Posted: Mar. 20, 2014
For Rogerio Santos, soccer was everything. A forward in football-mad Brazil, he dreamed of playing in the country’s top division. Then, everything changed in an instant.
On May 26, 2006, Santos was shot during an attempted robbery. He suffered permanent damage to his back and legs. Instead of spending his days dribbling a soccer ball, he was suddenly confined to a wheelchair.
Today, however, Santos is building a new life at Cummins, inspiring his co-workers as he goes about his job at the Company’s Guarulhos campus outside São Paulo. He’s learning English, developing his business skills and Santos is demonstrating what people with disabilities can bring to a workplace.
“I do not see myself as disabled,” Santos said. “I am a much happier, stronger person then when I used to walk because I have people beside me who love me and support me.”
Santos has been at Cummins for the past five years, and currently works as an assistant in the Cummins Turbo Technologies planning area. Prior to that, he was working as an assistant in after-market sales, where he was supervised by Marcelo Franco Giannini, who was fairly new to the Company then.
Giannini wasn’t quite sure how to manage someone with disabilities, but he pretty quickly realized Santos was a hard worker, with a strong desire to better himself and build his career. Santos was also extremely positive, quick with a joke and a team player – a lesson he learned playing soccer.
Santos said it took a long time for him to reach that point. He spent more than a month in the hospital after he was shot and more than two years living with his mother and sister as he recovered from his injuries. Santos said he fell into a downward spiral then. His marriage ended. His relationship with his son suffered.
One day, he saw his mother crying out of concern for him. That’s when he vowed to change his life.
“I decided then that it was time to get out of the pit,” Santos said. “I took a deep breath and said I would get over it. That’s when my life really began.”
He dedicated himself to his physical therapy sessions, and eventually fell in love with and married his therapist. When he became strong enough, he began looking for a job. Santos knew he would need to find a workplace that supported people with disabilities. He heard Cummins was such an employer.
Giannini and others worked to create an environment where a person in a wheelchair could thrive. That meant having the copy machine in the right place, keeping the aisles wide and making some accommodations in the bathroom. It also meant instructing Santos’ co-workers to wash their hands frequently to reduce the risk Santos might get an infection.
“It was pretty small stuff,” Giannini said. “It just required a little bit of thought.”
A co-worker who had spent time in Cummins’ headquarters city of Columbus, Ind., had seen the Special Needs and Abilities Affinity Group there helping people with disabilities in the workplace. She suggested Giannini use the knowledge he had gained working with Santos to establish a similar employee resource group in Brazil.
Santos and Giannini both serve on the affinity group today, working to help Cummins create a welcoming work environment in Brazil for people with disabilities.
“Rogerio tells them ‘If I can make it, if I can build a better life, then so can you,’” Giannini said.
Santos is now a part of the office fabric. He has even gone sky-diving with friends from work.
“The one quality he has really brought to the Company is commitment,” Giannini said. “His commitment is an inspiration to other employees and it makes our offices a better place to work.”
Santos said feeling appreciated at work has made a huge difference in his life.
“Today, Cummins is my second home,” he said. “I see that I am treated equally, without prejudice. It makes me get up and come to work motivated and happy. I know that I will be heard.”
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