She tried many different jobs, but the results were always the same — her employer would say, “Thanks but no thanks” after a few days, and she’d be on her way.
Until the Gap store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan gave her a chance.
Tammi Stevens is hearing impaired. She also has some dexterity issues that make certain movements difficult, but she is bright, energetic as most 29-year-olds are, and willing to try new things. Yet job options are limited because employers are never willing to work with her to find a job that fits her abilities.
Then, a year ago, an advocate from the Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program (PWIP) walked into Saskatoon’s only Gap store and talked with store manager Marla Cook. She was happy to hire Tammi and carved out a customized role for her.
Tammi’s been there a year now — longer than any paid job she’s had— working every Wednesday from 7-10 a.m. on the shipment line, putting huge piles of clothing neatly away. She has excelled.
“She’s just thrilled,” said Tammi’s mom, Shelley. “It’s the Gap, and it’s in the mall — it’s something fun and cool, and she’s good at it. She gets up at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesdays, because she’s excited, and she looks forward to seeing her name on the schedule every week.
She’s got a pretty busy schedule and many interests, so three hours a week is perfect.
“It’s only three hours a week, and to a company that’s not much, but to her, it’s life-changing,” Shelley said.
Initially, the Gap staff worked with a job coach to come up with a list of things Tammi could do, rather than saying “Here’s the job.”
“I just wondered, is this manager just a nice person? Or is this a company-wide thing?” Shelley said.
Marla, the manager, said it’s about being the right people and doing the right thing.
“We have the ability to accommodate someone who is capable, but you have to have the patience and the right environment,” she said.
Shelley said that when the family took a vacation to Hawaii recently, they went to the mall and saw a Gap.
“Tammi was excited to go in there and buy a sweater, and tell them, ‘I work here, too.’”
As a result of this work, Gap won 2012 Employer of the Year from the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work.