Hope bloomed at last week’s spring conferences, hosted by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB).
Technology advancements, an emerging interconnectedness among key support groups, and even a show of bi-partisanship among political leaders offered encouragement to people with disabilities in our country.
“The conferences were a great opportunity for us to participate in the VR community and understand both the progress underway and the challenges going forward,” said Don Alveshere, Aware Product Manager at Alliance Enterprises. Don attended the events with Alliance colleagues, CEO Chris M. Pieper, President Lisa Gifford, Strategic Account Manager Ralph Vigil and Customer Service Manager Karen Dunn. “Many exciting developments were highlighted during the conferences and we’re looking forward to continuing these conversations at Alliance’s VR conference this summer.”
Here are some of our takeaways from the CSAVR and NCSAB conferences:
- A presentation identified best practices from across the country that help people with disabilities achieve employment. These activities have been summarized in a document called Work Matters.
- There was a roundtable on Vision 2020 that included partner programs of VR (Special Education, Independent Living, Disability Rights Network), and Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) as Disability Policy Director. It focused on the interconnectedness of VR and other programs to achieve the ultimate goal of economic independence.
- Microsoft and PROVAIL were presented CSAVR’s National Employment Team Business and Partner of the Year award. They partnered to increase the hiring of people on the autism spectrum. This included identifying possible candidates, helping with the transition, and providing desired long-term support.
- Microsoft talked about their efforts to improve accessibility. They recently appointed a Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, and have special teams working to proactively identify ways to meet needs of people with disabilities.
- Republican and Democratic staffers of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce described the importance of the vocational rehabilitation system in presentations. Bobby Silverstein, a key architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and Senator Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH) were among the speakers.
- Minnesota General shared a presentation on helping people move from working in sub-minimum wage situations to working in competitive-integrated employment – in particular, the story of Tamir Tsogbaatar and his journey to working at Best Buy.
- At NCSAB, one of our South Carolina customers, Kyle Walker, demonstrated a new tool (Career Index Plus) that helps counselors talk with participants about job viability.
- RSA provided some insight on a new monitoring protocol to be used by state agencies.
- NCSAB hosted sessions and vendors on new technology that assists individuals who are blind to be successful in employment.
- Much discussion focused on the Blind Enterprise Program (Randolph-Shepherd Act) that provides entrepreneur opportunities for individuals who are blind. A couple of key areas of focus: new markets and opportunities for services, as well as new technology for vendors.
We’ll continue the momentum at our GetAwareLive conference this summer, with a program agenda that will build off last week’s discussions.