Staff spotlight: On the job and as a role model, Emma shines

Emma stands outside an agency van on a sunny day, smiling.

Bill Ryan admits to being skeptical about hiring Emma Snailham as a bus assistant for the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities. After so many surgeries on her hands, he worried she wouldn’t have the dexterity to safely secure a wheelchair.

Ryan may never have been so happily wrong. Not only could Snailham handle the wheelchairs, but the handwriting on her job application was flawless.

“I haven’t seen anything yet that she can’t do,” said Ryan, FCBDD transportation director. “She does an excellent job, and she always has a good attitude. I would take a whole lot of Emmas.”

Snailham, who now has worked at FCBDD for 15 years, attended the agency’s early childhood education program as a young child. She was born with Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes fusion of the skull, hands and feet bones. “Having a disability myself, I’ve always wanted to be with others and to be helpful,” Snailham said. “It can be hard to have people not treat you well. So I just want to provide that support.”

She is there for students on her bus, and she enjoys occasional shifts at the front desk or on the mail route, making deliveries to FCBDD facilities and to other county offices in Downtown Columbus. Snailham’s late mother also worked for FCBDD, driving a bus for many years.

“Her mom, like Emma, also stood out,” Ryan said. “After driving to one of our facilities, her mom would be outside the bus waiting, wiping it down. She must have had the cleanest bus in the county.”

Snailham’s parents wanted her to be a good driver despite her disability, so her dad first began teaching her on a golf cart. Her mother and father had moved to the United States from London, where it was relatively easy to use public transportation. Central Ohio is different, they told her.

“My mom had a hard work ethic, and she and my dad taught me to be a good role model,” the 35-year-old said. “I love what I do, definitely. It’s so nice to see students come on the school bus, see those wonderful smiles, and know that you can help them have the best day.”

Snailham lives with her father in a house they built near Hoover Dam. In addition to renovation and building projects, she enjoys organizing, decorating and watching HGTV.

“I just think in a lot of ways, she’s the face of this agency,” Ryan said. “Emma’s out there getting it done, living her life. We’re lucky to have her.”