Recently, I had the opportunity to mentor a group of students for Disability Mentoring Day. These kids came from several local schools and are completing a secondary transition program through the Luzerne Intermediate Unit (LIU). It was great to work with them, mainly because I know what it’s like. As someone with a disability, it’s important to let these kids know that there are opportunities for them.
Founded in 1999 through a White House initiative, Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is designed to increase awareness of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The original event began as a one-day experience with less than three dozen students. Since then, DMD has blossomed into an extensive national mentoring program for young professionals with disabilities around the country. DMD is designed to promote career development for students and job seekers with disabilities. The great thing about DMD is that it is hands on as the kids explore different careers.
The kids arrived at Quantum’s Duryea facility and we gave them a tour, starting with the R&D test lab. It’s basically like a glorified obstacle course to make sure our motorized wheelchairs can withstand real-world conditions. The kids loved it. It was fun to show them how we put our power wheelchairs through different testing stations. We also took the kids over to our Production floor, and they watched as employees assembled the power wheelchairs. They were really excited when we told them they could test drive some of our products. A hands-on opportunity like this is memorable, and it gives them an important take-away.
For some of these kids, DMD is something they look forward to. One girl named Elizabeth, has been to DMD at Quantum before. Last year, Elizabeth used her manual wheelchair to get around. For the first time this year, she had her Quantum® iLevel® Power Chair. What a difference it made! She was more engaged with the tour and with the other kids. She was happy to be at Quantum and to see all the power wheelchair technology that is changing people’s lives and helping them to be more independent. With that independence comes the ability to have a job and a career and be a part of a community.
Throughout the tour, several employees who have disabilities spoke to the kids. They shared their experiences and how they have developed successful careers here at Quantum. When it was my turn to speak, I told them about my football injury at 14 and how it changed my perspective on life. I learned from an early age to never take anything for granted and to live my life to the fullest. I set goals for myself and relied heavily on education because I knew that would create the most opportunities. I finished high school with honors, went on to earn a B.A in college, and landed a full-time position with a top wheelchair manufacturing company that is dedicated to giving independence back into the lives of their end users. I’ve overcome a lot in my life and I did it with a positive outlook. The worst disability is having a bad attitude and it’s completely true. It’s important that these kids know that no matter what is in front of them, they can overcome it.
About Kiel Eigen: Kiel is an employee at Quantum Rehab®. When he was 14 years old, a standard football tackle went wrong, leaving Kiel paralyzed. Despite his adversity, he has maintained a hopeful and positive outlook. Kiel travels the country, making appearances at consumer expos and events. He enjoys meeting people and delivering his message of hope and determination. Click here to learn more about Kiel.