Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rob Mendez won the Jimmy V Award at last night’s ESPYS, and it might be the most inspiring thing you’ve ever seen

Rob Mendez coaches the JV football team at Prospect High School in Saratoga, California. He’s also lived his entire life with no arms and no legs. He was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder that prevented their embryonic formation. You can read Rob’s entire (and entirely) compelling story at this ESPN feature story, or watch it in this Jon Hamm-narrated featurette.

Last night, at ESPN’s annual sports awards, the network honored Rob Mendez with its Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

As compelling and inspiring as he and his story are, so was his acceptance speech last night.

His story also serves as a wonderful lesson for employers and employees.

When you dedicate yourself to something and open your mind to different possibilities, and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world. … 
So for anyone out there not sure if they can do something — it could be at sports, it could be in your job, it could be in your life — whatever it is I’m here to tell you that you can do it. 

This was Coach Mendez’s message for the world in accepting his honor last night.

Many employers are reluctant to give disabled employees a chance. They don’t want to expend the time and effort to reasonably accommodate (no matter what the law says they must consider and do). And many employees use disabilities (real, fake, and exaggerated) as crutches and excuses not to try. I say this not to disparage either side, but to illustrate the tension the fuels the very real barriers that exist to access and employment. And we all must be better about breaking through and down those barriers.

If Rob Mendez can succeed as a football coach, anyone can succeed at anything. If employers and employees focused more on the can do, and less on the can’t do, we’d take a huge step towards ending the employment barriers that made the ADA necessary in the first place.