When you think of the title Vice President, or Chief Executive in the world of high powered business, they hardly enthuse a sense of kindness, philanthropy and understanding. Randy Lewis is an exception to that rule, having campaigned tirelessly to change the perceptions of how businesses viewed disability in the workplace.
Randy retired in 2013, having been a Senior Vice President with Walgreen’s logistic division, but has changed the lives of thousands of people who would not have been included in a workforce without his pushing and belief in their success.
Why? Because Randy decided to take a look at the workforce through the eyes of his autistic son Austin. Autism Daily Newscast were lucky enough to speak to Randy in his busy week touring the UK, talking to British businesses and marketing his new book – ‘No Greatness without Goodness”.
“We have three children. My daughter is 18 going on 28, the eldest daughter is completely different and isn’t so sure of her direction, and then there is Austin. He was diagnosed with autism at three years old,” says Rusty, “Austin had some sort of developmental delay, and he didn’t speak until he was ten years of age. Now of course, he enthuses about eighties films, his favourite actor being Michael J. Fox, and American airlines. He can even drive. We have learned on our journey never to be surprised by what he can do, because he’s constantly surprising us!”
Randy explained that they were always underestimating their son, but as they watched him grow, they watched him overcome. But the father always worried about how Austin would achieve the pinnacle of independence – earning his first pay check.
“Early on Kay and I realised that if others were to accept our son without fearing him, we would have to be his Joan of Arc – out front and fearless. We could never play the role of ‘poor pitiful parent’. If we wanted people to think him capable, we had to demonstrate our confidence in him first.”
“A job changes the arc of life,” explains Randy, “there were parents out there we knew about who were having similar worries and who really struggled to provide for their autistic children. It seemed an idea to me, as we were hiring around 1,000 plus people per year, why couldn’t we include people with a disability? I really wanted to take this idea to the next level, and doing the job I was doing I could.”
Part two and three of this interview can be found here.