a nursing home and direct care background, so it was a natural transition to work at UCP of Greater Cleveland. I like to help expand and stretch our clients’ independence.
How do you perceive people with disabilities?
Lora: All our clients have their own personality. There are certain things they like and certain things don’t like, just like there are certain things I feel strongly about. They are also all independent in their own ways.
Lakissha: Our clients seem happier than the average person. Every accomplishment is a large accomplishment, such as warming up their own lunch, learning how to open a door or unzipping their coat. We push our clients to achieve their highest possible level of independence.
What would you like to tell the public about people with disabilities?
Lora: I think people can learn a lot by working with or volunteering with people with disabilities. Sometimes I think to myself, “Oh man, I just can’t do this!” And then I come to work and see what the clients are accomplishing. It’s inspirational to work with them. Also, never underestimate someone. You never know what they are capable of doing for themselves or understanding.
Lakissha: Every person is different and we all have special qualities, so take the time to learn about a specific person. I have also found that sometimes I take for granted things I can do. This job has taught me to be more grateful.
What is one of your favorite moments working with clients at UCP of Greater Cleveland?
Lora: One of my favorite moments is when you work with a client to help them learn how to complete a task independently, and then you walk in one day and they are doing it all on their own. That is one of the most rewarding things.
Lakissha: One of the great things about my position is that I get to move around to all the facilities, so I get to work with everyone. I really like doing activities with our clients. Recently I enjoyed making the Black History month posters with them.