Dominion Energy Hero Lewis Stephens Overcomes Adversity to Inspire and Advocate for Disabilities

The American Gas Association has recognized Dominion Energy employee and disability advocate Lewis Stephens for his inspiring contributions to Dominion Energy and the state of South Carolina as part of its ongoing Making a Difference profiles of heroes in the natural gas utility industry. 

In 1981, 20-year-old Lewis Stephens jumped headfirst off a pier into shallow water, shattering his C-4.5 vertebrae and permanently paralyzing him from the shoulders down. As one would expect, this proved to be a life-altering event for Lewis – but probably not in the way you’d expect. 

“It might sound weird saying this, but it changed my life for the better,” said Lewis. Elaborating further, he explained that before the accident, he’d been going down a bad road in life. After recovering from the accident and taking some understandable time to “feel sorry for himself,” Lewis, with his parents’ encouragement, retook control of his own life. 

Before his accident, Lewis describes himself as “someone who couldn’t pick up a piece of paper.” After his recovery, he would go on to graduate from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, teach himself to drive again – and accept a job as a security expert with Dominion Energy in South Carolina. 

Lewis applied to a job with Dominion in 1985, five years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many of the basic protections we take for granted today didn’t exist. Workplaces frequently made few or no efforts to accommodate disabled employees, and discrimination in hiring was both legal and common. Legal requirement or not, Dominion Energy chose a different path. 

“One of my buddies said, ‘They just did the right thing.’ They always included me and never thought of me as disabled,” said Lewis. Frequently, “doing the right thing” meant relatively small steps with an outsized positive impact, like adding a door opener for the restroom. 

Lewis has devoted much of his life to helping others going through what he did. He serves on Dominions’ DiverseAbility employee resource group, is chair of the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association, and sits on the board of ABLE South Carolina. Previously, he served as a commissioner for the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. On April 16, 2024, Stephens spoke to the South Carolina House of Representatives about transportation issues as part of ABLE South Carolina’s 10th annual Advocacy Day for Access and Independence.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t love Lewis,” said Dominion communications specialist Celina Ortiz. “He’s so positive about everything. And with everything he’s gone through, he just finds light in everything…It’s just what he does. It really helps motivate people in the sense of he’s accomplished so much, and they can too.” 

Stephens is living proof that Dominion Energy’s decision to “do the right thing” in 1985 was the right call in every possible sense. In Lewis, they have an employee who goes above and beyond in giving back. Asked about his commitment to helping others, Lewis’s reply was simple: “I just think it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t give. Don’t pay it forward, that’s a shame I was dealt a card 43 years ago, and there were two ways to go: negative or positive. My parents set out on day one: ‘You’re going to be a positive difference.’ I have hope people remember for a long time the good things, the positive things I’ve done to help people with disabilities advocate for themselves.” 

After more than four decades of passionate advocacy, Lewis Stephens’ contributions have improved countless lives in South Carolina and beyond. His story is a testament to resilience, positivity and the enduring impact of doing the right thing. 

Read American Gas Magazine’s recent profile of Lewis Stephens here