Many of us would battle if we were to spend a day in a wheelchair experiencing the world through the eyes of someone who relies on a wheelchair for mobility. Our eyes would be opened to just how challenging daily routines can be, let alone the prospect of finding employment.
But one sector where people living with a disability are thriving is the motoring industry, specifically the motor body repair sector.
Jacques Viljoen, national director of SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association), a proud association of the RMI (Retail Motor Industry Association), says disability is not an insurmountable obstacle in this sector.
“There are many different opportunities available and in fact, there are exceptional people living with disabilities steering themselves up the career ladder in the motor industry – and inspiring others to do the same.”
“Luvo Londa, the owner of a motor body repair business on the East Rand, and a proud SAMBRA member, is proof of this,” Viljoen says.
Luvo was only 19 when he was involved in a car accident with his family during a trip to Johannesburg from the Eastern Cape. He suffered a spinal cord injury that rendered him a quadriplegic.
“This has in no way deterred Luvo, who has simply continued to follow his passion for the industry. His willingness to succeed is so inspiring,” Viljoen says.
Luvo is the director of A+ Auto Panel Beaters and employs six staff. They offer everything from dent and scratch removal to full respray, minor motor body repairs and paint restoration.
“I’ve always loved cars. I remember our family car fondly. It was an old bakkie that had belonged to my grandfather. My dream car has always been a BMW,” he says of where it all started for him as a teenager.
“Eventually, I started buying old cars from salvage yards and would get professionals to do a complete overhaul on these for me. It occurred to me at some point that I could potentially make a living out of doing the same thing.”
It wasn’t long before Luvo was trying his hand at panel beating and doing repairs from his own back yard – his work turned neighbours’ heads!
“People could see what a neat job I did. More work started coming in and I ended up opening a small motor body repair shop. Finally, I was living my passion and working full-time with cars!”
He admits that living with a disability is not easy, especially in a service industry.
“You need to win the customer’s trust in terms of your ability to deliver quality workmanship. Quality is so important if your business is to succeed. Word of mouth spreads quickly and can work in your favour if your standard of work is consistently high.”
Luvo has big dreams for the future. With the backing of SAMBRA, he feels confident he will get more access to the market so that he can one day own a bigger business and create more jobs.
“I would like to gain funding so that my workshop can be recognised by insurers and I can buy more equipment,” he says.
In conclusion, Luvo advises others living with disabilities to not believe they are in any way disadvantaged.
“You can live your dream. It is up to you. Persist on the path you want to follow. I am living proof you are ABLE to succeed at anything you put your mind to and are passionate about.”