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One "yes' lets disabled man prove himself

Published Mar. 4, 1991|Updated Oct. 13, 2005

Royce Jordan, who has spent his life using a wheelchair, had two major goals for many years: to have a job and to live independently. Because he also has cerebral palsy and is marginally developmentally disabled, the task has not been easy. To say the quest for a job was difficult is a vast understatement. Jordan said he was turned down for jobs more than 200 times.

Yet, he would not give up. As he has said himself, "It only takes one "yes.'

"

That "yes" got him a job at ITD Industries, a St. Petersburg manufacturer of energy conservation products, where he has worked for 18 months. His excellent work record has earned him a raise and praise from his boss.

Earning a salary also has enabled Jordan, 28, to have his own apartment at Freedom Village, where all facilities are geared to the disabled.

To highlight his achievements, Jordan will receive Goodwill-Suncoast's highest honor, that of 1990 Graduate of the Year, on Thursday at the organization's 37th annual Community Awards Banquet.

Jordan is excited about the award, he said. "I was ecstatic when I got the job. They gave me a chance to prove myself."

"He does a good job, and he's dependable," said Norse Jones, Jordan's supervisor at ITD. Three disabled employees report to Jones. "I like working with them. It's a challenge for me and it's a challenge for them."

ITD also pays $110 a month for the bus that takes Jordan to and from work.

Jordan is memorizing his banquet acceptance speech, which has been taped for him. He is taking a basic adult education course at Goodwill Industries to improve his reading skills.

When he graduated from Nina Harris Exceptional Education Center in 1982 at age 18, he participated in training and subcontracting work. He honed his job skills at Goodwill Industries. Cerebral palsy has impaired the use of one arm, which slows his production rate. But he has worked to overcome that.

"I just concentrated and kept at it," Jordan said. "I'm hard on myself."

It was Goodwill's Success Employment Services that helped Jordan in his lengthy job search.

Summers at Camp Challenge for the disabled also sharpened a variety of skills. The most noticeable change came in 1972-73 when Jordan spent a year at the Harry-Anna Crippled Children's Hospital in Umatilla, a facility the Florida State Elks Association operates.

"This was the greatest thing that happened for the betterment of his whole life," said his mother, Joyce McBride. "When he went there, he was dependent on us. When he came back, he was independent."

He now handles his personal checking account, travels in his motorized wheelchair to the grocery store and bank next to Freedom Village and does household chores. His hobbies include weightlifting, training for Special Olympics wheelchair races and listening to music.

Jordan has a stereo and a large collection of tapes. He likes rap by M.C. Hammer and jazz.

More is behind Jordan's indomitable spirit than the outside help of agencies and schools. He has an inner strength that comes from a loving family.

The third of seven children, Jordan was born prematurely when Mrs. McBride fell on the stairs of her Orlando home.

Although he was only two pounds, 13 ounces at birth, "He was a beautiful, healthy baby," Mrs. McBride said.

"But when he was about 6 months old, I noticed he wasn't maneuvering well," she said. "When he sat up, he'd

sort of lean over."

It was then the cerebral palsy was detected. Cerebral palsy is a disorder affecting motor control and coordination caused by brain damage. Mrs. McBride's pediatrician thought her son's condition was caused by lack of oxygen to the brain at birth.

"I had four other kids after him. I raised them by Dr. (Benjamin) Spock and my own knowledge, and he was raised no differently from the others," she said. "Royce always had this will and this ego, this "I can do it! I can do it!'

"

Mrs. McBride's husband died in 1973, leaving her to raise their seven children. She was 33, her oldest child was 13 and her youngest was 5. She moved to St. Petersburg, where her husband's parents lived, and with their support, raised her seven children, five of whom went to college.

Mrs. McBride remarried in 1987. Daniel McBride, a widower, is loved by all the Jordan children, particularly Royce, she said. "We're a close-knit family," she said.

Jordan's brothers and sisters come by frequently and pick him up for dinner or a movie. He is on the go so much that brother Derrick Jordan, who works for the St. Petersburg Police Department, has given him a beeper so Freedom Village employees can locate him.

Jordan is happy at having attained his two major goals, finding a job and living independently.

But he has another goal: "I want to get involved in helping handicapped people to achieve some of the things I have."

And you can bet he will do it.

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