A Disability Does Not Mean an Inability

By Steve Blanchard - October 18, 2019

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Throughout Dave Maberry’s 23-year career at Moffitt Cancer Center, he has requested some minor modifications to his work space to better fulfill his duties as the director of managed care.

Maberry’s desk was raised slightly so he could sit comfortably at his work station. When he pointed out that the wheelchair accessible parking spaces at his building were often full, more of those spaces were added. He didn’t need or want a lot of fanfare around the adjustments, but appreciates Moffitt’s quick responses to make him comfortable. You see, Maberry has been in a wheelchair since 1988 following a motorcycle accident while he was living in Boston.

“I don’t need significant accommodations to do my job, but the cancer center has always been responsive to any requests,” said Maberry, who will retire on Nov. 1. “Moffitt ensured my desk was high enough that I could roll under it comfortably. And the need for more disabled spots arose when I noticed that leaving for any reason during the day for lunch or for meetings meant the spots were taken when I returned.”

Dave Maberry with Moffitt's original Managed Care team, circa 1996.

Maberry’s biggest concern was having space to open his car door wide enough to accommodate transferring into his wheelchair.

“There is another employee in the building who uses a wheelchair and drives a van with a lift. He needs even more space than I do, so I asked the owner of the building for more disabled spaces. Instead they designed four of the disabled spots for wheelchair users only and monitored it after the change. Neither of us have had a problem since.”

Moffitt’s ongoing commitment to diversity includes people with disabilities. In fact, the cancer center has been recognized by several organizations for its efforts. In 2019, the National Organization on Disability named Moffitt as a Leading Disability Employer and Disability Matters recognized the institution with a Steps-to-Success National Corporate Award.

The cancer center was also named a Tampa Mayor’s Alliance Honoree for Persons with Disabilities. This award acknowledges Moffitt’s workforce pipeline program with the MacDonald Training Center and its active recruitment of people with disabilities in Tampa Bay.

“While we’re humbled by these recognitions, being an inclusive organization where people of any background or disability status can contribute to our mission is who we are,” said Desiree Chachula, PhD, (ABD) SHRM-SCP, Moffitt’s Diversity and Inclusion manager. “It’s all about bringing in and empowering the best and most talented team members and making sure they have what they need to do the jobs they love.”

Disabilities come in many forms and making reasonable accommodations range from parking availability to service animals. For Moffitt clinical analyst Jim Elder, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that means Zara, his service dog, can accompany him to work every day.

“The biggest thing with her, and it still amazes me to this day, is that she can sense if I’m having a bad day or if I’m having a flashback,” he said. “She’ll nudge me and be like, ‘Hey, crazy man, come back to us.’”

When Elder found out Zara would be gifted to him, he was nervous about the reaction from his coworkers. He was surprised at how well everyone quickly welcomed her, and says that she now is greeted by at least a dozen visitors a day.

Jim Elder with his service dog, Zara.

Ashley Dudley, director of Strategic Workforce Management, proudly says Moffitt team members have resources available to help them achieve their career goals, regardless of their circumstances.

“We continually work to ensure our team members can aspire regardless of the disabilities they may face,” Dudley said. “When our team members have the tools available to them to accomplish their career goals, it benefits Moffitt and, more importantly, our patients.”

Indeed, Moffitt has reinforced its commitment to ensuring equal employment opportunities to all applicants and team members, regardless of a disability or other legally protected status. The cancer center recently updated its American with Disabilities Act (ADA) policy  to ensure all team members are aware of the process to request accommodations.

While Maberry will soon enjoy his days in retirement, he’s thankful for the two-plus decades he spent working at Moffitt. He’s confident that employees who may need to utilize the cancer center’s ADA compliance and support can always do so.

“My advice is to not be afraid to ask for what you need to do your job,” he said. “Be open to multiple ways of solving a problem.”

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