Dave Wesson - Truck driver with a prosthetic legOmaha Amputee Finds Meaningful Work

KETV.com | POSTED October 24, 2010

OMAHA, Neb. -- Dave Wesson drives a big rig loaded with 22 tons of gravel. He calls it his dream job. In fact, he performed his job so well, few people, including his boss knew he was working with a disability.

“I didn’t know he had a handicap until he told us one day. He was here six months. I called him a liar. I was shocked. He walks normal. He always does a good job. He’s always on time and he enjoys being here,” said Darren Carlson, Wesson’s supervisor at Mallard Sand and Gravel in Waterloo, Neb.

Wesson is an amputee. He lost the lower half of his right leg in a motorcycle crash years ago.

Wesson landed his job with the gravel company after counseling, job training, and education through a truck driving school all provided free of charge by Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation. It’s an agency run by Nebraska’s Department of Education, helping more than 1,800 people find meaningful employment last year.

“I think some people in my situation would have possibly given up. I think people are disabled if they want to be, to a certain extent,” said Wesson.

Wesson worked closely with vocational rehabilitation counselor Kathleen O’Grady-Bell. Bell said the agency helps job candidates who have a variety of disabilities including physical impairments, diabetes, mental health issues and substance abuse addictions.

“As a society, especially in America, we identify ourselves by what we do for a living,” Bell said.

She said each time she sees her clients advance to gainful employment she sees their motivation soar. Bell said in the current job market, it’s just taking longer for the unemployed to find jobs.

Many clients come to the agency receiving monthly checks from Social Security Disability. They want to work but are concerned about how their benefits might be impacted. Bell said counselors can help navigate the system and determine out how their monthly stipends might change if they’re working.

“Actually, we see many who will transition off of Social Security Disability and go back to work full time,” Bell said.

Bell said she’s impressed by Wesson’s positive attitude and work ethic. She believes he sets an example for others who might be sitting on the sidelines because of a disability.

“Nowadays, I roller skate, ice skate, fish, swim, and water ski. Now I can add to the list that I drive a semi,” said Wesson.

Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation has offices throughout the state. In Omaha, call 402-595-2100 or go to www.vr.ne.gov.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month.

Reprinted from: KETV.com - Use the link to go watch the video segment!