Bringing the ADA to Life at DoubleTree

Mon, July 25, 2016
Tuesday, July 26, 2016, marks the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Staff throughout our organization are the backbone of the ADA. Whether it's supporting people at home, in the community or on the job, our staff will do what it takes to ensure success. They continue to create more opportunities for living, loving, working, and learning and we couldn't be more proud.

Nine years ago Christine Francis, Lead Community Training Specialist with YAI's Elmsford Day, walked into the DoubleTree Hotel Tarrytown. While she was seeking a volunteer site for a group, she ultimately hoped to find employment opportunities.

Over the years, she has nurtured the relationship with staff at all levels throughout the hotel. Today, four people from Westchester Employment Services are working there. The DoubleTree is like a second home for Christine, who also spends time as an Employment Training Specialist in Westchester.

"When we first started volunteering, the hotel staff would only acknowledge the YAI staff," says Christine, who has been with YAI for 25 years. "Now, when we walk in, they acknowledge the people we support and I'm invisible. It's fantastic."

Christine Tobia works in Bistro Z, the hotel's restaurant, filling sugar caddies, sorting teas, folding napkins and other tasks. She also helps in the kitchen when needed, prepping food and baking cookies. "Working makes me feel good," she says. "I like being part of a team."

Ramell Brown has been on the job in the housekeeping department for nearly six months. He enjoys keeping the lobby spotless, as well as helping maintain rooms.

"We're one big family," says Jennifer Berry, who works in the kitchen. "I love my job. It makes me happy working around people and being trusted by others."

Tiffany Major can't help but smile as she vacuums one of the hotel's 247 rooms. "Ever since Tiffany has been here, even as a volunteer, all the girls want her to work with them," says Hazel Johnson, Housekeeping Supervisor.

Hazel summed up her colleagues' views of the workers with disabilities: "I don't see the disability. They're just wonderful workers."

Erika Spinelli, Assistant Supervisor of Westchester Employment Services, describes the natural supports at the DoubleTree as a direct reflection on Christine. "Her positive attitude and energy draw people to her."

"The (YAI trainees) are very much a part of the family," said Jason Gilliam, Bell Captain. "Christine and Tiffany are great workers. They come in with a smile on their faces every day and that's great for the hospitality business. They come here ready to work and enjoy their jobs."