Amputee battles to get dream job with Paterson Fire Department

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(08/17/06) PATERSON ? Firefighter applicant Isaac Feliciano is fighting to ensure the loss of his leg doesn?t keep him from getting a job with the Paterson Fire Department.

Feliciano lost his left leg below the knee as a child due to spinal meningitis. Despite the amputation, he excelled at football and still manages to run 100 yards in under 12 seconds. Feliciano goes through grueling workouts four days a week in order to stay prepared for his dream job as a member of the Paterson Fire Department. However, the department said he was physically unable to do the job and rejected Feliciano?s application.

The rejection was especially tough to take considering Feliciano finished 103rd out of 600 applicants in the physical exam. Feliciano says it was tough to watch lower-ranking applicants vault over him to get a job. Much of the problem stems from New Jersey?s guidelines, which many consider to be unclear. An applicant can be rejected if there are ?problems arising from?deformities.? Although Feliciano admits he has a deformity, he said it won?t prevent him from doing his job.

Amputee firefighters are not completely unheard of in the U.S. In California, J.J. Stivers was hired as a firefighter despite the loss of both legs. In Florida, Bill Henry is another amputee firefighter. Feliciano will now take his case before the state Department of Labor. If that fails, he says he?s ready to take the matter to court.

Related information: I-Team Investigates


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