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Lesly is one in 61,000

By Julie Shapiro, Writer

He can see it in the faces of strangers while he shops at the supermarket or boards an elevator. It’s a look of curiosity mixed with uncertainty. People don’t know how to react or what to do.

Lesly St. Louis’ mission in life is to change that. He doesn’t mind when people ask him questions about his crutches, or when children want to touch his wheelchair. In fact, he welcomes the opportunity to educate them. “It feels like my duty to teach the realities of living with a disability,” he explains. “Able-bodied people need to know that we’re people, just like them.”

Lesly was born with spina bifida, a condition that occurs when the bones of the spine don’t form properly in utero. He has a severe form of the disorder, which leaves his legs too weak to support his body weight. But Lesly has never let that slow him down.

Growing up, it was Lesly’s parents’ mission to make sure he knew he could do everything his five siblings could, and then some. Chores, trips to the beach, summer jobs - “My parents never believed I was different, just that I had different challenges.”

Their efforts certainly paid off. Lesly plays point guard on the Nassau Kings, a division two National Wheelchair Basketball Association team that is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. He is also the president of the team.

“My teammates are my family,” Lesly explains. “We’ve been to one another’s weddings, we’ve celebrated the births of children, and we all understand on a deep level what the other’s challenges in life are when it comes to being disabled.”

They also do a lot of public speaking as a group, visiting schools and talking to children about what accomplishment looks like in the face of physical challenges.

People are often surprised when they hear that Lesly is so active in team sports. So he takes great pride in sharing not only his own accomplishments, but those of so many other physically challenged individuals – both in sports and in the workplace.

In fact, he’s made a career of it - as an inclusion specialist at Northwell Health where he facilitates communication between recruiters and potential employees with disabilities. “There’s a stigma that surrounds people with disabilities that they are less capable than their able-bodied counterparts. My father always told me that as a person with a disability, I have to work twice as hard to prove myself to the nonbelievers. This became my creed and my vocation.”

“Everything happens for a reason,” he says. “I’m in this position because I can handle it. I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t. I really believe that.”

Interested in joining the 61,000? Learn more about careers at Northwell Health.