"Shane is a hard worker. He's dependable, reliable, and he follows directions well. He gets the job done, and for that, I am very appreciative of his efforts," says Kathy Allen, the Executive Director of Personal Assistance Options (PAO). PAO is a Midland-based nonprofit that provides support services to people with disabilities, enabling them to live in their own homes, no matter the level of care needed.

"As a landlord, we will only lease to people with disabilities," Allen says. "I believe that people with different abilities deserve to live in homes just like the rest of us. And not only that, it needs to be affordable."

After purchasing the second home, Allen reached out to Do-All looking for an employee to help with lawn care and shoveling snow, and Shane was suggested as the perfect candidate. Shane likes to work hard, work with his hands, and be outside.

"I cut the lawns to make sure they don't grow too long," Shane says, "and then in the wintertime I shovel driveways, sidewalks, paths up to the house and salt when needed."

Going beyond the tasks, he points out that he's also helping the people PAO is helping. "I need to keep everything clear so it's not slippery where someone might fall and hurt themselves," he says.

"He helps make our homes safe, and that's so important," Allen says.

To employers wondering if they'd be able to employ people with disabilities, Kathy Allen encourages them to focus on ability, not disability.

"Business success depends on attracting the best that's out there and that means focusing on ability," she says. "However I think many people are nervous around those with disabilities because they're afraid they're going to do or say the wrong thing. So I think we need to start looking beyond our own perceptions of what people with disabilities are capable of and how they perform in the work environment. It's important that we focus on abilities, not limitations."

Allen believes that people with disabilities present a significant employment opportunity.

"I would take it a step further and say that you may not have the best person in a job if you don't recruit any disabled candidates," she says.

Shane is looking to gain further independence by building off his experience in lawn care and retail.

"I'd really like to work in a game store or for a company doing lawn maintenance," he says.

Phil Eich