I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there is a new Star Wars film coming out.
One of our “solutions” at Disability Solutions is to support our clients to hire and retain talent with disabilities. Over the past two and a half years I’ve been doing just that – and like Darth Vader I find myself saying to a colleague, a community partner and ultimately my client that “The Force is Strong With This One” referring to a great referral. Okay, maybe I’m not saying that to anyone, but I’m certainly thinking it and/or acting it out in my hotel room.
Before finding that talent for my clients, I first provide awareness training. When I speak to our clients during disability fear & stigma training, talk about my work week with my family and friends or tell people what I do, the majority continue to put a stigma on disabilities. They see someone with a disability as someone in a wheel chair or the friendly individual who bags groceries. Although these people do provide great examples of valuable workers, there is a large range of disabilities that most are unaware of. The term ‘disability’ includes hidden disabilities such as depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, developmental disabilities such as Downs Syndrome or Autism, physical disabilities that impact mobility, dexterity, vision or hearing, and disability due to medical conditions, injury, or aging such as Parkinson’s, stroke, brain injury or cancer. Within my role in Disability Solutions, I act as Yoda: dropping knowledge and even hard lessons on our clients so they can use the force to strengthen business by enhancing the talent lifecycle and broadening market reach through disability inclusion.
In November, we observe Diabetes Awareness Month. In this piece, I’m putting a spotlight on this disability which comes as a surprise to most… such a surprise that the “Jedi” highlighted in this article was unaware until I reached out to him.
To be honest, a few short years ago I was unaware that diabetes was considered a type of disability until I was living with my father in law while my wife and I were house hunting. My father in law, who was coming up on forty years as a Senior Operating Systems Controller at GE, was diagnosed with diabetes the year before and it changed his life. I remember one night in particular: his levels had dropped so low that he feared for his own life and he was drained the entire day. Through education and life changes he is able to live a “normal” life and continues to work a rigorous work schedule, although his disability presents challenges once in a while.
Rufus Dorsey (pictured above) is a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, actor, model and motivational speaker. He was diagnosed with Type I diabetes shortly after graduating high school, just before entering college on a football scholarship. I had the opportunity to speak with Rufus about the challenges of being diagnosed with this disability, and how it has changed his life.
“Prior to being diagnosed, I had never heard of diabetes. Before learning more about the disease, I assumed that I would not be able to lead a normal life – for example, eat my favorite foods or perform at high levels of athleticism. I thought people would treat me differently and that my social life would suffer,” he explained.
Like my father in law, Rufus made some life changes and ultimately discovered how to make his disability an ability. He shared, “I have come to learn that as long as blood sugar is monitored properly, I can enjoy a normal diet and maintain a vigorous exercise routine. In fact, exercise actually helps my condition! And with my new focus on health and wellness (which actually resulted from my diagnosis), I feel that I am currently in the best shape of my life!”
Although Rufus wasn’t aware his diabetes is categorized as a disability, he still faced some of the challenges and insecurities that come with a diagnosis. “Although I initially hid my condition from friends and family, classmates and coaches, I eventually realized that when I shared my plight, people were genuinely interested in my well-being, as well as in providing support. Diabetes has become so widespread that there are few who have not been touched by the disease and, thus, developed compassion and empathy for those afflicted.”
You can say Rufus realized he has the “force.” Old stigmas of disabilities that we continue to work to disprove are thoughts such as: individuals with disabilities need charity, are always dependent on others, are limited, need to be fixed, can’t work in professional roles or can’t hide their disability. Pretty much cringe worthy comments. The truth is most individuals with disabilities find ways to use their abilities and often find alternate solutions to reach a goal. Just look at a Darth Vader, who was able overcome his disability to become Supreme Commander and Luke Skywalker defeated the Galactic Empire despite losing a hand. Here in the present, Rufus has discovered additional ways to fight on and help others. “Although I appreciate the challenges that diabetes can present, I would like to be an example of someone who can thrive, personally and professionally, while managing the disease. To this end, I co-founded a company, “D-FORCE For Life”, whose mission is to provide motivation and inspiration for, as well as promote health and fitness amongst, the diabetic community.”
I asked Rufus what advice he has for people with diabetes currently employed and/or seeking employment. He shared, “For people with diabetes, in the workplace or seeking employment, I would say that my organizational philosophy can be considered a blueprint for life:
Face your challenges – Everyone has different challenges in life. Use your challenges as inspiration and motivation to achieve your personal best.
Own your health – Your health is the most important thing you have. The healthier you are, the more productive you are. You are in control of your body. When you are healthy, your body and brain function more efficiently. You too can get into the best shape of your life.
Remember to get regular check-ups – Staying in tune with your body is very important. Even when you look good on the outside, things might not be ok on the inside. Having annual check-ups by a health care professional will ensure that everything is ok on the inside.
Choose healthy food options – Eat five to six small healthy meals throughout the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between). You should eat at least every three to four hours. Eat lean proteins, high fiber foods (fruit, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and vegetables), that taste great and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Exercise regularly – At least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. The D-FORCE for LIFE Water Bottle workout can be done by Anyone, Anytime and Anywhere. The main objective is to “get moving.” Exercise should become part of your daily routine and lifestyle. The benefits of exercise will improve your body and your mind.”
Rufus continues to promote a healthy lifestyle for his clients as a personal trainer, his new found goals provide motivation and inspiration for, as well as promote health and fitness amongst, the diabetic community. We at Disability Solutions continue to work to expand knowledge of the different types of disabilities, and more importantly the potential of individuals with these disabilities. Awareness is a key component of the world we live in when we promote the abilities of the people we work with. For us, the time is now and not so much in a galaxy far, far away. And for those who still think and act with the stigma understand that Darth Vader was able to become the Supreme Commander – even with a disability.
About Rufus Dorsey: I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was raised by a single mother who was addicted to drugs, but she knew she wanted something better for me. As the driving force in my life, she never wavered from her commitment to encourage me to excel on and off the football field. Her efforts paid off. With a stand-out senior year, both academically and athletically, a football scholarship was securely under my belt and the sky was the limit. Then, only a month before leaving for college, I received the shock of my life, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Many unforeseen challenges would lie ahead, but with my mother’s love and support and with my hard work and dedication to my health and fitness, I persevered and overcame adversity. I played college football, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Sonoma State University and studied acting. After graduating from college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. I’ve appeared in numerous films and tv shows such as: “Ali”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Alien Hunter,” “Dukes of Hazzard II”, The L Word, The Secret Lives of Second Wives, The District and numerous commercials including Gatorade, Chevrolet and Reebok. I’ve been living with Diabetes for over 25 years and have made fitness my life. I’m using my story and expertise to motivate and inspire others. I’m also a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. I’m committed to helping everyone live a healthy and active lifestyle through our D-FORCE for LIFE program.