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Christina Sanchez takes on role at United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona

The labor force participation rate for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) is 39.6%, but Christina Sanchez is bucking that trend. (File Photos/
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

For many with a disability, like 38-year-old Christina Sanchez who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 13-months old, holding a job not only helps her financially, but it is also invaluable for her self-esteem.

The labor force participation rate for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) is 39.6%, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report released in February.

Last month, however, Ms. Sanchez started working for United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona at the Laura Dozer Center found in north Phoenix, which happens to be the same facility that helped provide habilitation and respite services for her and her family over the last two decades.

“There is a huge benefit to employing people with the lived experience of a disability, especially at UCP,” said Mary Kellogg, program manager of the UCP Day Treatment and Training Center. “Christina shows the other members in our program that it is possible to have a disability and be employed at the same time. Having a disability herself, Christina brings innovative ideas to the program that she has personally learned and put into practice in her own life.”

Opened nearly 20 years ago, the day treatment center at UCP of Central Arizona is designed to provide members various activities that encourage personal growth and skill reinforcement in key areas of development including physical activity, socialization, communication and daily living activities, officials there say.

A caregiver comes to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona

Three days a week, Ms. Sanchez works in the adult day treatment center at UCP. In her role as a certified caregiver, Christina provides support for people who have limited physical capabilities, she socializes, watches movies, reads and plays music with members. She also helps provide one-on-one attention and assists several members with meals.

“My favorite part about working at UCP is spending time with the people and helping them,” Ms. Sanchez said. “I hope they are able learn from me and see that if one door closes, another will open. I am proud to demonstrate a never give up spirit and I hope there will be more opportunities like this for others at UCP.”

As a caregiver, Ms. Sanchez was required to complete all the necessary certification processes including CPR and first aid training as well as Article 9 training to ensure positive behavior support for people who have difficulty communicating.

“Christina was looking for an opportunity to help others and challenge herself,” said her mother, Debbie Hastie. “The caregiver position at UCP was an ideal fit.”

“Christina has a lot going for her, she’s determined and fiercely independent. She is also very bright but is trapped in a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. It’s hard to search for employment where she can physically meet the demands,” Ms. Hastie added.

According to Ms. Hastie, cerebral palsy impacts Christina’s speech, the right side of her body and she has some mobility challenges. “Doctors told us she would never walk, but she certainly defied those odds. I often wonder where we be without UCP and its services in our lives?”

Today, Ms. Sanchez uses a special augmentative and alternative communication device to speak. It’s slightly larger than a laptop and has common words, pictures and phrases along with a keyboard to type in words. She has been using this complex technology since she was 14-years old. Christina also lives independently and cares for her dogs, Zeena and Pinky.

As the oldest healthcare-related nonprofit organization in Phoenix, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona has served families with disabilities across the Valley for 70 years.

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