There may be a perception that the motor industry requires able-bodied people because of the manual labour involved. However, there are exceptional people with disabilities steering themselves up the career ladder and inspiring others to do the same.
“We often see remarkable people in our workspace, but when someone has faced obstacles and is able to find success, this is even more noteworthy,” says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).
“An example of this triumph over adversity is Kyle Louw, a paraplegic in Bloemfontein. He is a daily reminder that there are incredible opportunities for people with disabilities to work in the motoring industry as mechanics, salespeople, fitters and business owners, or whatever career path they might choose.”
Louw, who lost the use of his legs after an accident at the age of 13, has always been interested in fixing cars and was at his father’s workshop every day after school to learn and to help. Dad Clive Louw started his business, Bloemfontein Diesel Tech, in 1995 to service and repair mechanical VE and inline pumps, later expanding it to include DENSO common rail pump systems and full-service bays.
Clive is the Free State and Northern Cape representative of the South African Diesel Fuel Injection Association (SADFIA), a proud association of the RMI, and he passed on his love of the motoring industry to his son.
After finishing school, Louw Jr enrolled in an apprenticeship, passed his trade test and became fully qualified six years ago. The workshop needed a few modifications to ensure he could work efficiently. These included adjusting the height on some of the workbenches and tweaking the equipment to allow him to slide under cars.
With these adjustments, he is able to do the same work as his colleagues, and his long-term goal is to take over the family business when his father retires.
“It’s important to apply yourself and put your heart and soul into your work. There are many ways to accommodate your disability, so don’t be afraid to apply for your dream job,” says Louw.
Olivier is excited about the motor industry becoming more inclusive and providing more opportunities for everyone who is interested. “As an organisation, RMI welcomes the participation of people with disabilities into the workforce,” he says. “We strongly believe in giving opportunities to all.”