First Conference for African Americans with Disabilities Addresses Employment Issues
Acting Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Clarke Bruno addressed more than 350 attendees today at a conference at the Sheraton at Woodbridge to celebrate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
Dubbed “PUSHING LIMITS: A Conference on Employment for African Americans with Disabilities,” the conference was spearheaded by the DHS Division of Disability Services (DDS), and mirrored the official theme used by the U.S. Department of Labor for NDEAM, "Americans with Disabilities: Ready for the Global Workforce."
Bruno talked about how the conference was not only for workers and individuals with a vested interest in improving the employment outlook for African Americans with disabilities, but also for employers and the communities in which they do business.
LeDerick R. Horne, a disabilities rights advocate, motivational speaker, poet, performer and entrepreneur who grew up with learning disabilities and was schooled in New Jersey , gave the keynote address.
Almost 40 presenters and moderators facilitated workshops that covered: career preparation, transportation, work incentives, legal rights, transitioning, technology in the workplace, the entrepreneurial approach, and race, diversity and disability in the workplace.
“Increasing employment opportunities for African Americans with disabilities is beneficial to all involved. It sends the message that r ecognizing and celebrating differences by creating an inclusive team is what makes good places of employment great !” said Javier Robles, Deputy Director of DDS and emcee of the conference.
Funded by the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant, a federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), and supplemented by the NJ Work Incentives Network Support (NJ WINS), the conference was designed to expand outreach to minorities with disabilities. Conference planners included a collaboration of representatives from organizations and groups that advocate for, work with, or represent people with disabilities, as well as several individuals with disabilities who worked on the event and served as presenters in the program. It also featured a career fair where employers and job seekers could network.
Prime sponsors of the conference were the NJ Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Disability Services, and the New Jersey Work Incentive Network Support (NJ WINS) program, which is a statewide joint Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) project of Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey and the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration.
• African American Jewish Coalition
• Allies Incorporated
• Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey
• Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities
• National Minorities with Disabilities Coalition
• NJ Black Issues Convention
• NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities
• NJ DHS, Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
• NJ DHS, Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
• NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
• NJ Department of Law and Public Safety, Division on Civil Rights
• New Jersey Protection and Advocacy
• NJ State Conference of the NAACP
• Statewide Parent Advocacy network
• SW Unlimited
In 1988, the U.S. Congress designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Each year, all across the country, disability organizations present events and distribute materials centered on increasing the public's awareness of the skills, abilities and contributions of Americans with disabilities. Many of these programs also bring to the fore employment barriers that need to be addressed to improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.