Friday, April 30, 2010

Does America Have a Sustainable Culture? – Part 2

Excerpts from a speech delivered by AtWork! CEO, Chris Brandt, at the AtWork! 2010 fundraising breakfast, March 25th, 2010.

All of us must make and sustain a commitment to helping people with disabilities achieve equality and justice in our society if we are to sustain the American dream. America does not have a sustainable culture until it can unequivocally state: “With liberty and justice for ALL”.

What is your vision of a sustainable culture? The radio host had the final say and decided that a sustainable culture expects integrity and responsibility for obligations from its citizens. I decided that day that in my vision of a sustainable culture everyone knows that they belong, that people care if they show up and notice if they don’t. AtWork! helps people with disabilities find a place to belong. In my vision, everyone contributes and has purpose and meaning in their lives. AtWork! helps people with disabilities discover their talents and matches them with a business who needs their talents.
AtWork! made a commitment to leave no one behind. That means we will sustain our commitments to people with complex support needs, people that others might label as too disabled to work or unemployable. In AtWork!’s vision of a sustainable culture, my vision becomes true for everyone regardless of the severity or complexity of their disability.

Some of you have made that commitment too. Many of you have joined us in this last great civil rights movement for a sustainable culture. A culture renown for equal opportunity for people with all types of disabilities, including cognitive and multiple disabilities. A culture celebrated for its sustainable opportunities for people with disabilities to live in typical places where other people live, not in institutions where your only neighbors are inside a fence and have disabilities too. A society distinguished by sustainable jobs for people with disabilities that match the interests and talents of this untapped and eager workforce and that create sustainable benefit to a business’ bottom-line.

Read this blog on May 4th, to learn more about how you can contribute to a sustainable culture.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does America Have a Sustainable Culture?

Excerpts from a speech delivered by AtWork! CEO, Chris Brandt, at the AtWork! 2010 Breakfast, March 25th, 2010.

Last week I was driving between Issaquah and Bellevue with a talk radio show playing in the background. I wasn’t paying much attention because I was thinking about what I would say to you all today. I mulled over the theme sustainability and what it takes to sustain a person with disabilities in a good job and how employers benefit from including people with disabilities in a sustainable workforce. Then I started thinking about the things that make our society sustainable and the issues that continue to plague us like homelessness, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and an unemployment rate of 75% for working age adults with disabilities.

My ears perked up, as the radio announcer said: “I’m no longer certain that America has a sustainable culture.”

How often does that happen? There you are intensely reflecting and the radio host starts talking about your deepest thoughts. I was flabbergasted and started paying attention. I learned that for the radio host, a culture is only sustainable if people keep their commitments, even if the going gets rough and the culture provides an easy escape from responsibility. He was talking about people who are upside down in their mortgages walking away and into foreclosure even though they can still afford their house payments.

The question for his listeners: “Is it ever okay to walk away from your legal commitments, your promises?” The call-ins to the show were split and those that advocated for walking away based their decisions on the circumstances of the moment.

Read this blog on April 29, to learn about how AtWork! is contributing to a sustainable culture.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Few More Online Resources for People with Disabilities

Accessible Homes is committed to providing the most unique highest quality accessible products and services to our customers. We take extreme pride in enriching and enabling the physically challenged and aging population with ADA approved products. Accessible Homes is a "CAPS" Certified Aging in Place Company registered with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Parking Mobility is a Vancouver Canada based website that enables users to report when a car is parked without a disability placard with their mobile phones. The goal is to make parking more accessible for those who need it and reduce violations by those who don’t. The site also has a map that identifies disability parking throughout the metropolitan area. They would like to see other cities take up this cause and provide a similar service.

Mathew Stoloff is an attorney who focuses on matters involving disability rights, student rights, special education, employment law and animal law. He writes an excellent blog around these issues and has a Twitter account @matthewATlaw that we follow.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun Twitter Accounts to Follow

Leslie O'Donnell @FroggyPrinceMom says she is a previous teacher, unofficial psychologist, professional jeweler, oddball, friend, wife, at-home-mommy, and special needs kids reporter…choose your own adventure.

Carly Fleischmann @CarlysVoice has been profiled by CNN, NBC and CTV. Her Twitter site says “As long as I can remember I have been diagnosed with autism. I am not able 2 talk out of my mouth however I have found another way to communicate by spelling on my computer.” You can learn more about Carly at her website.

Marianne Russo @ChildAnxiety is the moderator of The Coffee Klatch M-F 9am Wed 9pm est. An interactive forum for parents of special needs children.

Rob Rose @TRIFCorg is a local Bellevue Washington Rotarian, a professional portrait photographer who owns Brandt Photography. What he really loves to do is help children with disability in Nepal! He has a foundation, the Rose International Fund for Children, that has a terrific website.

We were first introduced to Surf dog Ricochet through a YouTube video. This wonderful dog rides a surf board with people with disabilities, not only keeping the board stable for the rider but also able to help right someone in the water should they fall off. He raises money for charity with his amazing talent. Watch videos and learn more at his website. His Twitter account is @pawinspired.

More web fun and resources in our next blog, April 22nd.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Government Websites: Information & Resources about Disability Issues

Continuing our series about online resources for issues related to disabilities, we profile three government sites that provide valuable information for employers and for job seekers.

Ability One: The AbilityOne Program's mission is to provide employment opportunities for people who are blind or have other severe disabilities in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the federal government. The program coordinates its activities with nonprofit organizations across the country to employ these individuals and provide goods and services to the federal government at a fair price. AtWork! is an Ability One contracted agency. We hold contracts with the Federal Government to do landscaping and grounds maintenance at the Ft. Lawton Cemetery and at the VA Hospital, both in Seattle, under the Ability One program. We also qualify under the Ability One program to provide document management services.
Disability Gov is a website set up by the Federal Government to connect the disability community to information and opportunities. The site is organized by topic: benefits, civil rights, community life, education, emergency preparedness, employment, health, housing, technology and transportation. The Employment section http://www.disability.gov/employment offers job seekers, employers, and employees practical information about finding a job, recruiting and hiring people with disabilities, and job accommodations. It also offers resources on starting a small business and laws and regulations that protect the employment rights of people with disabilities. And family members and teenagers with disabilities can find information on mentoring programs and job training services.
King County Developmental Disabilities Division: The division provides a full range of services and supports that enhance the lives of King County citizens with developmental disabilities and their families. “We help individuals and families with infants and toddlers who have a developmental disability lead full, active, integrated, and productive lives in their communities.” This includes help with early childhood development, school readiness, access to community activities, employment, retirement, housing, and advocacy. The website is a gold mine of resources for families, providers and others who work with individuals with disabilities in King County, Washington.

Read our April 20th blog for some fun Twitter accounts to follow.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Washington State Online Resources for Disability Issues

In our last blog on April 8th we gave you some information about three great sites for information and insights into issues of concern. Here are some resources in Washington State that provide current and useful information.

Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (WISE) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to expanding employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The consultant team works intimately with private businesses, county governments, school districts, social service providers, and families to offer technical assistance, innovative project design and demonstration, ADA consulting, financial systems analysis and design, and information technology assessment.
The Arc of King County is the oldest non-profit organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families in the Greater Puget Sound area, and is one of the oldest such organizations in the United States. They provide direct, hands-on support to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families through outreach, advocacy, and direct support. Most of their services are free including outreach to senior parents caring for their adult children with disabilities, peer support for parents, self-advocacy training, classes on numerous topics, direct support for adults living in their own homes, and an information and referral phone line.
Washington State Business Leaders Network is an extension of the nation-wide Business Leadership Network (USBLN) established in 1994 by the former President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (PCEPD) now coordinated through the Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy There are active BLN Chapters in more than 32 States. This is an excellent resource for businesses interested in helping to diversity their workforce by hiring people with disabilities. It has links to other websites and resources as well as a section about best practices.

Watch for our next blog on April 15th to learn about some excellent government sites.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Favorite Online Resources for Disability Issues

There is a whole community of supporters out there on the internet communicating and advocating for issues related to people with disabilities. AtWork! has been blogging, tweeting, posting notices on Linked In and Facebook for nearly a year and we’ve come to rely on several outstanding sites for information and insights into issues of concern. Here’s a list site you may want to check out.

Disability Scoop is the first and only national news organization serving the developmental disability community including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fragile X and intellectual disability, among others. Five days each week Disability Scoop sifts through the clutter to provide a central, reliable source of news, information and resources. Plus, Disability Scoop is the only place to find original content and series like “Scoop Essentials” that take an in-depth look at what lies beyond the day’s headlines. Launched in 2008, Disability Scoop is the premier source for developmental disability news.

Disability Resource Exchange . Written by Rudy Sims, a young man with a disability called cerebral palsy. He writes on his website that he is…”in a wheelchair. I was also in chronic pain for 10 years. The pain is much better now and I am a very happy person looking to help others cope effectively with disabilities, health problems and the difficulties of life. I'm also always looking for new ways to use my knowledge of technology to raise disability awareness and work together with other people to accomplish that. I have created and maintained several websites for people with disabilities and health problems my two main sites are my blog and a social network for the discussion of disability issues bringing together people with and without disabilities.”

Blue Path We’ve blogged about this great site before. BluePath promotes businesses that welcome people with disabilities as valuable customers. BluePath provides information for people with disabilities about where to shop, dine or go for fun. Through the directory of business profiles, customers with disabilities can find detailed descriptions of accessible features for locations in their community or travel destination, making it easier for them to travel through their world. Reviews and ratings from previous customers provide further information about their experience at the business. BluePath helps people with disabilities find businesses that are usable and committed to serving them. We encourage you to let your favorite restaurant, shop or business know about Blue Path and suggest they become a member. Free memberships are available until June 30th.

Watch our next blog on April 13th to learn about several local Western Washington sites that are excellent resources.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Many are looking for work and this is no less true for people with disabilities.

The national percentage of people of working age with disabilities who are employed continues to hover around 37%, compared with 80% for their peers without disabilities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). According to Aspiritech, 85% of those with autism are unemployed or underemployed. However, according to the Harris Poll (2004), 67% of people with disabilities who are not currently working would like to be (Dixon, Kurse, & Van Horn, 2003).

In the late 1990s, a Presidential Task Force began work on improving the employment rate for adults with disabilities, a national priority that was further supported by the New Freedom Initiative of 2001, creating a bipartisan effort. Despite these initiatives, the rate of employment for people with disabilities has not increased. their counterparts.

In February the most recent report from the Department of Labor said that the rate of unemployment among this population was 13.8% compared to 10.3% among the rest of the population.

Research has demonstrated that wages and hours worked increase dramatically as individuals move from facility-based to integrated employment, and suggests that less tangible benefits include expanded social relationships, heightened self-determination, and more typical job acquisition and job roles (Cohen, 2005; Mank, 2003; Murphy, Rogan, Handley, Kincaid, & Royce-Davis, 2002).

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

AtWork! Partners with Over 100 Businesses & Non-profit

Fifth & final of five excerpts from testimony by Chris Brandt before the City of Bellevue Human Services Commission, March 16, 2010.

AtWork! partners with over 100 businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide jobs and volunteer opportunities. We have solid partnerships with the Snoqualmie Casino, Costco, Dunn Lumber, and Oberto Sausage, to employ several people with disabilities in their businesses.

AtWork! operates social enterprises in recycling, landscaping, and kitting and packaging lines of business to provide training opportunities, jobs, and a source of revenue for program operations. We have just signed an MOU with a for profit company USArchive to create a new line of business called: “USArchive Powered by AtWork!”. AtWork! now has full document management capabilities creating a new revenue stream, work trial and community based assessment opportunities, and new jobs for people with disabilities. In addition we were instrumental in launching the Puget Sound Network, a collaborative of 19 nonprofit agencies including AtWork! that are combining capabilities and expertise to capture larger commercial and government contracts with the goal of creating 25 new jobs by September 2010.

45 agencies in Washington State have formed a new advocacy organization, the Community Employment Alliance. Our united advocacy in Olympia this session yielded positive results. In the end, we expect that services for people with disabilities will receive fewer cuts than proposed by the Governor.

To read all five postings in this series see "Previous Posts" in the column on the right of this web page.

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