Fielding a Full Team in Rio

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

The spirit of competition and excellence resumes in Rio today, as the 2016 summer Paralympics kick off. At these games, just like at those that recently concluded, elite athletes from around the world will inspire and awe on the field of play. They will shatter records. They’ll also outstrip expectations — on more than one level.

Like all Olympians, each Paralympian has a unique story characterized by not only athletic prowess but also perseverance and drive, of finding a way in when doors were closed. Competing at the highest level with a disability, these athletes often jump one more hurdle.  Similarly, it’s not just about the medals they bring home. It’s also about what’s possible, and in particular what’s possible when all people have the opportunity to develop their gifts and talents on the field of play.

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A Collaborative Learning Community to Benefit Youth and Young People with Disabilities

Photograph of Jessica Queener  By Guest Blogger Jessica Queener, Communications and Outreach Manager, Youth Transitions Collaborative and the National Youth Transitions Center

The Youth Transitions Collaborative (YTC) is a community of organizations that share the goal of empowering youth and young people with disabilities to create a self-directed path to adulthood and employment, and to participate in and contribute to society. The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) provides a single location in the nation’s capital for modeling cross-systems collaboration and improving the transition services available to youth and young people, their families and communities. As an innovative “collaborative community,” the NYTC provides opportunities for nonprofits serving youth and young people to build capacity, create new partnerships and benefit from its national agenda. This national agenda is comprised of policy and advocacy efforts, innovative research and cross-sector collaborations that stimulate new thinking and learning across the country.

The NYTC is the focal point of the Collaborative’s community. This by-invitation-only membership group, facilitated by The HSC Foundation, is comprised of over 50 regional and national organizations with a commitment to serving youth and young people with disabilities. These organizations are united by shared values and a desire to be stronger together, providing direct services, expertise and guidance for the Center. The Collaborative also serves as the basis for The HSC Foundation’s efforts to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving the disability and youth communities, and to create a cohesive community among these organizations. They also participate in a variety of programming initiatives that provide further opportunities to partner on topics including advocacy, career preparation and employment.

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Small Steps Essential in Returning to Work

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

One of the major hurdles of returning to work after a disability related absence is the mindset of “It will take too long to get from here to there,” or just simply not knowing where to start.

Small steps can help bring simplicity to the process of returning to work and not make it seem so daunting!

The first step is to become aware of the desire to work and why. Sure, there is always the need for money and paying bills, but desire is motivational. How can going back to work also help you as a person? What can working add to your life?

Those who have returned to work will tell you it was great to get out of the house and be around people again. Work at home employees will express gratitude for something to do in the house and have productivity and focus in their day. Most everyone who returns to work really likes meeting new people, whether working face to face or virtually. Working can be so much more to someone than just a paycheck!

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One man and three women, one of whom is in a wheelchair, seated at a table and talking.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Blog.

I’ve worked in the disability employment policy arena for more than 20 years, and a lot has changed in this time. Looking back, the progress I’m most thrilled about isn’t just the policy action we’ve seen. Rather, it’s the significant shift in how we as a nation talk about disability and employment.

Today, disability has rightfully taken its place in the larger conversation about workplace diversity. Leading companies are now actively working to align diversity with their corporate brand, both internally and externally. This is because they know that inclusion works. They know that groups representing a range of perspectives outperform those with superior, but similar, skill sets. And they know that, as one of the nation’s largest minority groups, people with disabilities are an essential voice to have at the table.

Reflecting this perspective, #InclusionWorks will be the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2016.  NDEAM is a nationwide campaign that celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Although not observed until October, we announce the annual theme each spring to help with advance event planning.

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Autism and Access to the American Dream

Dr. Scott Michael Robertson, policy adviser in the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation to recognize World Autism Awareness Day 2016. This proclamation noted the importance of making sure autistic Americans have a chance put their talents and skills to work in good jobs. It also emphasized the need to “break down barriers to competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, including people with autism.”

This message aligns with ongoing work of the federal Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities managed by the Department of Labor. It also resonates with me personally because of barriers I faced as an autistic adult. I have experienced negative attitudes and persistent obstacles to career success that tested my resiliency and resolve.

Before starting college, I faced disbelief in my potential for academic success at school because of projections based on my IQ score rather than my aptitude. Undaunted, I earned an undergraduate degree with honors and completed graduate education. Yet I still faced challenges in developing my career because I lacked specialized supports and resources to address challenges unique to autism.

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