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Individual Employed at Three Santa Barbara Jobs Represents CP Awareness Month and A Life Without Limits

By Rae van Seenus on Mar 04, 2020 at 07:14 PM in UCP WORK, Inc. Blog

Did you know that wearing green in March isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day, because it also represents National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. 

Individual with Cerebral Palsy Brian MacLaren Artist

Observing CP Awareness Month represents the power of diversity, the importance of inclusion, and allows us to educate and bring awareness on how individuals living with cerebral palsy can live independently, work, and make their own decisions. 

Of course not everyone has CP in the same way.  According to Cerebral Palsy News Today, “posture and speech impediments are almost similar, but the differences are in the details. The best way to know how CP affects a person is to simply talk to them, get to know who they are, and gain insight into their lives.” 

UCP WORK, Inc’s spotlight for CP Awareness Month, is on Brian MacLaren, a unique and highly-skilled individual served through the organization for over 30 years.  Brian lives and drives independently, maintains three jobs in the local community, and volunteers weekly as Assistant Coach for the agency’s wheelchair Power Soccer team.  His longest position is with Lightening Protection Corporation, where two days a week, he tests and solders lightning and surge protective devices, and helps manage their shipping and receiving processes.  He obtained the job through UCP WORK, Inc’s Employment Services, but shares that it took a lot of self-advocacy to support the job’s longevity.  The other three days, Brian continues to work as a professional artist and Art Instructor at the organization’s art studio-gallery, Santa Barbara Art Works, as well as, his newest position as Job Coach with the agency’s Harbor maintenance crew. 

Individual with Cerebral Palsy Brian MacLaren Working

At the Santa Barbara waterfront, one may conclude that Brian’s responsibilities could be limited working near the water, but in fact, he plays an integral role as a supervisor of the Harbor Crew.  Brian is CPR certified, water-safety trained, and knows when and how to use an epipen.  He also oversees attendance, trains, and delegates daily work tasks to a team of twelve participants.  “I want to be a good role model for these guys,” explained Brian, “At first, the crew didn’t believe a person in a wheelchair could be in a supervisory role, but I’m helping change that perspective.”  

Unfortunately, several of the marina and commercial areas of the Harbor were built before the ADA laws, making some of the bathrooms inaccessible, but it doesn’t stop Brian from accomplishing his job duties. “When working in a wheelchair, you really have to approach things in a different way, figure it out.  I want people to allow me to try to do things independently, and if I need help, I’ll ask.”

Individual with Cerebral Palsy BrianMacLaren Power Soccer Coach

According to Kevin Smith, Director of Program Services, “Brian is persistent and respectful, which the crew responds well to.”  Also, “I knew Brian would be a good fit, because of his persistence in advocating for himself and others, plus he’s discovered parts of himself that he didn’t even know he possessed.” 

When discussing the importance of accessibility and inclusion for CP Awareness Month, Brian expressed, “Don’t ever assume that people with disabilities are a certain way intellectually or physically.  Just talk to the person, allow them to use their own voice, and give them time to advocate for themself.  And most importantly, be patient, be kind, always.” 

For more information, visit our Group Supported Employment Services page or to help people like Brian continue to gain their independence and earn a meaningful living through job placement opportunities, DONATE to UCP WORK, Inc. today. 

*Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about CP.  UCP WORK, Inc. does not have any affiliation with this business.