Jason Crawford says when the CNIB Foundation set up a six-month internship for him with the Two Small Men with Big Hearts Moving Co., he felt honour-bound to live up to the company name.
"Moving is a stressful thing. I get a lot of people calling in panic because their moving company bailed on them, and seniors who are downsizing to move into long-term care," he says. "I'm used to dealing with high-stress situations and I have a lot of compassion. I like being able to solve their problems."
Being able to offer solutions right away is a relief for the Calgary man who spent 10 years as a youth development worker dealing with young people with complex drug, homelessness and abuse problems. He says he loved working with the young people and still hears from a lot of them on social media, but an eye condition forced him out of that job and onto long-term disability in 2016.
He knew that his hereditary eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, was progressive, but there was no way of knowing when it would begin to worsen or how bad it would get. "I was fine in high school, and I got to drive and play basketball for five years, from the age of 16 to 21," he says.
Now he has about 10 per cent vision, but he's able to top the sales board at work anyway thanks to a combination of people skills and technology – he has a high-powered computer that runs ZoomText, a program that magnifies the screen and reads text aloud so he can find and fill in all the little boxes required to schedule someone's move.
"It took me a long time to come to CNIB," he recalls. "I had to come to terms with it myself."
However, nearing the end of his long-term disability insurance in August of 2018, he says he "picked himself up and started making phone calls." One was to Ted Bonar, Program Lead for Career Support and Employment at the CNIB Foundation.
"He helped me immensely, setting up my resumes and getting the equipment I needed, as well as telling me about the internship," he says.
Crawford notes that one of the two co-owners of Two Small Men with Big Hearts Moving Co. (Stu Starkey) also has low vision. “I got to meet him – his vision is as bad as mine," Crawford laughs, adding, "I guess he's probably one of the big reasons they started looking at hiring people with disabilities."
It's not what made them offer him a permanent job, though.
A one-hour phone interview convinced the moving company that Crawford was perfect for the job, and he started training right away with Corporate Operating Officer Addison Parfeniuk, who was "very patient, attentive and always encouraging throughout the entire training process". Within eight weeks he was way up the sales board, and after three months, only half the internship term, the company offered him a permanent job.
Crawford works from home, leaving him time and energy for his other gig – he's also known as Jay Ross, hiphop artist on the Infinite Elements label. Check out a video of him performing the recent release "Reppin" with Teekay or follow the label on Facebook.