It was work as usual for young disc jockey Robert David Hall, playing disco records at a small radio station in Orange County.
But one thing had changed — He had to wheel into work because he couldn’t walk.
Hall had spent the prior seven months in and out of the hospital after both of his legs were amputated following a tragic car accident. That was 38 years ago.
Today, he is one of the most recognized actors with a disability, well known for his portrayal of coroner Dr. Al Robbins on the long-running hit TV series “CSI”. He is also a community activist, advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities to various employers.
“I was driving along on a freeway and a person who was drunk driving an 18-wheel truck crossed over the center median and slammed into my car,” said Hall, keynote speaker at Southern California Edison’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month event. “My gas tank exploded and I was burned over 60 percent of my body.”
Despite his sudden disability, he never stopped pursuing the acting career he had always dreamed of.
“I realize that a large part of my healing and the ultimate trajectory of my career had everything to do with that first job back at the radio station,” he said. “That minimum wage DJ gig actually gave me a sense of self-worth and a vision of the future with real possibilities.”
Today, one in five adults in the U.S. has a disability. Yet only 17.5 percent of people with a disability are employed compared to 65 percent employment for those without a disability.
At the event, SCE introduced plans to launch a new employee resource group, A.B.L.E. (Achieving Beyond Limits and Expectations), that will unite and support families with special needs.
“We believe diversity and inclusion inspires creativity, innovation and a sense of pride among our workforce, the communities that we serve and the suppliers in the marketplace,” said Jacqueline Trapp, Edison International and SCE’s vice president of Human Resources. “We strive to create an inclusive culture where everyone thrives.”
During SCE’s event, Kodi Lee, a 20-year-old blind and autistic musical prodigious savant, sang and played a selection of pop songs. He received a standing ovation.
He also had one simple piece of advice for his peers.
“Find something you love to do and never give up,” he said.
For more information about SCE jobs: Edison.com/careers.