Shane Hargest is a man on a mission – through his words – to help people see beyond disabilities.
Every new hire at The Arc Baltimore must complete two weeks of training before they can start in their position. That includes a disability sensitivity training led by Shane since he started at The Arc nearly two years ago. He fills an hour with insightful life stories that provide a unique perspective on how to properly support and interact with individuals with disabilities.
Shane understands that, at first, people may feel uncomfortable or nervous because of his wheelchair and the extent of his limitations due to cerebral palsy. So, he eases into his presentation with a meaningful poem he has written. Then, he charms them with his humor and helps everyone to loosen up by encouraging them to share something fun, for example, their favorite cocktail.
He is a natural as he weaves in and out of every story meant to teach a valuable lesson. Shane states, “I have too much knowledge to share. I can’t just sit around and waste that opportunity. If I can make a difference in one person’s job, then I feel like it is worth it.”
At times during his presentation, Shane, as he calls it, “gets real” with everyone. Honesty is very important to him, and “telling it like it is” allows him to connect with employees on a deeper level. He knows that he has a responsibility to teach people when he says, “There are people that can’t talk; I need to be their voice.”
Outside of training, Shane is involved with Civitan and Young Life Capernaum. He also provides accessibility evaluations for local businesses and takes communication classes at the Community College of Baltimore County.
Staff from Day Services and Family Living help Shane hone his craft. Through working with Shane, one staff said “Shane made me realize the importance of connecting with people with disabilities and developing a relationship built on respect and honesty.”
In the end, all Shane hopes is that each staff leaves his training with a fresh perspective that has them better prepared for their upcoming, important role in the life of an individual with, as he puts it, “unique abilities.”