Conference Access Blogs: Richard Rueda

NeighborWorks America National Training Institute 2019

by Richard Rueda

My name is Richard Rueda and I recently participated as a Disability Ambassador with the World Institute on Disability (WID), attending the NeighborWorks National Training Institute (NTI) New Orleans 2019 Conference. I have spent the past two decades working in the field of Vocational Counseling and nonprofit leadership, specifically within the blind and disabled community. My passion is working with blind and disabled Transition-age young adults, guiding them towards equitable advantages through seeking higher education, sustainable competitive employment, and all-around self-sufficiency. In 2016, my career led me to Society for the Blind locally in Sacramento, where I have worked in developing CareersPLUS, a career exploration program providing guidance and resources for the community.

I am honored to have been accepted to attend and participate in the NeighborWorks Training Institute.  In the six days spent among WID Disability Ambassadors and staff, and thousands of conference attendees from across the United States, opportunities were afforded to attend training sessions on leadership development, community development, and several other amazing offerings.

3 people smiling, left to right: a black woman sitting in a mobility scooter, a white man standing with his white cane, and a white genderqueer person standing.
Disability Ambassadors Brenda and Richard smile in front of the WID Disability Concierge Desk with WID staff member Moya.

A majority of the training courses in my track were held at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel and as a whole, the conference location was extremely accessible. From hotel access as a blind person, to getting around town was exceptionally easy. Specifically, in terms of the conference itself, course materials were issued in advance in electronic format and course instructors made sure that any PowerPoint and slide presentations were described in detail for those of us who cannot see the in-class presentation. In terms of event registration and offered networking sessions, NTI staff and fellow attendees assisted me in navigating through the registration line, meeting others, and finding refreshments while networking.

A majority of the week’s courses focused upon affordable housing and community development. As it turns out, having disability representation at the conference helps keep this topic at the forefront, and a topic of mainstream discussion. Where disability may be referenced as a passing thought or given a quick snapshot comment from instructors, Ambassadors such as myself can interject thoughtful perspective on disability as it pertains to a growing number of the population, as humans live longer than ever before. From participation in 2 NTI events in 2018 and 2019, I did notice from course instructors that they began to change the narrative from ‘handicapped” and “special needs” to “people/persons with disabilities”.

Attending the 2019 New Orleans NeighborWorks training provided me with the tools, advocacy, networking, and overall ongoing professional development needed to be an effective leader in my community. Meeting people from all walks of life, cultures, and communities also allows for growth and to understand the challenges and differences that our neighbors from across the country share and work through. A lot of our course work included small group breakout sessions, and I believe some of the best learning came from these sessions.

The World Institute on Disability and JPMorgan Chase should be proud of the end roads both are progressively contributing to the importance of conferences and to society as a whole. While there will always be necessary tweaks to make conferences and learning experiences better and more accessible, there is a lot to be proud of and thankful for. There are countless persons with disabilities old and young who are forever indebted to this selfless effort.

A big heartfelt thank you to JP Morgan Chase, NeighborWorks, the good friendly people of New Orleans, and naturally WID’s team and their tireless staff on the ground who made the experience all that more amazing.


Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019, follow either link below:

Melissa Mitchell’s NeighborWorks blog
Brenda Muhammad’s NeighborWorks blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, return to the Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 main page.

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