Given the Opportunity

Naperville Toyota's embrace of employees with special needs benefits everyone involved. Just ask Ray Chaudhry.
by Dan Nied
Nov/Dec 2016
Given the Opportunity
Standing Tall
Ray counts his job as a document scanner at Naperville Toyota as one of the proudest accomplishments of his life. Photos by Rex Curry 
Sometimes, Ray Chaudhry gets frustrated.

In his mind, the words are there. His smile suggests he knows the answers. But he just can’t get them out.

Ray is nonverbal. He only talks to his mother, Ruby, and only then in short, quiet sentences. But behind those eyes are human thoughts and emotions, the curious mind of a 27-year-old man who dreams of working in computer science and electronics.

Asperger Syndrome has robbed him of the ability to verbally express his thoughts to those around him.

So yes, Ray gets frustrated sometimes.

But that doesn’t stop him.

A Commitment All Around
Ray holds a full-time job scanning documents for Naperville Toyota in Illinois. It can be monotonous work, but it’s critical to the dealership’s daily operations, and he counts his job as the proudest accomplishment of his life.

 

Man with a Plan
Ray Chaudhry is fascinated by electronics and solar power. He has converted some of the lights in his home to solar power.
Ray isn’t alone. In recent years, Naperville Toyota has found the benefits of hiring employees with special needs. At any given time, the dealership has 20-24 such employees on staff. Some of them—including Ray—come from Turning Pointe CN Day School, a school for people with special needs founded by dealer principals Dan, Randy and Danny Wolf to help Randy’s autistic son, Jack, and others like him

“The Wolf family has made a commitment to people with special needs because they have seen the impact of it,” says Bob Snell, Naperville Toyota’s director of fixed operations and the director of the employment program for people with special needs. “Their goal is to bring these individuals into the work environment. These are good young people who are great employees and appreciative of the opportunity.”

And they’re doing important jobs, such as scanning documents and delivering parts.

“When they’re not here, I don’t have anyone to fill those roles,” says Snell. “We’re giving them the opportunity to find out what it’s like to have a job, to show up every day and to interact in the workplace.”

Ray joined Naperville Toyota three years ago. He started as a volunteer, then moved to part-time employee and then to full time.

“It was the best thing that could happen because Ray was out of work,” says Tariq Chaudhry, Ray’s father. “He was staying home all day and getting frustrated. He asked us every day if he could go out and work. It was something of a blessing falling out of the sky.”

And though Ray’s limitations remain, his world has opened up.

“It is very hard for people with disabilities, including speech impairments,” Tariq says. “These days, most interviews are done online or on the phone. Ray is nonverbal, so that’s tough. Getting him working was the best thing. He’s happy at Naperville Toyota, and he has asked if they have other opportunities for him. He wants to expand.”

What Does Ray Think?
Ray is intrigued by computers and electronics and, ultimately, would like to find a job in that field.

But for now, he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s found at Naperville Toyota.

“People at work are very supportive and understanding,” he said in an email interview. “They assigned me a job that does not require me to communicate directly with customers. In life, with love and support from my family, I am constantly encouraged.”

In his spare time, Ray says he watches solar and electronics assembly and disassembly videos. And in fact, he has converted some of the lights in his house to solar power. His mind is meticulous and technical, and he flashes a disarming smile everywhere he goes.

“When you smile, people normally smile back at you,” Tariq says. “He is pretty social, he uses the telephone and he texts. He is very comfortable working with people.”

And Ray has forged ahead, impressing Snell, the Chaudhrys and those around him.

“We are all proud of what Ray has done,” Tariq says. “Ray has graduated high school and has been working full-time for three years. I think it’s a lot of achievement for a person with those disabilities. I think it’s an achievement for anyone.” 
<< Back