Disability Employment Services Ambassador, Chris Cruikshanks at the MAX Solutions International Day of People with Disability event.
Chris Cruickshanks has over 30 years’ experience in the entertainment industry, 22 years managing his own car wash and is now 12 months into his new customer service career at Woolworths, the largest retailer in Australia. Chris is also a little person and MAX Disability Employment Services (DES) Ambassador, helping others with disability get the chance they deserve.
As a little person, Chris knows firsthand the challenges people with disability face in gaining employment. Back in 2015, Chris found himself unemployed for the first time.
“I was unemployed for about six months when I got put onto MAX Employment. I was going into MAX every fortnight when an opportunity at Masters came up for people with disability.”
MAX Solutions National DES Manager Erin Carey helped Chris through not one, but three interviews at Masters, the home improvement chain previously owned by Woolworths.
“I had three interviews, which is pretty rare.” Chris explained. “I was nervous, I hadn’t been to a job interview for 25 years. It was Erin from MAX that got me in the door, and they gave me a go. ”
Chris says disclosing his disability to his employer made going to interviews a lot easier.
“I used to turn up to interviews and they would say ‘I didn’t know he was a little person.’ Now employers know I’m a little person before I get there, and they give me a go.”
A Health Services Officer (HSO) assessed the workplace and made sure Masters was safe and a good fit for Chris.
“If there’s a problem, just ask. You’re going to make more mistakes, and get more embarrassed if you don’t ask. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, ask for help if you need it.”
A year and a half later Masters closed down and Chris was laid off once more. Fortunately, a new opportunity for Chris opened up straight away with Woolworths in Nerang.
“Woolworths rang me up and said come in for an interview. They liked what I was about, but I couldn’t reach the deli, I couldn’t do the butcher or anything like that.”
Chris started work putting stock away before Woolworths realised his biggest strength; his personality.
“They found out I was good with my mouth, so they put me on customer service in the self-serve section.”
Chris initially struggled trying to learn complicated computer systems in what was the busiest time of the year – Christmastime. The belief in him from co-workers inspired him to keep going.
“The lady who was training me, she was old school and hard on me. I was going to give up, I was going to leave, but she had faith in me.
“She said ‘You can do this.’ I gave it another month, and things progressed, and now it’s a breeze.”
Chris is not looking back, and has moved into a position where he is now training other staff at Woolworths.
“I’m happy that I’m progressing with my work and standing up for people with disability. I love that more employers are giving us a chance. Give us a chance, you don’t know until you try.”
International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is celebrated annually on the 3rd of December. IPDwD aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disability.