Cintas spotlight: Akuma N.
Living with a disability is filled with challenges that Akuma N. knows all too well. Akuma, a folder at the Rental Location in Union, N.J., is visually impaired.
The Nigerian-born employee-partner said his six-year Cintas career has provided critical personal validation. He has mastered folding multiple products in a welcoming and accepting environment.
“I enjoy a lot of things about Cintas, but what I enjoy most is it bringing me back to the workforce. It makes me feel like a human again,” Akuma said.
Cintas was recognized among the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” after receiving a qualifying score of 90 on the 2023 Disability Equality Index®, the leading non-profit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide.
At Cintas, where diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded in the culture, every October celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Employee-partners like Akuma are crucial to the company’s success and are valuable members of the team.
Akuma said a misconception that people with disabilities “are useless in society” does not exist at Cintas.
“When I came to Cintas and was able to move around and work like other people, it made me feel like I’m a human being again,” Akuma said. “My coming to Cintas kind of brought me back to life.”
Akuma arrived at Cintas through INROADS, a nonprofit that strives to foster diverse and inclusive workplaces. He said the organization helped him return to the routine of awakening early and going to work. It also provided training that prepared him for his Cintas career.
Nothing was easy at first as he acclimated to his role as a folder, but over time Akuma thrived personally and professionally. He grew accustomed to the layout of his environment. He said Cintas’ “strong feeling of family” lifted his spirits.
Union, N.J.’s Rental Location General Manager Doug Rader said Akuma’s friendly demeanor is part of the positive culture. He called Akuma a great addition to the team.
“The (employee-)partners love being around him. He’s always cracking jokes in the cafeteria. When he's walking around, everybody is trying to help him get where he needs to go. He always has a smile on his face and again, he loves to make jokes and keeps it very light,” Rader said.
Joking around, Akuma said, has helped his mental health as his eyesight has diminished over the years.
“If I don't (joke around), I'll keep on thinking about my situation or my conditions,” Akuma said.
He doesn’t have time for introspection in the folding section, where different languages sometimes necessitate creative communication – but the employee-partners’ camaraderie is always strong.
When Akuma isn’t working, he loves to cook. He has a particular affinity for Nigerian fare.
If he were to give advice to others with disabilities, it would be to seek assistance to find purpose and develop self-confidence. Akuma believes his story is just one example of what someone with a disability can do at Cintas.
“I don't think I'm the only person that's in this condition,” Akuma said. “I believe there are some other people, if given the opportunity, would gain this improvement in their life.”