After years of persistence and 950 rejections, a disabled British man got a new job that he describes as life-changing.
Tom Stephens, 23, is employed full-time at a grocery store in Altrincham, England.
Stephens, who was born with cerebral palsy, faced five years of rejections before landing his job at Asda, one of the U.K.’s largest grocery store chains.
“It’s just amazing,” Stephens, who works directly with customers at the checkout line, told ABC News. “I mean, it’s so fantastic. It was a long hard fight and being rejected so many times affected me.”
The Greater Manchester native said he received only 50 interviews after submitting hundreds of job applications.
“It made me less confident, but I’m finally happy that I’ve gotten behind it,” he said.
Stephens finally received the help he needed from an employment agency, where he was referred to Asda. He had to complete an eight-week youth trainee program, during which he took classes on how to interact with customers and gained field experience.
“The traineeship gave me a refresher in basic employment skills and practical experience of a work environment,” Stephens told Altrincham Today. “I loved it and was over the moon to get a permanent job. I have belief in myself again and have made so many new friends.”
Stephens is one of seven young workers who have successfully completed the program, and so far he has received “fantastic” feedback from store colleagues.
People with disabilities often struggle to find work, in both the U.S. and the U.K.
A 2012 U.K. population survey revealed that disabled citizens had an employment rate of 47.8 percent compared to the 75.9 percent rate of non-disabled citizens.
In the U.S. only 17.1 percent of the disabled population was employed in 2014, compared to the 64.6 percent rate of non-disabled Americans.
“In our society, it’s always difficult for people who are different to be accepted as normal,” Ken Stern, the creator of CerebralPalsy.org, told ABC. “Employers are concerned about how these employees will assimilate or how they’ll be perceived by the public on which they depend for survival.”
“Employers should be open to the idea that even though some of these adults are different, they can nevertheless be successful contributors to their business if they remain tolerant,” Stern said. “It’s up to us whether or not we choose to make life a better place for everyone.”
(H/T: ABC News)