Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
There’s an old Southern saying that seems to fit Rodney
Brown: “The Lord fits the burden to the back.” In July 1988, at
19 years old, he was hit by a drunken driver while riding his
motorcycle to work. He went airborne and landed head first on
concrete, damaging his spinal cord. Learning he probably would
never walk again was quite a blow to the young man. “It was
difficult to accept, but by the grace of God, I realized I could
handle it,” he said.
It was about this time that he met Anne Stephens, a rehabilitation counselor in the Opelika Vocational Rehabilitation Service office. “I had told them in the hospital, ‘Hurry up and fix me, I’m ready to get back to work,’ ’’ Rodney said.But first he and his counselor had to talk about the kind of work he wanted to do. His prior job as a manager at a local grocery store required too much mobility, so they began considering his options. In the spring of 1989, less than a year after his accident, he enrolled at Southern Union Community College. While he was there, VRS provided tuition assistance, books, transportation, and hand controls for his vehicle.
He graduated in 1991 with a degree in business education. Later that same year, thanks to placement assistance from VRS, he went to work at Tuskegee University. He enjoyed his job, but in 1995 resigned, under doctor’s orders. “I wanted to keep working,” he said, “but the doctor said it could kill me. My body just needed a rest.” And so he left work and spiraled into depression. “Those were dark times,” he said.
Finally, in late 2001, his physical and emotional health began to improve, and he was ready to return to work. He contacted VRS, which again provided employment assistance. He returned in April 2002 to Tuskegee, where he handles tickets and vehicle registrations for the University Police Department. The new job, he said, was an answer to prayer. Not only does he work on campus, he also lives there and attends church nearby. “It’s been a very good fit,” he said.
In his free time, he plays piano with Truly Blessed, a gospel group that performs at local churches. It gives him an opportunity to share his faith, which has sustained him since his 1988 accident. “I see now that it’s all been for good.”