Well, yes, it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this is a month that we celebrate the movement. Yes, the movement to get disability employment to be on the mind of the public and employers. Truthfully, I spend my whole year doing this, but this is the month with a big national and international push for inclusion. During this month, you will see many blog posts on AFB’s CareerConnect Blog and from our family of websites. AFB CareerConnect plans on bringing it hard, so stay up with us. We have already brought you a slew of new content and advice on the CareerConnect Blog and from the AccessWorld’s employment focused issue.
My National Disability Employment Awareness Month always starts with the end of the United States Business Leadership Network’s annual conference. I am passionate about my work at AFB and our partnership with the USBLN. I have been providing disclosure workshops for the Career Link Student Mentoring Program over the past two years. The USBLN Career Link Student Mentoring Program allows college students with disabilities and disabled veterans (typically juniors and seniors or above) to connect with corporate mentors. About 50 percent of the mentors are corporate professionals with disability, and the others often have connection to disability through their family, employment role, or passion for inclusion. As the CareerConnect Program Manager, I want to be connected to programs that make a difference for individuals with disabilities, and the USBLN and USBLN Career Link Student Mentoring Program do just that. I provide the workshops, attend the conference, and facilitate a session or two. I see these students get valuable connections and even jobs. I also see the growth of the students through out the week. The students grow professionally, and more importantly, they grow in their confidence and self-awareness in regard to navigating the employment process.
At events, I stress to the mentees to take advantage of the events and interactions with these successful professionals. I feel like some of the students don’t get it until the huge numbers of professionals show up for the full conference. The students even echoed this to me from time to time. I feel lucky to offer any advice possible to students with disabilities, as I navigated my secondary education with a learning disability, and lost my vision from the later part of that education through my college and graduate work.
The work of the USBLN’s Career Link Student Mentoring Program embodies everything I hold important in creating a difference for individuals with disabilities. Through my work with our AFB CareerConnect program, I value making the most impact possible. My wife (Jennifer Strechay) and I sacrifice a lot to make sure that I am able to do this. We sacrifice time together, as I travel around 14 days per month, and we are both passionate about making a difference for individuals with disabilities. She works as the State of West Virginia’s Commission on the Arts’ Cultural Facilities and ADA Coordinator.
AFB works to make a difference in the employment of individuals who are blind or visually impaired everyday of the year. I feel lucky to be a part of that effort. Again, pay attention as AFB celebrates NDEAM throughout the month. Share our blog posts, social media, and resources as part of your own National Disability Employment Awareness Month efforts. Take some time to visit AFB CareerConnect today to explore our resources, and visit the United States Business Leadership Network’s website to find out more about the Career Link Student Mentoring Program.