Young Man with Disability Motivates and Inspires Other Students

Labrawn Safford photo

Tampa/Miami, FL – Labrawn Safford was a junior at a Tampa high school when an automobile accident changed his life – he was actually declared dead upon arrival at the ER. The accident broke his spine leaving him with “incomplete quadriplegia,” which means he has use of his upper body from the middle of his back up, including his arms/hands.

Labrawn decided that since he was given a second chance at life, he would find a purpose and make a difference in positive ways to others. Immediately after graduating high school, he came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for assistance. He was unsure of what he wanted to do next work or college. A vocational evaluation determined that he had a high aptitude for business and communications, so he decided to pursue a degree in Business Administration at Hillsborough Community College, which he later changed to Mass Communications.

A Pell Grant covered most of his tuition, and VR covered the rest of the costs. He also needed a lighter wheelchair, because the one Medicaid provided was too heavy for him to get around on campus and was causing sores because it was too wide. VR provided a lightweight wheelchair that fit his body and had good cushioning, and he used this wheelchair all through school.

Tampa General Hospital’s Wheelchair Rugby Team donated a vehicle to Labrawn. He also received donated hand controls (which were not installed at the time). VR sent him for driving lessons and installed the hand controls.

He transferred to Florida State University to complete his degree in Mass Communications, while also receiving a bachelor’s degree in History. Once again, VR assisted him with tuition and items not paid by his Pell Grant.

During this time, Labrawn began doing speaking engagements and became widely known as a motivational speaker. He still does this today and is very much in demand, going to schools and working with children from rough neighborhoods such as the one he was raised in, inspiring them to not give up and to strive to reach their goals.

Labrawn graduated from Florida State University in May and was immediately hired by Macy’s as a Department Manager. He is very proud to be giving up his Social Security benefits to work this full-time salaried position. The job is in Miami, so he has relocated and looks forward to this new and exciting stage of his life.

Labrawn’s VR Counselor, Frances Branch, is very proud of him and says, “He came to VR as a kid with no family support and no plan, just a desire to do something positive with his life and the second chance he was given. It took seven years, but with VR’s support and his own determination, he has become very successful in so many ways. He is truly an inspiration.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 80 offices across Florida, and last year helped 6,071 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.