|Disability Mentoring Day Set for Week of Oct. 18-22
|September 23, 2010 -
The City of Knoxville and local businesses will stretch Disability Mentoring Day 2010 through the entire week of Oct. 18-22, this year as the annual effort to promote career development for students and job seekers with disabilities continues to grow.
"We're trying to exceed what we did last year," Stephanie Brewer Cook, the city's disability services coordinator, said earlier this month. "I would love to have a mentee working in every city department where we have interaction with the public. I would love to see someone with a disability taking that job for a day and seeing how we work with people."
Disability Mentoring Day, set for Wednesday, October 20, was established in 1999 as part of a White House effort to promote National Disability Awareness Month. It has grown from less than three dozen participants that first year to several thousand currently.
The goal is to pair an individual with a disability with a workplace mentor in a field they are interested in exploring. They spend a typical day together giving the mentee some insight into the job.
"We've had people interested in horticulture and people working with fleet services," Cook said. "We've had folks interested in crime analysis and data gathering at KPD…the public service and fleet services departments have been particularly helpful."
The city has participated in the program since 2003, starting with a single person, and has added to the program over time. Last year 15 people shadowed a city employee during Disability Mentoring Day.
The number of Knoxville area companies taking part in DMD is still relatively small and the Knoxville Area Employment Consortium (KAEC), with the
support of organizations like the Disability Resource Center, the Knoxville Chamber, the University of Tennessee and the City of Knoxville is encouraging more companies to take part in the effort.
The KAEC is made up of area disability service providers and it works to increase job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Cook said that people with disabilities are an important source of good employees and one that will grow in the future. She said that about one in five people have some sort of disability, though it may not be apparent and it just makes good business sense to hire people with disabilities and be accessible to customers with disabilities.
"Really accommodating someone is not that big of a deal and it rarely costs much money," she said. "The biggest hurdle is often just being open to it."
She said the program has helped the City of Knoxville and the people who take part in it. She said it gives participants real world experience and an opportunity to see how someone operates on a job they are interested in maybe pursuing.
But it also helps the city and its employees.
"It gives city employees an opportunity to work alongside people with disabilities and to learn that, hey, they're just people too," Cook said. "I think this is a win-win for everyone involved.
You can get more information about Disability Mentoring Day by contacting:
Tina Jones, at 865-594-6720, then dial ext. 1105 and at Jonest@utk.edu; Nicole Craig at the Disability Resource Center at 865-637-3666 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Ahnna Estes with the Knoxville Chamber at 246-2658 and at email@example.com
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