A New Wheelchair Makes All the Difference for Long-Time Home Depot Employee

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In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Vocational Rehabilitation shares how adaptive equipment can keep essential employees on the job.

Lebron assists a customer in Home Depot.

Lebron assists a customer in Home Depot.

I was considering giving up working, but she told me not to give up. I had been working a long time, and I should try to keep doing it," Lebron says of Bennett.

Got a plumbing question? See Nuni. Want to know what that ‘thingamajig’ in the toilet is for and why it’s still running? See Nuni. Have you been to the Holiday Home Depot lately? You’ve probably seen Nuni. After working at Home Depot for nearly 20 years, Mariano “Nuni” Lebron has a long list of pros and Do-It-Yourselfers who count on his expertise every day, but recently he began having severe back pain, and his world started spiraling downward.

Nuni was born with cerebral palsy and has always used a wheelchair. He lives with back pain daily, but this was extreme and causing him to become depressed and despondent. He also had sores from the wheelchair. He heard about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and decided to try it.

He met with VR Counselor Andrea Bennett, and they talked about getting him a new chair that would work better for his requirements. “I was considering giving up working, but she told me not to give up. I had been working a long time, and I should try to keep doing it,” says Nuni.

Andrea sent him to counseling for his depression, and that went very well. He also had an MRI where they discovered that spondylosis and degenerative disk disorder, along with his CP, was causing the additional pain. So, he met with a University of South Florida rehab technician to figure out the exact chair he needed to keep his life and career going smoothly.

“He said, ‘You’ll need a power seat, and the back should totally lay down,’ and because I work at Home Depot and sometimes needed to reach something higher, it also needed an elevated seat,” explains Nuni.

Nuni is back on the job, winning employee awards with Home Depot and answering any plumbing questions that come his way. He says he still has some back pain, but nothing like he was experiencing earlier. His depression is under control, and things are looking brighter with his new wheelchair.

Store Manager Rian Meyers is glad everything worked out for Nuni. “He is extremely valuable to us at the store,” he says. “He has a huge following, and his knowledge base in the plumbing department is so deep that we all lean on him at times. He’s also getting close to earning a Diamond Homer Award, which is very rare.”

Home Depot is well known for being an inclusive employer and has been honored by VR before. Rian has worked with many different employees with disabilities during his career at Home Depot and shares, “They are fantastically committed and loyal employees, and they are inspiring for those of us who don’t face that challenge.”

When asked about Andrea, he says, “You’re lucky to have her. She helped me keep my head together and keep going. I was basically ready to throw in the towel, but she had me keep going. She said she was only a phone call or an email away. Don’t hesitate to call.”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. The employer-focused website, https://abilitieswork.employflorida.com/, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 90 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,194 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.

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Sarah Timoti
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Florida Vocational Rehabilitation
since: 11/2012
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