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2007 Bridges to Employment

Proyecto Visión hosted the Bridges to Employment Conference from 2002 through 2007. Here you will find reports on the information shared at each conference.

Bridges to Employment: Proyecto Visión Hosts National Forum on Employment Issues & Latinos with Disabilities in Miami
More than 150 human resource professionals, recruiters, occupational experts, entrepreneurs, diversity managers, disability service providers, and disabled Latino jobseekers and their family members from around the country came together June 13-15 in Miami, Florida, for the Bridges to Employment conference, an annual event focused on increasing employment opportunities for Latinos with disabilities in the United States.

Building Bridges between Latinos, Business, and the Disability Community
Keynote speaker Katherine McCary, Vice President, SunTrust Bank, reflected upon the fact that cultural beliefs prevent people from asking for necessary services that could assist them in being independent, such as access to proper healthcare and education. SunTrust has seen a growth in its clientele when individuals with disabilities were being employed.

Best Practices
For people with a disability, finding employment is difficult but not impossible, said two service providers for the disabled during the Bridges to Employment Conference in Miami, Florida.

Strengthening Your Organization’s Diversity Initiative: Recruiting, Retaining and Promoting People with Disabilities from Diverse Backgrounds
This workshop aimed to educate employers on interacting with individuals having disabilities from diverse backgrounds. All panelists agreed there is a great need to employ more disabled individuals, educate the community on their needs and reach out to students.

Youth Forum: Transition to Work
Presenters made remarkable contributions in discussing the importance of mentoring and voicing out one’s needs when preparing for the working world. Kara Sheridon, Strategic Planner, National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN), suggested that one needs to know the 411 on disability disclosure, which is to inform one about benefits and consequences of disclosing a disability.

Latinos with Disabilities and the Media
We all know that Media is a main tool in creating an impression in society. Projecting a certain image is a prevalent aspect of our lives. We put in so much of effort to “look good” that we undermine anything that deviates from the norm. Panel discussion was on the relationship between disabilities and the media in the Latino world, which even could be applied to a diverse population.

Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylees
The panelists in this presentation focused on the issues facing immigrants, refugees and asylees. Members of these groups are considered minorities; they are often marginalized and neglected in society, and are under constant pressure just to survive. Individuals are often exploited as they attempt to support themselves and their families.

Closing Plenary Session
The conference was an opportunity to connect individuals with disabilities to services needed in assisting them financially, academically, and professionally. There was never a time when people who represented several service organizations had hesitated to offer information to assist people. Living up to its theme of “Bridges to Employment”, there were many opportunities available for job seekers to be connected to potential employers. Main focus of all discussions at the workshops was the importance of mentoring and culture in shaping and guiding the disabled individual.

From Work to Opportunity
When I heard that Proyecto Vision has hired reporters with disabilities, I was ecstatic and hoped to be chosen to cover the conference on “Bridges to Employment for Latinos with Disabilities.” It was a pleasant surprise to know that I got the job. On the first day, I “rolled” into the doors of the Radisson Hotel in Miami, little realizing that I was soon to have some of the greatest experiences of my life.

Assistive Technology In The Workplace
The latest innovations in assistive technology have contributed enormously to improving the quality of life for people with hearing and visual disabilities and helped facilitate their integration into the labor force. Peggy Martínez, owner of Eureka Assistive Technologies, Matt Myrick, AT&T channel manager for relay services, and Colin Petheram, director of regulatory and constituency relations for AT&T came together at the Bridges to Employment conference to discuss the uses of assistive technology.

Creating A Disability-Friendly Workplace
Many U.S. employers know that people with disabilities are highly competitive and can contribute to the success of their business. However, when hiring a person with a disability, they must think of not only the physical accommodations required by law, but also how to improve the working environment in order to get the best output from all employees.

New Research on Latinos with Disabilities and Employment
Researchers Eleanor Gil Kashiwabara and Celestine Willis presented the results of their study on barriers, strategies, and choices for minorities with disabilities transitioning to life after high school.

Success Stories
During the sixth annual Bridges to Employment Conference, a group of Latinos dealing with disabilities came together to share their personal stories of struggle and success as they transitioned form school to the world of employment. A recurrent theme was the resilience of the participants, who strive to live a full life in spite of the difficulties that come with being a minority and living with a disability.

Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Programs
The Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Program came into effect in 2000. It is designed for people with disabilities who are interested in going to work, without losing their health care benefits. Under the Ticket Program, the SSA provides disability beneficiaries with a Ticket, which may be used to obtain the services and jobs they need from a number of organizations called Employment Networks (ENs), Jill Houghton, executive director of the TWWIAP said.

Financial Literacy, Planning, and Asset-Building Strategies
Three prominent financial experts—Theresa Lucotti-Bildik, a senior tax specialist with the Internal Revenue Service’s Disability Initiative; Victoria Funes, Associate State Director of AARP of South Florida; and Rachel Hynes, a loan officer with ACCION USA—led a workshop on asset building at the Bridges to Employment conference in Miami. The workshop focused on how Latinos with disabilities and their families can access available financial services and develop a stable credit history—something that is a challenge for this segment of the population, but is key in establishing sound financial health.

Resources for Returning Soldiers
It is impossible to ignore the fact that the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left deep wounds in American society. It can be seen in the soldiers who come back from combat—people who have gone through stressful experiences beyond our imagination. Those who return with injuries must face a totally different reality than what they knew before they left for war. Many suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome, others cannot see, hear, or walk. They need to learn new skills that allow them to integrate and participate in society.

Presenters discuss what this conference means to them and their work
Proyecto Vision’s three reporters (Maria Guma-Diaz, Shanti Nair and Erika Villafane) conducted a series of interviews at the Bridges to Employment Conference. Each presenter interviewed was asked the 3 questions:

  1. What is the value of this conference to you and your work?
  2. What have you learned during the conference?
  3. What, if anything, will you do differently as a result of your participation in this meeting?