NDEAM Highlights Columbus Resident’s Employment Journey
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October celebrates the contributions of people with developmental disabilities in the workforce and the importance of inclusion. Justus Dominguez, a 22-year-old Columbus resident, is a great example of how an employment opportunity paved a path toward contributions focusing specifically on accessibility.
If you asked him, Justus would be the first to tell you his employment journey has opened doors he never expected. He currently holds two jobs; one as an accessibility intern at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University and another as operations manager at the Harmony Project, a non-profit arts organization focused on empowering the voices of people through the arts, education, and volunteerism.
Justus’ work has helped him learn how to act as an ambassador for people with developmental disabilities. He takes accessibility into account when he’s putting together transcripts, audio, educational workshops, sensory-friendly options, and more.
"We use the arts to bridge community divides," said Justus. "Being operations manager is a big first step for someone on the spectrum, so it feels really good to have that first role in the employment journey."
Although his path is clear now, Justus wasn’t sure what he was going to pursue just a few years ago.
Using the state agency, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Justus took some volunteer positions to start his employment path. After graduating high school, he decided to attend Eastern Michigan University to major in Zoology. Justus quickly recognized a need to provide aid for students to feel successful in the classroom and pivoted to a major in communications with a minor in theater.
"I wanted to help people," said Justus. "With accommodations of my own, I want to make sure everyone has those accommodations if they need them."
After graduating from EMU, Justus focused on pursuing employment opportunities to expand his interest in accessibility. His current jobs have helped him become an advocate for himself and others in the workplace.
Justus’ mother, Annette Dominguez, sees his employment journey from another perspective.
"One of the most interesting things is that his employers have always said how much he is teaching them," said Annette. "Not specifically because he’s on the spectrum, but he’s teaching them about patience and giving them ideas of other ways of looking at things."
Although his time at the Wexner Center has been limited, Justus has leaned on his manager, in turn providing him with life-long employment advice.
"My manager told me that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon," said Justus. "You go on this journey and make mistakes and keep growing and reaching the finish line, but it’s okay to make mistakes and keep developing. Every job I’ve had inspires me."
Justus’ story is just one of many examples how employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities can create change. Help DODD celebrate employment stories like this by visiting the Employment First homepage and encouraging your friends and family with developmental disabilities to consider a career that meets their interests and skills.