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  • Jason Hahr

Ranochak: Dream Jobs are Possible with Flexibility & Faith

FSACentral is proud to once again celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month by featuring people with disabilities sharing their advice, opinions & experiences.

Mandy Ranochak is featured in this photo. She is wearing an orange top and bright red rimmed eye glasses. She is taking a selfie from a bridge over a canal with buildings in the background.
Amanda "Mandy" Ranochak

As we begin October we celebrate not only the start of fall but also Disability Employment Awareness Month. Today we are proud to spotlight Amanda “Mandy” Ranochak.

Mandy was born in Philadelphia, but currently lives in Orlando. She is employed at Universal Orlando Resort where she works as an Operations Base Coordinator. According to Mandy her job includes collecting data from all the rides and shows at the park and making sure the information reaches the appropriate person i.e. executive or manager. She also keeps track of weather, wait times, downtimes, and any changes to show schedules and is responsible for such tasks as keeping track of staff who call in sick. She has been in her current position for three years but has been with the Universal organization in a variety of roles for eight years.

Hometown: Orlando

Employer: Universal Orlando Resort

Position: Operations Base Coordinator

Duties & Responsibilities:

Years on the job: 3 years (8 years total with Universal organization)

What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about accessing or keeping employment? Go for your dream job, but be prepared for that dream to change over time. Things might not always go as planned but if you have faith, make meaningful connections, and are open to learning new things, you’ll eventually find your sweet spot.

What is the most employment related challenge you've faced as a person with a disability? Many places didn’t want to make accommodations to make fonts bigger on computers or task lists. It was tough trying to find a company that understands me, and it wasn’t until I got fired from my childhood dream job of working at Disney that I came across an opportunity with Universal Orlando Resort. This was the first time a company wasn’t put off by my visual impairment and gave me a chance that opened up so many possibilities.

What agency was the most helpful when it came to finding and maintaining employment? There have been two agencies that have been extremely helpful throughout my employment journey. The first is Division of Blind Services (part of the state Department of Education). They have been a godsend since I moved down here 10 years ago. They helped me obtain a free bus pass and I learned how to navigate a new bus system with the help of a mobility instructor. Vocational Rehab also has helped me in several ways. They helped me obtain a job coach when I was first struggling with the Operations Base role. They helped me to obtain my autism diagnosis through a program known as Mental Restoration. Getting my diagnosis helped me understand my triggers and how my actions impact others. These skills helped me gain full time status (at Universal) which I started last month.

What advice would you give employers about hiring a person with a disability? The number one thing I would recommend to a company hiring a person with a disability is to keep an open mind and not group all disabilities into one preconceived tiny little box. We are all individuals and with the right tools, we are capable of a great deal. Sadly, some people assume that people with disabilities are only good at certain types of jobs. For example, food or janitorial work, when in reality, this is far from true.

How should we be advocating for better employment practices in Florida? In my opinion, the “at will” laws in Florida are very discriminatory towards disabled people since there is really no protection for us. A manager you don’t vibe with can just fire you at any time without cause, which has happened to me. We need more diversity and inclusion training for these companies and better laws in place.

In your opinion, how does employing a person with a disability help their quality of life? Having a sense of purpose and pride is just as important as money when it comes to having a job. Being able to point to something and say “I’m a part of that” is worthwhile. People with disabilities need that sense of joy just as much as anyone else.

Florida Self-Advocacy Central would like to thank Mandy for her time and thoughtful answers.


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