It's hard to tell that Cindy Jones has a disability, but she does.

Cindy Jones
Eleven years ago, Jones was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease that affects her voluntary muscles and her endurance. At the time, Jones was running her own business, selling medical supplies but physical and emotional stress exacerbated her condition and eventually Jones had to give up her business. "I was unable to do it successfully," she said.

MRC's Vocational Rehabilitation Services

  • $6 million stimulus award

  • 49 staff jobs created

  • 590 consumers assisted/employed

But Jones, who lives in Worcester, refused to completely give up. "I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do something," she said. "I knew that I had a disability but it wasn't enough for me to roll over. I knew I still had the abilities to do something."

Jones decided to return to school to study coding and billing for which she recently became certified. Jones did well in school but she discovered that she couldn't get a job without experience. "I came out of school, I did well, but I didn't have any experience," she said. "There were a lot of different jobs that were available but they all required experience and I had none. It's very difficult to get experience because no one will hire you if you don't have the experience. It's a double edged sword."

Cindy Jones and Jeffrey Simon
Jones had been involved with the Worcester office of Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and heard about its On-the-Job Training (OJT) and On-the-Job Evaluation (OJE) programs, which provides potential employees with the chance to work or be trained in partnering employer's businesses. "I jumped at it, I was excited," she said.

MRC picks up the tab for wages and training so there is no cost to a business. What they do get is the chance to train and/or evaluate a pre-screened candidate for a possible hire. The program has been around for a while but a recent infusion of stimulus funds has enabled the program to expand and impact more people with disabilities like Jones. MRC received $6 million in stimulus funds for Vocational Rehabilitation Services and it used $300K of its stimulus funds on the OJT/OJE program with $50K provided to the Worcester office.

Jones participated in the OJT program in the Fallon Clinic and when she finished, she was encouraged to apply for a 20 hour a week position in the revenue department. She got it.

MRC Staff
"If it wasn't for the On the Job Training program, I would not have applied for a job at Fallon Clinic because they do say experience required," said Jones. "But once I got my foot in the door, once they saw my work ethics and my abilities, they were encouraging me to apply for a position. It's been an amazing experience."

For Jones, the experience impacted her self esteem as much as her wallet. "When you are diagnosed with an illness, as I was and you are considered disabled or you are limited in some way, it affects your self confidence," she said. "I went from being a very confident person who was going 10, 12 hours a day, someone who had strong endurance to someone who struggled to get her grocery shipping done at the end of the day. When I was given this opportunity, I jumped at it. The Fallon clinic has been wonderful."

Recently, Jones was offered a 32-hour a week position at the Clinic, a job that she said is perfect for her. "This is an opportunity I would not have had if it were not for this program. I'm back in the work world. It's been wonderful," she said.