Organizer's Forum

Employment and Disability: October 20, 2015

Organizer’s Forum: Tuesday, October 20th – Topic: Employment

TUESDAY, October 20th, 1-2 pm Eastern time, 12-1 Central time, 11-12 Mountain time, 10-11 am Pacific time

  • Call in number: 1-712-832-8310
  • Code: 125175#

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so join us for a conversation about increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, fighting discrimination, fixing benefits, and more.

Speakers

Tari Hartman Squire, co-chair of the NDLA Employment Team and CEO of EIN SOF Communications, a consultation firm focused on disability-inclusive diversity and public policy.

Tari Hartman Squire will frame the issues of employment and people with disabilities – including federal government employment practices, mentoring, elimination of the subminimum wage, the Million Gimp March, and more.

Alan Muir, Founding Executive Director, Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD), University of Tennessee.

Alan Muir, recently inducted into the National Disability Mentoring Coalition Hall of Fame, will talk about linking disability services with career services at colleges and universities around the country.

Derek Shields, Co-Chair, National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC).

Derek Shields will discuss the work of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition to increase the awareness, quality, and impact of mentoring for people with disabilities, and how mentoring can improve employment opportunities.

Anil Lewis, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

Anil Lewis will talk about efforts to change federal law so that all workers with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage.

To give you an idea of who joins our calls, if you are interested in joining on Tuesday, please fill out this quick form!

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Background

The Organizing Workgroup of the National Disability Leadership Alliance hosts these calls the third Tuesday of every month as a resource for disability organizers, in an effort toward building the organizing capacity of the disability community across the country. They generally follow the format of a Welcome followed by 2-3 experts in a given area speaking for a few minutes on their experiences, advice and challenges. The calls include a 20-30 minute question and answer period.

To ask questions via CART: Sign-in to the Chat function on the right side of the transcript and type your question. One of the call facilitators will read out any questions posted there.

Because we want to maximize the generously donated CART services, we will begin the call promptly at 1pm and end the call promptly at 2pm (eastern time). A few other reminders about call etiquette:

  • Say your name before each time you speak
  • Speak one at a time
  • Speak slowly and as clearly as possible

So you can mark your calendars now, Organizer’s Forums are held on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. If you have suggestions for call topics or presenters for upcoming topics, please email them to jlehman7@gmail.com or dcoleman@cdrnys.org.

Because we want to maximize the generously donated CART services, we will begin the call promptly at 1pm and end the call promptly at 2pm (eastern time).

Looking forward to talking with you all!

Jessica Lehman and Diane Coleman
Co-Chairs, National Organizing Workgroup

Date: 10/20/15

Event:  NDLA   Organizers Forum

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>> Jessica:  We’ll give people just a couple minutes to join us.  I have 10:00 o’clock now in California.  Can I go ahead and ask people if you’re not speaking to mute yourself?  Hit star six and then you can hit star six again to unmute yourself.  I’ll mute nerve a minute, but I’m hoping we can do introductions first.  Okay.  I’m going to go ahead and mute everyone.  Hold on one second, everybody.

Okay.  It’s quiet now.  We’ll go about introductions in a minute.  Welcome, everyone.  My name is Jessica Lehman.  I work at senior disability action in San Francisco, California.  I co chair the Organizers Forum, along with Diane Coleman.  Diane, do you want to introduce yourself?  Hit star six so you can speak, Diane.

>> Diane:  Can you hear me now?

>> Jessica:  Yes.

>> Diane:  Great.  I’m Diane Coleman.  I am head of not done yet, which is one of the two teams, hearing committee members of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, a group of Steering Committee members.  All of the organizations are run by people with disabilities ourselves.  And we sponsor the Organizers Forum.  So thank you for joining us today.

>> Jessica:  Thanks, Diane.  So the Organizers Forum, for people who aren’t used to it, is primarily a monthly call, although we do have some other ways of connecting.  It’s really designed to support and expand people within the disability community, the need to get out there with grassroots, identify people, to get people involved, and to build more leadership.  We have a different topic each month.  Today we’re talking about more strategic or practical ideas, like how do you step up a get out the vote campaign?  Or how do you run a town hall meeting?  Something like that.  We’re always looking for ideas.  So if you have a topic that you think would be really useful around the country, please tell me or tell Diane.

This call is captioned.  Thank you to NDLA for paying for CART.  Thank you to the captioner for being on.

>> The Captionist:  You’re welcome.

>> Jessica:  You can log on and ask questions if you prefer to do that.  And Diane is on the chat and she can read those out in open dialogue.  I want to remind people to speak slowly and clearly and to identify yourselves before you speak.  We’ve got the some people on cold.

>> The Captionist:  The audio is really coming in and out for some reason.  If you recognize that these products respect really [inaudible]

>> Other people who weren’t on the call today know what you heard.  If you’re joining the call or afterwards, please go on there and say here is a comment that really stood out for me or here is a question for one of the speakers on the call.  Any thought you have, we really invite to you pass that on.

We also have a website.  It’s disability leadership    whydisabilityleadership.org, I believe.  Someone correct me if you think.  I’ll check that during the call as well.  And so the organizers forum calls appear on there.  We are force natural to get all of the calls recorded and transcribed and so those will appear on the call afterwards.  If you have missed it, if you’ve missed the call or if you know someone else who couldn’t be on, let them know that they can go to the NDLA website.

What am I missing?  If you haven’t yet done so, please click on the link that was in the e mail announcement that says it to sign up for today’s call.  That’s a really easy way for us to know who was on and what topics folks are interested in so with we can two our best to address those in the future.

Okay.  I’m going to try to unmute search and we’ll see if we can do introduction.  Give me one second.  We’re still getting hold music.  Hold on again.  Okay.  So unfortunately, we’re going to have to skip introductions today.  Looking at the registration list already, it looks like we have a mixture of folks from around the country.  Missouri, Idaho, New York, Massachusetts.  We have some independent living centers.  We have United Spinal.  We have developmental disability services, disability options network.  A little bit of everything.  So again, please be sure that you sign up on line, because that is our only way of knowing today who is on because of the hold music.

So with that announcement, I want to get to our topics for today.  So in honor of national disability employment awareness month, which is October, we are talking about employment and disability.  And I really want to thank Tari Hartman Squire for helping us pull together today’s call, with the help of a bunch of other people that she can recognize.  And so she’s going to be our first speaker today, kind.  Giving an overview of why are we talking about employment and what are some of the different pieces happening around the country and things that community organizers should be thinking about when we want to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities?

She’s going to be followed by Alan Muir, who is the    I’m sorry.  I didn’t properly introduce Tari.  I said what she’s talking about.  Who she is, she’s the co chair of the NDLA Employment Team and she’s the head of EIN SOF Communications, which is a consultation firm.  So disability inclusive, diversity, and public policy.

So after Tari we’ll flare Alan Muir, who is the founding executive Director of Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities at the University of Tennessee.  And then we’ll hear from Derrick Shields, who is the co chair of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition.  And then we have Anil Lewis, who is the Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, Jernigan Institute.

We also are fortunate to have joining us Anita Cameron, who will be talking a little bit about the Million Gimp March.  She wasn’t on the speaker list, but we’re delighted she’ll be joining us as well.  We will have 20 to 30 minutes for questions and answers and open dialogue at the end of the call, so please keep track of your questions and comments, because we want to hear those.

And on that note, I will turn it over to Tari.  Tari, go ahead and hit star six and we’ll make sure we can hear you.

>> Tari:  All right.  I think I did it correct limit can you hear me?

>> Jessica:  Yes, we hear you.

>> Tari:  Great.  Thank you so much.  Thanks so much, Jessica and Diane, for organizing these, and particularly around employment.  Particularly in October, national disability employment awareness month.  And our goal is not just to focus in on a month with NDAM or a day, but to look at it 365 days a year.  As most of you on this call know, just from most of you I heard dialing in, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities is dismal.  10.4% of people with disabilities as opposed to 4.7% of people without disabilities.

So as co chair of the National Disability Leadership Alliance Employment Team with Alexander Benewith from United Spinal, we’ve kind of built on the power of NDLA, which as you know is 15 led owned and operated membership disability organizations and looked up the lens of employment and included people that are not part of those 15 membership organizations, because they have a level of expertise or one very important puzzle piece in terms of this unemployment quagmire that we’re in.

So after this call, if anybody in this call is interested in exploring the NDLA Employment Team, please let us know.  We’ve got subject matter experts from all parts of the disability community and all aspects of employment.  As you know, employment is not just about getting a job in a corporation, a nonprofit.  We also want to look at entrepreneurship of people with disabilities and people that are working in the federal government as well.

And as you probably know, the executive order 13548 that President Obama issued on July 26, 2010, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act really calls for an increase of federal employees with disabilities for the federal government to be a model employer.  And while we’re not there yet for 100,000 as a goal as part of the executive order, we are getting close.  So under separate cover, we could send information probably about the Schedule A hiring authority, because it’s something that a lot of the federal agencies don’t really know about and, therefore, the disability community to know about federal employment would be really important as well.

For those of you who are colleagues of yours who aren’t wired to do a 9:00 to 5:00 type of job or career, we wanted to make you aware that the U.S. business leadership network certifies disability owned businesses.  And this is really important for those folks who are more entrepreneurial in spirit.  There is a great value in the procurement process in our brothers and sisters from similar movements:  The LGBT Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement.  And they have all helped us in the disability community figure out a certification process so that not only federal contractors and subcontractors and, as you know, they’re all required but Section 503 to have a 7% aspirational goal of hiring people with disabilities and also benchmark protection of Veterans that includes Veterans with disabilities, but also for corporation in their supplier diversity chain.  So we’ll also send some information about that as well.

It’s really important, you know, diversity is a business imperative.  It’s a buzz word.  But inclusion is a choice, and we want to make sure that employment is open to the full spectrum of people with disabilities.  And so we appreciate everybody being part of this call today, of our speakers.  I know from the folks that called in, we also have some other subject matter.  Experts on the phone that are going to be talking about the different aspects of employment.  We look at recruiting of people with disabilities and certainly Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities whom you’ll hear about in a moment from Alan Muir, the Founding Executive Director, is really important.  For college students, recent grads with disabilities, there’s organizations called student Veterans of America that are on college campuses around the country.  They have over a thousand remember chapters.  And we can put you in touch with them if you served our nation.  We appreciate that.  And we also look at mentoring, which is a really important aspect of it.

For other disability rights movements, mentoring has been a very important issue and we would all focus on four aspects of the ADA for title one:  Recruiting, hiring, retaining, and career advancement.  And I would say that until recently, we haven’t really focused on career advancement, although that’s really important.  For those of you that are mid-career or aspiring careers and you’re interested in career advancement and leadership, the UCLA Anderson School of Management has a multi dimensional leaders’ institute which also includes people with disabilities.

What we thought we would do is present our speakers and have a conversation and weave back and forth on additional resources so it’s not like drinking water out of a hose and you get it all at one time, but there will be a context to this call.

Each of the speakers will speak for about five minutes or so and we’ll open it up for questions at the end.  So our first speaker today is Alan Muir who is the founding executive Director of career opportunities for students with disabilities and recently he was inducted into the National Disability Coalition Hall of Fame, 25 for 25, 25 men terms for 25 years of the Americans with disabilities act.  So Derrick Shields will follow Alan Muir and then Anil Lewis, who is taking a lead on the subject minimum wage issue for people with disabilities and making sure that that form of slavery is in the past.  And then we’ll end with Anita Cameron with an exciting call to action for the Million Gimp March, which will be next October.

So Alan, could you start off on our formal presentations today?  And thank you.

>> Alan:  Yes, certainly, Tari.  Thank you.  Hi, everyone.  A little bit about COSD.  We’re a national association of universities and employers focused on the career employment of college graduates with disabilities.  We have about 850 higher education institutions.  That’s two year and four year schools, as well as 650 major national and regional employers who are a part of this large national network we have.

We’re focused on making sure that there is a connection on college campuses between the Office of disability services and career services to allow students with disabilities to have a chance to take advantage of all of the opportunities that a career services office would offer, including getting in front of employers when they come to campus to recruit other students and to be able to find students with disabilities.  Also to help students with disabilities to get a chance at summer internships or other types of experiential education that’s important for not only their resume, but for their own ability to show that they have been able to work in an environment, in whatever environment they want to be in, whether it be, as Tari was saying, a corporate environment or being in more of an entrepreneurial role.

So having the ability to put that on a resumé is extremely important and to show that to employers.  We also talked to employers about the importance of being out there and recruiting, outreaching to students with disabilities.  This is a great untapped market of talent that is out there.  Some of us may know on the call, it’s a very large population of college students.  About 11.1% of the total matriculation of students on campus are those that have identified, self identified as a person with a disability.  And of those folks that have identified, 70% are those that have non apparent disabilities.

So that makes it a challenge for employers to feel like that they’re really reaching out to employers    excuse me, to students with disabilities.  Unlike most other minority groups, as we all know, disability is a very different category.  So being able to feel comfortable enough to disclose your disability, to be able to feel comfortable to discuss a little bit about some of the advantages that your disability may have given you are always pluses to show to employers and to help them understand the things that you have had to do to become successful.

Just one brief thing.  We have a couple of different ways that we bring employers and students together.  Our biggest one is our regional semiannual event known as full access student summit of career exploration, and it’s a great way of being able to bring students, about 60 students and recent graduates to meet with 11 employers for two half days.  A very concentrated networking.  And pretty intense event, but it’s a great way for students to feel like they know what they can talk with employers about.  Know what employers are looking for and be able to market themselves much more effectively.  So our next one that’s coming up is going to be in Chicago in a couple of weeks, November 6th and 7th.  And we hope to be able to bring more of those events around the country going forward.  Thank you very much.

>> Derek:  This is Derek Shields.  Can you hear me?

>> Tari:  I was busy talking to myself thanking Alan.  Can you hear me, folks?  I guess everybody else is muted, too.

>> Derek:  Tari, I can hear you.  This is Derek.  Can you hear me?

>> Tari: Thank you, Alan, for the brief offer view of COSD.  For those in Chicago, November 5th, it’s a Thursday, please look into the COSD, www.COSD on line.  And as Alan mentioned, intern is a really important experience.  We know that the media perpetuates myths about people with disabilities and being unable to work and being asexual and a lot of different negative myths, et cetera.  PBS news is launch an ABA internship this year, and if you are interested in journalism and broadcasting and hopefully being part of the people that create the news and the images, just contact me offline and we can get you that information about that.

Our next speaker is Derek Shields.  Derek is a co chair of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition and he’s going to be talking about the fabulous work of this brand new coalition to increase awareness, quality, and impact of mentor fog people with disabilities.  And on the other end, how mentoring can improve employment opportunities.  So take it away, Derek.

>> Derek:  Thank you very much, Tari.  Good afternoon, everyone on the East Coast.  I’m in the Annapolis, Maryland, area and it’s a pleasure to introduce the National Disability Mentoring Coalition.  We actually were established in December 2014 and our mission is to increase the awareness, quality, and impact of mentor fog individuals with disabilities, largely to fill gaps between programs and services and leverage while we’re network to go help adults with disabilities realize, both improved employment outcomes, but also some of our members look at mentoring to improve community, immersion, and independence outcomes.

Our member organizations, we have 18 members now share core values around collaboration, and we’re looking at streamlining communications.  Standardizing and systematizing a data platform that would help us reduce duplication of efforts and really find out what’s working in mentoring programs.  And there’s a couple different ways that we’re approaching that.

I wanted to give you a little bit of a background on why we’re doing this now.  This was actually done before and some things happened.  They get off track, but actually back in 2006 the Department of Labor had a grant to establish a national disability mentoring council.  There were policy recommendations that came out of a summit back in 2006 and many of them we are revitalizing today.  That work was merged with another group that I’m partnering with.  I’m a board member are policy works, a small nonprofit, and in 2011, we established the Susan Daniels mentorship fund to recognize the life and legacy of Susan Daniels.

Part of that work led to an environmental scan of what was happening in the mentoring space, and we began really the initial coalition model then, identifying best practices and bringing through conversation those organizations to the table.  And we launched in December of 2014.  We have three specific goals.  First and foremost it’s to increase the number of mentors that are active in the space nationally, knowing that the time that they would invest with individuals would have a positive influence in many ways.

Our second goal is to increase, obviously, the outputs for use in adults with disabilities.  Looking to not only develop the collaborative and the technical foundation.  It would allow for connections.  And I’ll refer to that a little bit later in how we view national referral network.

And the last is this goal to improve employment and affecting outcomes.  Knowing what works.  We have Judy Shandley on our team, senior vice president with Easter Seals, and she’s really helping us build in outcomes tracking.

Our founding members include AAPD, Alan’s group, COFD, that he just presented on, the [inaudible] foundation, Easter Seals, institute for educational leadership.  Mitsubishi electric of America foundation, Nichol, partners for use with disabilities, policy works, USBLN, and the [inaudible] center.  We’ve since added some other groups and we’re up to 18.

What’s important to know is that we have a broad array of interests.  It ranges from a group like COSD that’s having a high touch experience in that regional location to AUCD that’s looking at mentoring research involving project search as an example.  Sos spectrum is quite broad, but it’s the focus across the goal to look at four different types of mentoring models:  One to one, group, peer, and E mentoring, and find out what type of intervention and his investments produce the highest level of outcomes.

We’re doing that through 3 specific initiatives.  As Tari mentioned, Alan was recently selected as the inaugural class for the Susan M. Daniels disability mentoring Hall of Fame, the disability mentoring coalition launched the Hall of Fame at the USBLN conference at the end of September in Austin.  We did this as our first project to recognize 25 outstanding leaders and mentors in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the AD actual.  We will now be moving forward to launch an on line nomination portal in January, just in a few months.  National Mentoring Month is January.

The launch of that portal will not look to identify just the 25 leaders looking backwards, but we’re looking for identification of new programs and services across the country to recognize through this rewards program.  So we’re really looking into your communities and hoping that we will find people that are managing programs and mentoring people in ways that aren’t getting national attention.  Plus working in rural communities and how can we help spread the word about those models.  So that will be coming through in January in coordination with national mentoring month.

Once that launches, the coalition will be the next focus on improving our referral network.  What we find is that the programs often have great experiences for mentees and mentors, but there is no movement of the mentee and his mentors amongst coalition members.  So a classic example can be we could have somebody that’s inside of the USBLN career link mentoring program and spend six months with a mentor from USBLN member, then a student in the university has a great experience.  And after that six months, we don’t want the mentor, nor the mentee, to lose their investment in their network and we want to be able to pass them along so the student would then be referred to a potential internship program, and then the mentor may be involved in another program’s mentoring platform.  So we’re working now to integrate that for our next six months.

The final initiative that the coalition has in our scope is living a national opportunity pipeline, where you can see early intervention mentoring models that exist in cities across the country and that we won’t lose track of these youth with disabilities as we go through the system into a college education and we would deliver them into careers instead of jobs and that they would have professional mentoring to help in their retention and advancement.

So those are the three initiatives that we really are focused on.  All information is all on line at disability mentors.org and we’re doing quite a bit this week with disability mentoring day with our membership organizations, trying to highlight the importance of mentoring.  I appreciates the time from NDLA and we’ll pass it back to Terry and look forward to any questions you might have.

>> Tari:  Thanks, Derek.  I appreciate that.  We’re really excited about this opportunity.  We haven’t really looked at mentoring in our community.  We know it’s important.  As we start to look at intergenerational issues and pass okay that disability power and pride to the next generation coming up.  In most instances, I think the millennial generation with disability power and pride that are releasing some of the stigmas from previous generations about disability.  So thank you so much, Derek, for that.

The ADA legacy project launched [inaudible] which is kind of a PR initiative around disability issues and our post press release went out yesterday around national disability employment awareness month, is which is saying basically disability is just part of who I am and doesn’t define me, but informs me and informs the world around me and we were very impressed with the work that the National Disability Mentoring Coalition is doing and the potential that they have.  As we know, tomorrow is national disability mentoring day, third Wednesday in October within the month.  And AAPD has organized some really great efforts around the country.

A lot of those efforts are very important to reframe disability.  And now in terms of framing disability and reframing some antiquated myths about people with disability, we wanted to hear from Anil Lewis, Executive Director of NFB’s Jernigan Institute and Anil is going to talk about a really important change that’s in the words hopefully for federal law so all workers with disabilities are at least paid minimum wage.  We know that there are some antiquated public policies that predate the disability rights movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the independent living movement, but this is one law that has been very bill to retract and change and it’s almost like a modern day slavery.  Anil, can you give us a background not only of the Jernigan Institute and the work that NFB is doing, but your efforts in this area in spearheading these issues to eliminate the sub minimum wage?

>> Anil:  Sure.  Tari, can you hear me?

>> Tari:  Yes.

>> Anil:  Okay.  Good.  I didn’t know when I was muted or unmuted.  I hope that my computer in the background wasn’t disturbing the previous speakers.  I thought I was muted.  I would like to take some time to do exactly what you describe, but I also wanted to ex pointed a little bit on some of the things that were said in the time that I have, just to offer up.  I have over 20 years of experience in working with employment of people with disabilities.  Primarily in the beginning it was mostly with blind, but there’s been a cross of cross disability responsibility in training and placement, et cetera.

So as you said, you’re right, section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which became law a little before a lot of the concrete disability run organizations were founded, even the federation that was founded in 1940.  I think the only organization of people with disabilities that may have existed prior to that may have been the National Association of the Deaf, if I’m not mistaken.  But the best laid plans are those with good intentions trying to carry out opportunities for people with disabilities to become employed, manifested itself in the law that allowed employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage, guaranteed to people without disabilities.

In the beginning, there was at least a floor, around 75%, and at one point there was a floor.  It was reduced to 50.  Today there’s really no floor.  Because of this particular law still being on the books, individuals with disabilities being paid pennies per hour.  Indeed, we pulled some information from some entities that have vegged claiming to be employed that they’re not being paid at all.  Because it’s the value of the work, not the value of the paycheck that makes a difference.  So much rhetoric that to the uninformed ear, it sounds like it’s really very altruistic, you know, creating opportunities that otherwise would not exist.

But when you reverse that and ask the individuals that are asserting this, this dogma, if they would be comfortable getting paid, you know, nothing, I haven’t heard anyone saying, yes, they would be okay with that yet.  And I think that the root of it is, again, I think it was well intended, the root of it is, as Tari was saying, the situation of disability has been framed in a way, in that particular environment, that thinks of us in the ways that don’t really lean toward us being competitive, integrated, fully participating members of society.  And we have to own some of that as well.

So in our efforts to try to repeal the law, phase out the use of the 14th supervision, we have to education the employers, because many of them who think that the employees with disabilities do not have capacity simply have not taken the time to learn the elevated strategies and techniques that are being proven successful in employing individuals with even the most significant disabilities.  So we have to get them to a space where they have to recognize that their perception and strategies are necessary to be successful.  But overall with my experience in employing people with disabilities, my total focus has been around the individuals themselves, the way to really create truth you is to continue to empower the individual to cast those myths aside, to make the misconceptions that are held by the general public, prove them to be false.

So the National Federation of the Blind since 1940 has been committed to doing that, empowering blind individuals with positive self content, self determination, and all of these are characteristics and I guess commitment to chair by many of the disability organizations of today.

Just before I transition, the bills that are currently being talked about or hopefully motivated as consumers are trying to Fiduciary it through are the transition to integrated meaningful employment.  188 and Senate bill is 2001.  People continue to say that they don’t really have a legislature feature, but that’s up to us to determine.  We’ve gotten much further than most people thought.  People thought we wouldn’t be able to get the bills introduced.  Now they’re getting introduce and had getting bipartisan support.  We just need to continue to build on that.

Just as a matter of what we’re doing within the federation, we’re going to be launching an employment program called our philosophy works, because we believe that it’s our philosophy around blindness which is transferable to other disabilities that really makes tremendous employment opportunities, that creates real true employment opportunities.  Just really simply, our philosophy is based on five kind of essential elements.  One, the person has to be okay with blindness, meaning that they can’t    they have to have a positive concept about themselves, despite the blindness.  It’s okay to be blind.  It doesn’t prevent me from living the life that I want.  Two, you have to learn the alternative skills of blindness.  This is applicable to any disability, but within blind individuals, we inspire people to learn how to travel independently using a long white cane or guide dog, become literate by using Braille, using utensils around the house so they can cook and clean and take care of themselves, and then employment related technology, talking computers, et cetera.  All of those different alternative skills that allow us as blind individuals to be competitive.

The other piece, because we took a holistic philosophy piece, the person has to be able to deal with and cope with those public attitudes.  We have to be able to dispel those missions, educate those, and those misconceptions, and this is both the positive and the negative.  Right?  Because there are individuals who think we don’t have capacity.  We have to demonstrate to them that we do.  And there are those individuals that think that we’re so amazing, it’s racial, for doing just those basic things, tying my shoes or getting up and getting dressed in the morning.  We have to make sure that we cope with those attitudes in a way that shows them that we are just a subset of society.  Nothing more miraculous or less capable than anyone else, on average.

The fourth component is to blend in, which is kind of like coping, but it’s more so with respect to if we’re going to be integrated into the mainstream, we have to be in a work environment or professional community in a way this lets our talent and skills be appreciated just like anybody’s, not because we have a disability and that means that we’re so much more amazing because, you know, we have a disability, but because the way that I can produce a spreadsheet, to give us the data we need to make business decisions is as good or better than someone else who is creating a spreadsheet, not because I’m a blind guy, but because of my ability to perform the job.

And then the last piece that we really try to strive for, and Derek mentioned this and I’ll Tuesday to transition to the mentoring pieces.  We try and encourage all of our individuals to interact with us to give back, because we recognize that we cannot have continued success if we just continue to build people who will go out there and they engage and they’re successful.  And if those individuals don’t, in turn, give back, then we’ve lost a lot of effort and energy spent in trying to get them to where we are.  So I would say that the federation is found based on mentoring.  In 1940, our president, constitutional law scholar, gave his time, talent to encouraging, challenging, motivating and supporting the blind individuals to come along to the point where we’ve developed a nationwide network of over 50,000 members with all 50 states, plus District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  It’s all based on mentoring.

Ours is more of a matrix of mentoring.  We have multiple mentors for one mentee.  We also have multiple mentee for his one mentor and it happens more organic.  We have some states that have implemented full on mentoring programs.  I started one in Georgia back in the mid-2000s, which has been successful, but overall our organization is based on that mentoring affect and because of that, we’ve developed a whole rehabilitation strategy which we call stretch of discovery, which we are just now getting at that base where it’s proven through a research base processes that our strategy is more effective than the traditional one that has existed for years.  So we’re going to be using that and put that go in place through our philosophy works program and in the months that are coming.  Hopefully there will be a launch in January of 2016.

And the last piece, I forget, Alan, I believe, was the first one who spoke, he talked a little bit about disclosure of disability.  And that speaks to that whole self concept as well.  I believe that an individual should be at a point where they’re comfortable stuff in getting other individuals comfortable, and that’s the win/win.  I’ve had a lot of back and forth with individuals when they’re seeking employment, when they ask whether they should disclose whether or not they have a disability, and I ask them, is this based on the individual and their comfort level and their proven ability to make an employer or potential employer feel comfortable with them as a person with a disability?  If you have that skill set, then you’re far beyond anyone who else does not.  If do you not have that skill set, my advice to you is to encourage to you acquire that.  Oh all of that is mostly based on the individual.

And I’ll lead with one last piece, because I know there’s some service providers that are also on the call.  When I start doing employment for people with disabilities, I was basically a service provider.  I was a job placement specialist.  But what I would do is I would go out to the potential employers and I would tell them, oh, don’t you want to do the thing that’s socially responsible?  Don’t you create opportunities for people who otherwise wouldn’t have these opportunities?  Does any of this sound familiar to any of you guys?  And I realized that that was the wrong strategy, because I would go out.  I would work to find these jobs for individuals with disabilities and because they had no skin in the game and there was no skills acquisition, there was no training in teaching them how to actually search for and acquire the job themselves, I would get people employed, they would leave those jobs, and come to me again to get other employment.  And that’s just not the win.  And the employers, thinking that they’re doing the socially responsible thing, those are the first employees that get kicked away when the times get hard.

The true strength in employing people with disabilities is to empower the person with the disability with the skill and the self concept, but also to get the employer to require that the person with the disability possess the skills that are essential with them to help that employer meet its bottom line, because if that’s not the case, then it’s not a win/win and air not really put that go person a disability in a position where they can be successful and if that’s not the job for them, then the answer is not that they are not employable.  The answer is we have to find out what job best fits their skills and disabilities.

Then the last thing I’ll say is systematically, I’m hoping that more and more people with disabilities are being engaged with their state rehabilitation councils, because with the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, so much space is being created for innovative strategies to be implemented where people with disabilities are not at the helm in creating the unified state plans and reforming the way that the programs are going to be implemented, developed and implemented, and especially working with the transition age youth, which has become the focus, that Ware going to miss out on any significant opportunity.  Thank you guys for the opportunity.  I hope I didn’t speak too quickly.

>> Tari:  Hi, Anil.  I think you spoke passionately and forthrightly and confidently, and if that was too fast for the interpreter and the CART folks, then we’re sorry.  Hopefully they’re used to that and it didn’t affect communication.

>> The Captionist:  It was fine.

>> Tari:  And thank you for the work NFB has done in taking a leadership role in dealing with this very antiquated law that, as you said, is based on a myth and perception that people with disabilities, it’s okay to be relegated to the broom closet in the employment arena.  We know that the efforts are an uphill battle.  We know that we’re not asking service providers to do anything except to see and acknowledge that people with disabilities have skill sets and emerging skill sets, and particularly with the use of technology, it’s a great levelizer of the playing field in the 21st century.  And so we appreciate your efforts.  I know your efforts in building coalition, for those of you that want to get involved in this coalition, it is an uphill battle, but it’s caught the attention recently of the media, which has made a tremendous spotlight on this issue.  CNN is working on another segment.  It’s an investigative piece on sub minimum wage and Ability One and Source America.  And so it’s a hot topic and it will take our whole community to work proactively to make sure that everybody with a disability is given a fair shot for a career and a job in the community at the prevailing minimum wage at the very least.  And so thanks, Anil, for that.

We have another speaker.  Anita Cameron, who I first met, gosh, a very long time ago.  Working with ADAPT.  Anita is a fabulous organize near a lot of different areas in terms of employment and emergency preparedness and voting rights.  And Anita is going to be talking about an exciting event and movement that’s happening next year:  The Million Gimp March.  So Anita, are you unmuted and ready to share with the folks the organizing and plans?  The call to action before we open up for questions?

Actually, am I off of mute?

>> Jessica:  We can hear you, Tari.  Anita, if you’re there, be sure to hit star six.

>> Tari:  Anita, is that you?

>> Anita:  Yes.

>> Tari:  All right.  Can you speak a little louder?

>> Anita:  Sure.  I’ll probably use my [inaudible]

>> Tari:  Okay.  I’ve never known you to be soft spoken, thank God.  We need that voice.  Here is Anita, guys.

>> Anita:  Good morning, everyone.  I’m Anita Cameron and I am the founder, if you will, and one of the organizers of the Million Gimp March.  And the Million Gimp March is a March planned for October 14th of 2015 in Washington, D.C., and we’re marching to bring awareness of this staggering unemployment rate among people with disabilities, and it’s the inaugural project of the employment rights.  So we formed ourselves back in September of 2014.  There are six of us organizing and there are people with disabilities, and we are in various parts of the country.

A big thing that people ask us is about our name, why we, you know, wanted to use the term gimp, which just simply means, you know, one who limps or walks in a healthy manner.  A lot of folks in our community, it’s a word that’s taken back, similar to taking back by the LGBT community of the word queer.  And we decided to use gimp to reflect the nature of the discrimination and homogenization of our community, and we knew also that it would be a more amenable name.  No one would forget the Million Gimp March.

One thing that we pledged is that, you know, it implies that only folks will go with disabilities, but no, this March is for all people with disabilities, because some subgroups within people with disabilities, you know, have an unemployment rate of, like, over 80%.  So I mean, this is for everyone, regardless of the nature of our disability.

We are in the process of organizing the march is set for next year.  We could certainly use more people to join us.  If you want to find out more about the Million Gimp March, you can go to www.Million Gimp March.com.  Or you could e mail us at organizers@MillionGimpMarch.com.  And this is going to be a huge March, an exciting March.  It’s going to take place in Washington, D.C. next year.  We’ll be marching from the Washington monument to the Lincoln memorial, which is actually taking the route of the March on Washington back in 1963 where Dr. king did his powerful I have a dream speech and we all have a dream of being employed, able to work, being able to work competitively.  Not being relegated to receiving sub minimum wage or being stepped over in jobs and so this promises to be very, very exciting.  I’m excited about it.  Our organizers, you know, are excited about it.  And we want you to join us and, as I said, if you want to find out more, www.Million Gimp March.com or organizers at Million Gimp March.com.  And we will see you there.  Come join us.  It’s going to be huge.  Thank you very much.

>> Tari:  Well, thank you, Anita

>> Jessica:  Well, thank you, Anita.  This is Jessica.  Sorry.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t muted. Everyone is having problems with that today.  Anita and others, if you can be sure to send me information, website linked, if you have other documents, we can get that up on the NDLA website, which again is disability leadership.org.  And so if folks want to consult that in the next few days, you can take a look at some of those things.

Huge thanks to all of our speakers and to teary for facilitating.  We unfortunately only have about four minutes, but hopefully we can take a couple questions and comments.  We’ll just ask folks to keep them short.  So actually, actually going to open it up, but we’ll keep people muted.  Anybody can hit star six to unmute yourself to go ahead and ask a question or make a comment.

>> Yes.  Marco [inaudible] in Silicon Valley Independent Living Center in San Jose.  I heard a lot about mentoring.  A lot about youth.  Not much, if anything, about those of us already in the workforce, but under employed.  Who’s going to mentor these people in the workforce?

>> Mark, do you have a specific question or how would you like us to

>> I’m just wondering if there were any resources available to, you know, people like myself with Ivy League degrees pulling down less than 40 grand a year.  I mean, compared to other people with disabilities, I’m doing all right.  Compared to my classmates, not so much.

>> Tari:  And you’re in Silicon Valley.  Right?

>> Yep.

>> Tari:  Okay.  There is an entity of the U.S. business leadership network called the Silicon Valley business leadership network that Martha or [inaudible] and Catherine McCarrie have launched.  Martha used to work at manpower and Catherine used to work at SunTrust, and it’s one of the affiliates of the USBLN.  So if you send your information to me, I can hook you up with them and business leadership network and it affiliates are business to business entities that support each other.  And it’s not just about recruiting college students and recent grads and folks without disabilities, but I bet there are some employers that would really benefit from your expertise, kind of in a mid-career level and not just a new hire.  I think they call it an experienced hire.  So if you and I can connect offline, I’m happy to talk with you about that.

>> Okay.  This is Tari?

>> Tari:  Yeah.

>> I’m actually looking, yeah.  I think I’ve got e mail from you somewhere.

>> Tari:  Okay.  All right.  Probably so, because I worked with you guys.  Let’s connect offline.  Does anybody have resources?  Any of the speakers or any of the participants on line?  Okay.  Because we also have a grant from the Department of Labor to increase employment of people with disabilities from historically excluded communities of the world I understand tout on disabilities taking a lead on, and I think some of our partners might be interested.  Any other questions from anybody on the phone?  Comments?

>> Jessica:  I just want to add a couple other resources.  There are a lot of folks who would have been great include on today’s call.  Somebody that wasn’t able to join us is Jonathan Lyons, who is in San Francisco with the FDR Democratic Club, and they worked recently and successfully got San Francisco to hire a disability employment coordinator, and they’re really presenting a national model for local and/or state government.  This is somebody just focused on getting people with disabilities employed in city government.  So if you’re interested in reaching out to him, look up the FDR Democratic Club and they can tell you more about that.

There is also, what do they call it?  A Twitter conversation, a Twitter chat.  Sorry.  I’m apparently not familiar with the lingo.  Hosted by the disability visibility project that Alice Long is working on.  That is on Sunday, October 25th, on employment and youth with disabilities.  So that would be a great place to follow up with some of these ideas and questions, and if you are interested, I imagine it’s on the disability project website.

And unfortunately, I just talked us through the end of the hour.  Tari, do you have any closing comments before I wrap it up?

>> Tari:  No.  I just want to thank you for focusing on this.  Employment is probably the number one issue for the rest of the nondisabled majority culture to really change the perception, their perception of people with disabilities.  So I want to thank all of our speakers and all the folks that are on the line that were not speaking, but have done fabulous work:  Charlie Carr in Massachusetts and other folks.  And we’ll just keep at it.  And we can send the resources, Jessica, I assume that we mentioned on today’s call to the folks on the line.  Right?

>> Jessica:  Exactly, yeah.  Folks on the line, be sure that you join the Yahoo group or that you check the website or the Facebook page so that you can hear about the resources.  And yes, thank you to our fabulous speakers with so much expertise and to all of our participants for joining us, not only to everybody for speaking and participating today, but for all the important work that you’re doing in the area of employment and people with disabilities.  And thanks for joining the Organizers Forum.  Thanks, also, to our captioner.  Please join us for our next call, which will be on Tuesday, November 17th.  And we will let you know very soon about the topic.  Have a great day, everybody.

(End of call)

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