Cody: Creating and adapting a job with the YMCA


Cody is a young man who expressed a desire to work with children in the field of sports and recreation. Cody had also reported challenges to obtaining such a position, including no prior experience, use of a motorized wheelchair for mobility, and limited speech. To overcome these barriers and secure a job involving sports and/or children, Cody and his employment specialist developed, marketed, and adapted a new position as a greeter at a local YMCA.

The job search

Cody smiles widely in a direction slightly to the left of the camera.As a starting point, Cody and his employment specialist brainstormed a list of corporations and job sites that incorporated sports and/or children. This list included YMCAs, gyms, boys and girls clubs, sports arenas, and local college teams. Systematically, Cody and his employment specialist approached the local chapters of these organizations and presented Cody to them. This was primarily done through face-to-face meetings in which Cody sat down with appropriate staff to discuss his skills and what he could bring to their organization. During the course of these face-to-face meetings, Cody had the idea to be a greeter. This was something he had done in the past and felt he could market. Several formal proposals were developed for employers, outlining the benefits of a greeter position including enhanced and personalized customer service.

Eventually Cody had the opportunity to meet with the Human Resource Director at the central branch of the YMCA of Greater Boston. She directed Cody to a new building they were constructing that had not yet opened, which she thought might be a good location for the position he was proposing. Cody and his employment specialist met with the director at the site and received a tour of the facilities. The director immediately liked Cody and thought having a greeter at this site would be beneficial. He proposed to station Cody by the back entrance. Cody could provide a more streamlined check-in process by reminding members to have their YMCA identification cards ready when arriving at the front desk.

In developing the position, Cody and the Y had to take into consideration the fact that he would be unable to speak to every member as they entered and exited. His employment specialist scheduled a meeting with staff at the Y to discuss what could be done. Cody did have access to a voice output machine into which messages could be recorded. The Y staff thought this would assist tremendously, and eight messages were generated for Cody to convey to members. Through the voice output machine, Cody got the attention of members as they entered and members began to recognize his role within the organization.

What happened

Cody looks down at his voice output machine, with his hand over one of the buttons. Cody has worked at the YMCA for several years. During this time he has made connections with many of his coworkers. Cody has also taken the initiative to get involved in other aspects of the Y organization. This includes participation in two yearly road races, volunteering and fundraising activities, and swimming programs. Cody was recognized by the Y for his service, continued dedication and contributions to the community at an employee reception. Also, due to their experience with Cody, the YMCA has continued to work with several non-profit employment agencies in the community to recruit and hire other people with disabilities for their open positions.




Lessons learned

  • Establish a career goal that includes a clear understanding of the critical elements of a good job match. In Cody's case this included working around sports activities and children.
  • Research employers, identify their needs and market an idea supporting those needs.
  • Methodically approach employers and try to schedule in-person meetings.
  • Discuss the individual's skills and how those skills may meet a business need. In this case, Cody's skills were able to enhance customer service at the YMCA.

Photos by Quinn Barbour, Institute for Community Inclusion.