Zoo Miami Receptionist Doesn’t Let MS Keep Her from Doing Her Job

Sarah Smith-Small photo

Miami, FL – Sarah Smith-Small has a roaring good time working as a receptionist for Zoo Miami; she also has a disability – multiple sclerosis (MS) – and uses a wheelchair. With help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and AARP training, Sarah has been working at Zoo Miami since 2006.

Sarah first heard about VR through a recommendation from the hospital when she was diagnosed with MS. Her VR counselor encouraged her stay independent and worked with her on how to do a proper job interview. VR bought her clothes so she would look great at those interviews. They also bought her a motorized wheelchair as her disability progressed. She started at Zoo Miami as a clerical volunteer through the AARP training program. When a part-time receptionist job became available, she was thrilled to be hired.

They’ve been very happy with Sarah’s work at the Zoo and enjoy working with her. She’s a hard worker and has great people skills. Eric Kaminsky, Zoo Miami business manager, believes people with disabilities are just as capable of doing a job as anyone else. "After showcasing her skills to us, we could not wait for a position to open up to hire her as an official Zoo Miami employee," Eric said. "She is very dependable and her customer service is excellent."

When Sarah was having trouble with her wheelchair, she came back to VR. This time she worked with VR Counselor Valeria Reina to get the serves she needed so she could keep working. Valeria was very impressed with Sarah. "She is a sweetheart and a warrior. She doesn’t let obstacles stop her. She’s an example to others, and I’m very proud of her."

Sarah recommends VR to other people with disabilities who want to work. "They will test you to see where you best fit in for employment. They also will send you to different classes for how to interview and how to dress. They are all around helpful for a person with a disability."

Her goal is to stay as healthy as she can and become more independent. She also wants to continue to work because she really enjoys what she’s doing. Zoo Miami has become a second home to her.

Zoo Miami was recently honored with an Outstanding Employer Award for their willingness to hire people with disabilities.

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 6,523 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.