April is Disabilities Awareness Month. For many with life-long challenges, it helps to have the support from organizations and businesses focused on providing opportunities for the disabled.
Cody Santiago is a Makiki resident who’s been working at Safeway Manoa for the past five years.
“I do carts, and bag, and sweeps,” Santiago said.
The 25-year-old Kalani High School graduate was diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. He also works at Pizza Hut and has an active social life.
“I go shopping and go movies,” Santiago said.
“It keeps him busy, has a well-balanced life, stays positive, and build relationships,” case coordinator Chandiss Keller said.
Locally, Safeway employs 75 people with disabilities. Other companies partnered with Easter Seals Hawaii include Home Depot and Lowes.
“We look at things a little bit differently. Our people in our programs, these are people with abilities,” said Chris Blanchard, Easter Seals Hawaii.
Easter Seals offers special needs assistance along with physical rehabilitation and job training.
“They deserve an opportunity to live just like anybody else,” Blanchard said.
Santiago says he knows he has a disability.
“Cannot speak, I cannot read,” Santiago said.
But that doesn’t stop him from living a full and productive life.
“I like it because it’s new, meet new people,” Santiago said.
“Cody can do everything. He is very independent, very smart, and can schedule his own rides and transportation,” Keller said.
Throughout the month of April, customers at Safeway can donate to Easter Seals, Special Olympics, and other autism-related organizations.