Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Human Resources Manager's Experience in Disability Mentoring Day

- By Susan Rademaker -

I was fairly new to my role in Human Resources when I first heard about Disability Mentoring Day. I attended the meetings for the Center for Accessible Living; Business Advisory Council and heard there was a need for hosts for the event. I asked some questions, sought approval from my Director and volunteered to host our very first Disability Mentoring Day. I worked hard on coordinating people, schedules and the agenda. I thought the event went well but later read some constructive feedback from one of our visitors. We’ve made changes over the years and I think we are now getting ready to host our 5th annual mentoring day. We are so excited!

Why do we host Disability Mentoring Day? Well, the first time, it was simply because I was asked to. Now, we do it for a lot of reasons but really the question is why wouldn’t we host mentoring day? Disability Mentoring Day takes place during Disability Awareness Month (October) for a reason. Hosting mentoring day helps raise awareness that people with a disability have abilities. There are employees going to work every day who have a disability. Some disabilities are obvious upon observation but many are not. People with a disability deserve independent living just as those without a disability. Mentoring Day can accomplish several things. It does raise awareness to focus on what a person’s abilities are versus what the disability is. It creates partnerships with organizations which can be a resource for qualified candidates to work within our organization. In recruitment, we are always seeking new resources for qualified candidates.

We also want to do what we can to increase the confidence of students or other job seekers who have a disability. It’s difficult enough, when graduating from high school to feel confident about abilities. This is especially true when job seeking. It’s time for the real world and that can be overwhelming to a person with or without a disability. If we can match students up with our employees in the area of the interests, allow them some hands on tasks and opportunities to ask questions; maybe we can build confidence. Maybe we can help that person decide if that is the right career path for them. Maybe we can open doors for them or point them in the direction of the right doors.

In hosting Disability Mentoring Day, we’ve built relationships and we’ve raised awareness within our own employees. We’ve gotten hugs, thank you cards and letters of gratitude. We enjoy opening our doors to assist the community in any way we can. We hope we make a difference for our visitors but our visitors definitely make a difference for us!

Susan Rademaker is the Human Resources Generalist at NPAS, a part of Parallon Business Solutions. 

If you're a job seeker looking for an opportunity to job shadow, visit

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CAL Has a New Look, Same Great Service

We have a new logo and a new website! This re-branding is an opportunity to refresh our discussion with the community about people who are living with disabilities and the language we use in talking about people who are living with disabilities. In many ways it is not a new vision, but a return to a lot of the traditional independent living philosophy ideas that were prevalent when the Center started. Our new tagline is “Disability Rights and Resource Center.”

Many of our materials are branded with the phrase, “Do you speak our language?” They highlight person-first language, emphasizing that words do matter. The power of labels can stigmatize, so we recognize the power of labels. Our language shapes our attitude.

By using people-first language, we're putting the person before the disability. In doing this, we hope to change how people see disabilities. We believe that disability is a natural part of life. It is not the impairment that prevents those living with disabilities from participating fully and equally in society. Rather, it is the fact that society has not taken into account the needs of persons living with a disability.

The logo reminds us of a rising sun or a lighthouse beacon. It is bright and optimistic, much like the future CAL envisions for the disability community.

Check out our new brand, logo and website at

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Story About How We Can All Make a Difference - Suicide Awareness Day, September 10th

The Story of Kyle (Authur Unknown)
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So I jogged over to him, and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before, but we talked all the way home, and I carried his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes.

We hung out all weekend, and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach — but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life.