All Ability Garage drives inclusion

Wednesday, 13 March 2024

If you take a drive down Morayfield Road just north of Brisbane, cruising past the tree-lined streets and industrial house and home stores, you’ll eventually stumble across a garage a little different to your typical workshop. To someone passing by, it’s a pretty stock-standard garage: street, race, and historic cars are jacked up in various states of restoration and repair and benches are busy with workers tinkering away at parts for everything from bikes to camper vans. 

So, what makes this garage different? It’s all in the name says the owner, Cameron – All Ability Garage: a place where everyone gets a fair go. 

All Ability Garage is a fully equipped DIY workshop for NDIS participants of all ages to come and work on their own cars or workshop project cars. Every participant has access to a dedicated fully equipped toolbox and workbench, a workshop bay, and hoists. The participants are supported by enthusiastic staff who impart their wisdom, knowledge, and years of experience on how to hone their skills in the workshop. 

The garage has been in business since mid-March 2023. In that time, Cameron has had the pleasure of working with several participants. He shares his passion and watches their confidence grow and develop over time. 

Despite 2023 being a great year for All Ability Garage, there was a thought lingering in Cameron’s mind as it began to hit the later months. He could do with an assistant, someone to share the load who would also share his passion for vehicles and a thirst to learn more. But most importantly, someone who was a good fit for the participants. 

EPIC answers the call 

It just so happened that Lynn Barben from EPIC Assist had seen an advertisement for the assistant position. She got in contact with Cameron and asked him if he would consider hiring one of EPIC’s job seekers. 

EPIC Assist (EPIC) is a local Disability Employment Services (DES) provider that connects job-ready people with disability with supportive and inclusive workplaces. 

Cameron explained that he didn’t have any initial reservations about hiring someone with a disability at all. 

“Being a disability support company ourselves, it just fits perfectly. It’s good to show our participants that you CAN find work and be competent. It’s just a no-brainer when you look at it from that angle.” 

Lynn connected Cameron with Thomas, a job seeker who had experience working in mechanics and spray-painting vehicles. Immediately, Cameron knew he’d found his new assistant. 

“He’s good with cars, he has a passion. He’s understanding, and he’s a good fit for working with the participants we have here,” Cameron said. 

Thomas brings his abilities to All Ability 

Thomas has been working at the garage for over two months now, and according to Cameron, he’s doing really well. He’s been able to take the experience he gained in his past employment. Not only honing it further but developing ways to teach the participants all his tips and tricks. 

“Thanks to his disability, he can understand and teach the participants at a speed and manner in which they can learn better. It’s because of his disability that he can have that empathy and a teaching style that works for the others to learn as well as they do.  

“It’s not just about working on the cars. For a lot of them, it’s also about building their confidence up and making sure they feel useful and capable. That’s really important stuff,” Cameron explained. 

EPIC has offered a great deal of support to Thomas and Cameron. A key part of this was providing resources so Thomas could stay employed over the Christmas period. Business gets slow over the holidays, but Thomas was still keen to stay on board, and EPIC made sure it was possible. Cameron and Thomas both can’t thank them enough! 

Why his work is important 

Staying in the workshop was especially beneficial for Thomas. He feels like he’s “struck gold” with the assistant position he’s landed. 

“EPIC helped me get a good job with a decent boss. That’s something that makes a big difference. 

“Work is important. It provides me an opportunity to learn more about cars, which is something I’m passionate about so it’s always exciting. I’m learning more stuff every day,” Thomas told us with a grin. 

Thomas is quick to admit that he’s not the most social guy, and since starting at All Ability Garage, he’s made huge strides in improving his social skills. Since he’s always speaking to participants and considering the best way to teach, he’s always practicing that skill. He also made sure to mention that his motivation has improved a great deal. 

Cameron explained to us that he has his own experience with the stigma surrounding hiring people with disability. His son has autism and is now a mechanic, but he was turned away from several small businesses. 

“That changed once he went to a bigger company; they had systems in place so he could be accommodated for and now he’s doing a great job. It just goes to show, all everyone needs is a bit of patience,” Cameron said with a nod. 

Final words from Cameron and Thomas 

We asked Cameron what he might say to other organisations looking to hire people with disability. He said simply, “You need to understand disability before you write these people off.”  

Using Thomas as an example, Cameron recounted how his ability to hyperfocus helped him a lot when it came to understanding cars and how to work on them – his disability is an asset in his work. 

Thanks to Cameron’s open mind, the support of EPIC Assist, and Thomas’ hard work and passion, he’s flourishing in his role as an assistant. It’s clear that his success is only just beginning. He’ll be imparting his wisdom to many more participants for many more months to come. 

We asked Thomas if he recommends EPIC’s services to other people in a similar position to him. The answer he gave was short and sharp. 

“Do it. It’s worth your time.” 

If you have a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you prepare for, find, and keep a job you love. 

If you’re thinking of hiring a person with disability, start the conversation with us today by phoning 13 EPIC (3742) or sending us a message. 

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