“I got so many doors closed in my face it was pitiful.”
Wilbert Bolden lost his leg when his car was struck by a drunken driver 1982, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that it became a real obstacle.
Wilbert resumed his welding business after recovering from the accident, but in later years realized that line of work had become too physically demanding. “I couldn’t get around as well as I could when I was younger,” said Wilbert. “So I decided to go back to school.” Always interested in electronics, he enrolled in Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Driving 120 miles round trip from his home in Forkland to attend classes, Wilbert earned degrees in industrial electricity and industrial electronics, graduating with a 3.9 GPA.
That’s when his real education began. “I applied for more than 25 jobs and never got beyond the first interview,” he said. “I guess they couldn’t see past the one-leg thing.” Discouraged, but determined, Wilbert contacted Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) Rehabilitation Counselor Starr Hudson for help. After making arrangements to provide him with a prosthesis for his leg, she and Rod Cahoon of the West Alabama Rehabilitation Center in Tuscaloosa put Wilbert through the evaluation process and reviewed their files of area businesses to locate a suitable employer.
In Demopolis, they found what appeared to be the perfect match – Marvin’s, a home supply store. Manager Stacy Harrison noticed Wilbert’s electronics background and was quick to hire him to help in that section. A few months later, Wilbert was working in practically every area of the store, including the warehouse and lumber yard where he operated the forklift. “I can’t believe those other employers wouldn’t give him a chance,” said Harrison. “But their loss was our gain.”
Today, almost 20 years after his accident and one unforgettable year of frustration, Wilburn is looking with confidence to the future. “I see opportunities for advancement with this company,” said Wilbert, “and I’d like to go to the top.” With the encouragement of his store manager, and the support of the ADRS rehabilitation team that is there to help when the need arises, Wilbert is well on his way, in spite of his physical limitations. “My advice to others who have disabilities is: don’t give up,” he said. “And utilize Vocational Rehab. They have lots of resources and can help you a lot.”