Follow along with us on Facebook and Instagram

Check out UCP WORK, Inc. in recent NEWS!

Confidence in knowing that over 90% of contributions is going directly to programs

Santa Barbara DJ Thrives in Independent Employment and Strong Interpersonal Skills

By Rae van Seenus on Oct 21, 2019 at 06:12 PM in UCP WORK, Inc. Blog

Chris Benedict is a 37-year-old individual with cerebral palsy working independently as a DJ in Santa Barbara, California, and is served through the Business Support Program of UCP WORK, Inc., a service and job placement provider for adults with disabilities on the Central Coast.  Although Chris is supported by his coach, Jeff Shane, who has played an integral role throughout Chris’ life, I met Chris independently at one of his many jobs, at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation.  There, Chris also works independently as a Spark, a paid position that ignites and “sparks” learning through interactive experiences in science and creativity.  A Spark is trained to ask questions and provoke curiosity in museum guests, making people think about the world around them.  In fact, Chris was the very first Spark to join the MOXI team in 2017, he told me, due to his outgoing personality and willingness to interact with guests. Additionally, Chris is extremely knowledgeable in the world of technology, is known around Santa Barbara as the “DJ of Ability”, is the owner of his own deejaying business, and he uses his 20 years of tech skills as he engages with interactive exhibits throughout the museum.  

Chris shared with me that the words, “Failure is always an option”, is a personal motto and one he has learned through his various employment opportunities.  It can mean many things, but for Chris, these are words that advocate the power of inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace. Chris believes that if there are any barriers for people with disabilities in finding jobs in the community, it’s their own lack of confidence in asking for what they want.  Another barrier, according to Chris, is that employers can have stigmas around people with disabilities. They often accommodate for too many things or provide only simple tasks.  People with disabilities should be held to the same standards as others in the workplace, “If given the opportunity to try, most people with disabilities can accomplish anything. And if they fail, well that’s okay too, but push them to try”, said Chris. 

Sometimes finding a job has been pure luck for Chris, but he also pointed out that it’s been his strength and ability to network through his DJ business that’s helped him most.  He knows a lot of people in Santa Barbara, has built a positive reputation, and decides exactly who he wants to work with, plus he’s paid very well.  According to Kevin Spracher, Floor Staff Manager and Chris’ Supervisor at MOXI, “Chris is a people person that is not afraid to approach people. I schedule him for most of the museum’s large events because interaction is his number one strength.”

I asked Chris what he likes most about working independently in the community and he explained to me that it’s the opportunity to have a schedule and that his employer relies on him to be there on time.  He takes a lot of pride in his jobs as both a DJ and a Spark, and knows that any questions asked by the museum guests are completely his responsibility to find the answers.  “I am 100% independent at work,” he said with a big smile.  

Outside of his job as a DJ and at MOXI, Chris is also a public speaker, focused on a new project with coach, Jeff Shane, of training Direct Support Professionals on how to better serve individuals with disabilities dealing with pain and fear.  It’s a topic that brings up a lot of vulnerability for Chris, but he explained that through the process of working through his own pain and fear, he has been able to accomplish the things he wants to do in life.  By discovering more about himself and through deep emotional healing, Chris believes he has “opened the door” and increased his opportunities in the community.  Also, Chris stated that everyone has a gift and that employers don’t know what’s inside that gift until they give an individual a chance. He suggested that employers figure out what strengths a person with a disability may possess, make any accommodations if needed, and just try things out. 

When asked about people with disabilities earning the same wages as their coworkers without disabilities, Chris replied, “If I’m able to work and put money back into the system, I’m able to contribute and should be able to equally get out what I put in, just like everyone else”.

Looking into the future, UCP WORK, Inc. will continue to support Chris Benedict with his DJ business until he transitions to Self-Determination, a new program where Chris has chosen to manage his own supports. 

For more information and video on Chris Benedict, AKA “DJ of Ability”

Click on the link for more information about UCP WORK, Inc.'s Employment Services

Santa Barbara DJ Thrives in Independent Employment and Interpersonal Skills
Santa Barbara DJ Thrives in Independent Employment and Interpersonal Skills