Laura Martinez

Laura Martinez brings her passion for cooking to her job at Charlie Trotter's Restaurant in Chicago.

"DRS has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge to the best of my ability. I am also more independent economically and personally," said Martinez.

Martinez was initially referred to DRS through Moline High School, and went on to successfully graduate from The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI). After high school Martinez moved to Iowa, but then came back to Chicago to pursue her passion for cooking. Martinez knew that she would need vocational assistance in order to make her dreams a reality. She contacted the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and the Visually Impaired and was referred back to DRS. Martinez was referred for vocational training and job placement.

DRS helped Martinez get started by paying for tuition and fees and chef training at Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts. They also helped with job placement, purchase of adaptive devices, orientation and mobility, transportation allowance, a personal assistant for on the job training, and Activities of Daily Living (ADL) services and devices.

In her job at Charlie Trotters, Martinez is cooking and handling food preparation. Staff at Charlie Trotter's have also taken Laura under their wing and started providing her with supportive job assistance, thereby removing the need for a personal assistant she once had.

She attributes her current success to her perseverance and always wanting a better future despite being blind.

Martinez' employer Charlie Trotter says he hired Laura through a Chef cooking competition posted on the Chicago Tribune website.

Trotter says Martinez is an exceptional worker who brings value to his restaurant. "Besides being a great cook, she brings value through her professionalism. She is a great team member."

Charlie Trotters is another example of how partnerships between the state and businesses can lead to employment for people with disabilities.

"I believe that everyone has some talent no matter what disabilities they have. We need to look beyond their disabilities into their abilities," Trotter said.

As for the future, Trotter may have to hire another chef. Martinez says she would like to own her own restaurant and given her commitment and passion for preparing food, it's likely Martinez will be a success and one day Trotter may have some more competition in the restaurant business.

Laura's received Services for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired from DRS's Bureau of Blind Services.

To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881 VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.