Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Dr. Michelle Hernandez

My name is Dr. Michelle Hernandez, I am currently the only Latinx Clinical Psychologist who specializes in disability and who is also disabled herself. This unique perspective allows me to incorporate my extensive educational training with my vast amount of personal experiences when it comes to inclusion, disability, and the intersectionality therein. I am located in the San Francisco bay area, more specifically Concord, California.

This conference would not have been possible for me to attend without the support of WID and JPMorgan Chase. Kat, Jessica, and Tom did an exemplary job of solidifying travel arrangements and keeping the ambassadors well informed on what to expect before each day of the conference. The public transportation was accessible and easy to maneuver. The Metro was clean and the agents were helpful. The wheelchair taxis were prompt and the drivers were kind, courteous, and knowledgeable. The venue itself was open and easy to get around in for a wheelchair user. The breakout sessions varied in size due to the amount of people in attendance. The staff made sure that I sat/parked where I wanted to be, even if it meant that furniture needed to be moved.

Disability is critically important when it comes to public policy because it is one of the least represented marginalized minority groups in the United States today. Even on an international level, Latinas with disabilities are not given an opportunity to voice their concerns and make appropriate changes within the legislative process. Disability is an “equal opportunity employer”, meaning it can affect each and every one of us throughout our lifetimes. This being said, who better to serve and protect the Latinx community than those who have and are living with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities? Laws need to be written, passed, and advocated for so that services such as healthcare, housing, and preventive medicine can increase individuals’ quality of life and consequently, their overall well-being.

It is with great enthusiasm that I share with you more good news. While I was in a break out session for Latinos in the Media, I talked with a person named DMA who advised me of a few things. She instructed me to get in contact with an organization called, ‘RespectAbility.’ Upon returning from the conference, I looked them up and applied for one of their fellowships. Less than 4 hours after I submitted my information they called me, asking me if I would be able to relocate to DC for 9 weeks and participate in their training curriculum. I am confident that this wouldn’t have happened without WID choosing me as an Ambassador and paying for me to attend CHCI.

The Conference Accessibility Initiative by JPMorgan Chase and WID makes a huge difference for people with disabilities by simply including them as a viable resource. In a world that stigmatizes disability in a negative, pathological, and infantilizing manner, JPMorgan Chase and WID have changed the paradigm. Now, disability will be seen and individuals will be given opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. For example, I was also encouraged to apply to be a Fulbright Scholar, where they shared with me that other disabled individuals had done so and appropriate accommodations had been made. This was truly a life changing experience for me and the first time I was seen as a person first instead of, ‘the girl in the wheelchair.’

With my deepest gratitude I genuinely thank you!
Dr. Michelle Hernandez

Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Sharon Hoffmeyer Dykes

By Sharon Hofmeyer Dykes

My name is Sharon Hoffmeyer Dykes and I live in Jacksonville, Florida. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Florida Housing Coalition Affordable Housing Conference in Orlando, Florida. I have been unable to attend many important conferences because of my disability, which makes traveling expensive. Due to the support from WID and the JP Morgan Chase Conference Accessibility Initiative, I was able to attend this conference by renting a wheelchair accessible van. The WID staff made sure that the room was accessible for my needs. This allowed me the opportunity to focus on the conference and what we would be able to bring back to our community.

A white woman in a powerchair faces the camera
Disability Ambassador Sharon Hoffmeyer Dykes outside of the conference.

Often people with disabilities are not included when it comes to creating affordable, accessible housing. The developers tend to forget about people with disabilities. Being at the table gave developers and other stakeholders the opportunity to hear directly from people with disabilities and what we would like to see when it comes to developing affordable housing. One of the points we emphasized was universal design. We would like to see developers create accessibility features in every unit instead of just a handful of units. An example of this would be a roll-in shower in at least one of the bathrooms in each unit. We have also been able to show that all people with disabilities deserve affordable, accessible housing. We often find that units are being built to house only one specific type of disability, but we would like the housing market and developers to include units that work for all disabilities. We would not have been able to engage in these type of conversations if we were not present at the table.


 

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 Florida Housing Coalition’s Affordable Housing Conference 2019, follow either link below:

Anida Pollo’s Affordable Housing Conference blog

Natalie Alden’s Affordable Housing Conference blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Natalie Alden

By Natalie Alden

My name is Natalie Alden and I am the Representative Payee Program Operations Coordinator at Disability Rights Florida. We have main offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Hollywood and Gainesville, Florida, but I telecommute from Jacksonville.

Disability is very important when it comes to affordable housing as approximately 20% of Americans have some type of disability. Many of these individuals are low income and are on fixed incomes, such as SSI, SSDI, retirement, etc. This coupled with the fact that many individuals with disabilities require larger doorways and roll-in showers/grab bars/shower chairs, makes it even harder for them to find affordable housing. It is understood that there are tax credits that help create more accessible units in new affordable housing projects. However, there is minimum awareness of creating projects with universal access to ensure that most (if not all) of the units have basic accessibility needs for individuals with disabilities. This would be ensuring that basic accessibility options are put in place during construction, including doorways that are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs both into the unit and into at least one bedroom and one bathroom, bathrooms that have grab bars and roll-in showers. Creating accessible units is more cost-effective during the construction phase than the cost of making accommodations after the project is complete. There are also issues with enforcement of projects having people with disabilities in their accessible units to keep their tax credit.

A white woman in a powerchair holds a handheld microphone. Audience members turn towards her to hear her question.
Disability Ambassador Natalie Alden asking a question during a Q&A portion of the event.

This conference benefited me both personally and professionally as I was able to educate others and obtain vital information by asking questions in the sessions about disability issues, networking with other conference goers, and speaking to the different vendors on how they can help with creating more safe, accessible, and affordable housing. Being able to have a personal care attendant, documents in accessible format, and an accessible hotel room in with a roll in shower made it possible for me to attend this conference.

I truly believe that the Conference Accessibility Initiative by J.P. Morgan Chase and WID makes a huge difference for people with disabilities by not only creating awareness on how simple accommodations can help with the inclusiveness of people with disabilities into all facets of life but, helps promote self-determination for individuals with disabilities. It is important for people with disabilities to be a part of the decision-making process on issues that affect their lives. It is this inclusion that can help equal the playing field and allow people with disabilities to prosper.


 

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 Florida Housing Coalition’s Affordable Housing Conference 2019, follow either link below:

Anida Pollo’s Affordable Housing Conference blog

Sharon Hoffmeyer Dykes’ Affordable Housing Conference blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Anida Pollo

By Anida Pollo

My name is Anida Pollo and I am a part of the Mayor’s Disability Council in Jacksonville, Florida. I have been on the council a little less than a year now, and the Florida Housing Coalition Affordable Housing Conference was the first conference that I have ever attended as a council member. For my accommodations, I needed to have a wheelchair accessible hotel room with a shower chair, and I also brought my sister as my personal care assistant due to some recent health issues.

4 people in front of city skyline. 2 people are in wheelchairs (one manual, one electric) and two people are standing.
Disability Ambassadors Natalie Alden (left) and Anida Pollo (right) smiling in front of a beautiful Florida sunset, their personal care attendants behind them.

As it was my first conference, I learned a lot about affordable housing and was also shocked at how many different resources there are out there. In terms of disability, affordable housing is crucial to the quality of life of any person that is disabled. One thing I noticed was that many people lacked the understanding of how critical it was for their developments to be accessible for everyone. While they did have a certain percentage of their apartments labeled as “accessible”, it is still very difficult for someone with an impairment to find housing. This is why I believe the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JP Morgan Chase and WID is an asset in making a difference for the disabled community. It allows people to be exposed to different environments and gives them the chance to grow and advocate for themselves. Our presence also helped others learn how to help break down barriers and make areas more accessible for everyone. On a personal note, I had an amazing time! I felt very honored to have had the privilege to attend the conference representing WID and the disability community. It was a new experience for me and it helped me learn the importance of being an advocate, as well as information to help with affordable housing in Jacksonville. It was also awesome having the conference be in a different city as I am someone who loves to travel. Finally, none of this would have been nearly as enjoyable without the amazing company of Tom and John from the WID team. They are some of the most kindhearted people I know and spending time with them throughout the conference is something I will forever cherish. Thank you WID for this incredible opportunity! I definitely look forward to doing it again!


 

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 Florida Housing Coalition’s Affordable Housing Conference 2019, follow either link below:

Sharon Hoffmeyer Dykes’ Affordable Housing Conference blog

Natalie Alden’s Affordable Housing Conference blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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New “Make It Work” Employment Empowerment Video Series

The World Institute of Disability is excited to round out the last quarter of 2019 with the premiere of our “Make It Work” Employment Empowerment video series! The videos each introduce a different chapter of the “Make It Work” content, as part of the Employment Empowerment section of our WID E3 initiative. Each animated video is captioned and audio described for accessibility.

WID’s evidence-based skills development curriculum – first created at the University of California, Berkeley and replicated at other colleges and for other youth with disabilities – is a package of instructional topics on fundamental skills development in both employment ambition and workplace competitive skills that addresses the negativity people with disabilities have encountered around building their employment expectations and ambitions.

In celebration of October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2019 (NDEAM), WID released a new video each Wednesday of October and November.

The videos can be viewed on this page, or on our Facebook and YouTube pages. Each video has open audio descriptions, closed captioning, and transcripts available as Word and PDF files.

WID Facebook page

WID Youtube Page

Make It Work: Introduction

Are you ready to Make It Work? Join our Worker Bee for a series of videos & accompanying lesson plans addressing some of the difficulties of employment for people with disabilities, and strategies for success! Our first video is an introduction to the current state of employment rates for people with disabilities, and how Make It Work helps prepare people with disabilities for competitive employment.

Make It Work Introduction Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Introduction Transcript (Word doc)

Make It Work: Chapter 1 – “The Disability Factor”

Chapter 1 addresses stereotypes about people with disabilities at work, & how to communicate about your disability.

Make It Work Chapter 1 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 1 Transcript (Word doc)

Make It Work: Chapter 2 – “Workplace Presence: Marketing Yourself”

Chapter 2 addresses the qualities that employers look for when hiring a new employee, and how to show that you have the personality for the job.

Make It Work Chapter 2 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 2 Transcript (Word doc)

Make It Work: Chapter 3 – “Workplace Practices: Rules of the Road”

Chapter 3 addresses how to navigate the workplace and avoid common workplace pitfalls.

Make It Work Chapter 3 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 3 Transcript (Word doc)

Make It Work: Chapter 4 – “Job Specific Skills”

Chapter 4 addresses how to communicate your skills to your employer.

Make It Work Chapter 4 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 4 Transcript (Word doc)

Make It Work: Chapter 5 – “Workplace Patterns: Individual & Group Differences”

Chapter 5 discusses the types of diversity that individuals bring to the workplace.

Make It Work Chapter 5 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 5 Transcript (Word doc)

Make it Work: Chapter 6 – “Workplace Job Searching Skills: Finding & Winning the Job”

Chapter 6 discusses the skills involved in finding and landing a job.

Make It Work Chapter 6 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 6 Transcript (Word doc)

Make it Work: Chapter 7 – “Workplace Pathways”

Chapter 7 discusses the agencies that can help you with your employment search.

Make It Work Chapter 7 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 7 Transcript (Word doc)

Make it Work: Chapter 8 – “Workplace Planning”

Chapter 8 explains how the career planning process can help you reach your employment goals.

Make It Work Chapter 8 Transcript (PDF)

Make It Work Chapter 8 Transcript (Word doc)

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WID Signs on to Amicus Brief in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org

The World Institute on Disability has signed on to a “friend of the court” brief with the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic (TLPC) at Colorado Law’s Clinical Legal Education Program and a group of disability organizations in a case going to the US Supreme Court, protecting the right to publish accessible versions of state laws when states refuse to do so.
Below is the press release from TLPC, also available as a PDF here:
TLPC Brief Amici Curiae Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org
On October 16, 2019, the TLPC filed a brief of amici curiae in the matter of Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States involving the copyrightability of annotations to state law. The TLPC filed the brief of amici curiae on behalf of print disability advocate organizations American Association of the Deaf-BlindAmerican Council of the BlindBurton Blatt InstituteDisability Rights AdvocatesNational Federation of the BlindWorld Institute on Disability, and individual print researcher and advocate Sina Bahram. The brief addresses concerns about Georgia’s failure to provide its laws to those with print disabilities in accessible forms as required by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As part of its wider project to promote free and open access to the law, Public.Resource.Org has undertaken to make the law accessible to those with print disabilities. The brief also raises concerns about Georgia’s use of copyright law to quash efforts to provide the accessible information which Georgia has itself failed to provide and underscored that making works accessible to those with disabilities is an uncontroversially non-infringing fair use.
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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

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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Conference Access Blogs: Brenda Muhammad

by Brenda Muhammad

Greetings. I’m Brenda Billins Muhammad, the Executive Director of Focusing Our Resources for Community Enlightenment (FORCE), which is a small nonprofit organization in Syracuse, NY. At FORCE, we are all volunteers and have no paid staff.   We donate our time with the hopes of improving our community, with programming such as Disaster Preparedness workshops, First Aid and CPR training/demos, SafeSitter babysitter training, Community Conversations, and by partnering with other organizations to address community needs.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a 2019 NeighborWorks Disability Ambassador for the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JPMorgan Chase and the World Institute on Disability (WID). With the generous support of JPMorgan Chase and WID, I was able to attend the NeighborWorks Training Institute (NTI) in New Orleans, Louisiana. With an operating budget under $5,000.00 annually, I would not have been able to attend NTI without them. The accessibility initiative removed financial barriers by providing me with conference registration, lodging, and travel. I struggle with mobility issues, and their rental mobility scooter allowed me to navigate between the two hotels.  The scooter was available to me from the moment I checked in until the moment that I checked out. The Conference Accessibility Initiative also provides sign language interpreters, closed captioning, screen readers, mobility devices, and other assistance to help people with disabilities have access at conferences.

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.

I attended two classes during the NeighborWorks Training Institute: (1) HO200 Ready, Set, Prep: Tackling the HUD Counselor Exam Step by Step; and (2) HO210 Practice, Study, Success: Test Strategies for HUD’s Counselor Certification Exam. Over the course of the week, I was able to learn about the six counseling areas that comprise the exam: Financial Management, Housing Affordability, Fair Housing, Homeownership, Avoiding Foreclosure, and Tenancy. The classes will be beneficial to me both personally and professionally.

Syracuse, NY has been rated with one of the highest poverty rates in the country. It is suffering with a housing crisis that includes problems with accessibility, affordability, gentrification, and poor housing stock. The city is preparing to dismantle Interstate 81, an aging highway viaduct, which will require 4,000 public housing residents to relocate. Finding affordable replacement housing for these residents will be difficult, much like finding a needle within a haystack. It will be even harder to find accessible housing for a person with a disability, who not only faces physical barriers such as the presence of steps and narrow doorways, but they may also face biases and discrimination from landlords.

I would like FORCE to be able to play an active role in meeting the impending need for housing counseling services that will descend upon the City of Syracuse. By attending the classes, I feel confident that I should take the HUD Counselor Certification Exam and make strides to align our nonprofit with a HUD Certified agency to help serve our community in any way possible.


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
Richard Rueda’s NeighborWorks blog

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

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Melissa Mitchell

NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019

by Melissa Mitchell

I was pleased to be invited back to the NeighborWorks National Training Institute (NTI) this year as a part of the Disability Ambassador program with the World Institute on Disability (WID). My name is Melissa Mitchell, and I work as a service dog trainer in Washington state.

I chose to apply to be an ambassador for WID at NeighborWorks after my experience moving to take my current position. I began looking for housing three months before I was supposed to move, so I was sure I would find something that would be accessible to me as a full-time power wheelchair user. As my move date approached and I still did not have housing, I held out hope that of course something had to become available. After all, my accessibility needs are fairly simple: a reasonably open floor plan with doorways and hallways wide enough for my wheelchair to fit through, along with the addition of simple safety bars in the bathroom. Little did I realize, as I shared with one of my NeighborWorks lunch companions, that less than 1% of all available rental housing meets even these minimal accessibility needs.

A white woman using a power wheelchair smiles with her mobility service dog, a Golden Retriever
Disability Ambassador Melissa visits the WID Disability Concierge Desk with her service dog, Tanner.

I ended up living in a hotel for a month while starting my new job and placed my things in storage. I finally thought I had found a place that met these very minimal accessibility needs –  a first-floor apartment, with no more than two steps to entry as per my directions. I called the movers and arranged to have my stuff delivered along with myself – only to be surprised on arrival with 5 very steep stairs to the front door, and no other options for entering or exiting the apartment. I did my best to try to make it work for about two weeks, my friends coming over to help me in and out while I tried to work with the landlord to get an appropriate ramp. Long story short, I ended up moving out of that apartment and moving in with friends for a little over two months, while I continued my search for an appropriate and safe place to live.

My story illustrates the need in affordable housing to plan for not only fully ADA accessible units, but for a minimum level of visit-ability, featuring entries and hallways usable by people using mobility equipment, such as myself. By doing this, we can not only increase the availability of accessible housing, but also increase the accessibility of housing for people as they age, whether they are currently experiencing disability or not. It would also create the ability for people with disabilities to visit with their friends and family in their homes, rather than always having to have people go to the home of the person with a disability.

NeighborWorks and the World Institute on Disability made possible my participation in this training by providing me with accessible accommodations at the hotel. For me, that included a wheelchair-accessible hotel with an ADA-accessible hotel room, complete with roll-in shower and automatic doors. They also helped me arrange accessible transportation options to and from the hotel, and WID staff were educated on providing assistance in a respectful and efficient manner.

Attending the NeighborWorks training offered me the opportunity to take classes in nonprofit communications, donor relations, and the functional use of social media in these domains. I will take the knowledge that I learned at NTI and share it with others within my organization to improve our communications overall, with particular focus on bringing our communications up-to-date through the use of social media. I learned that this helps our donors feel like the vital part of our organization that they indeed are. NeighborWorks’ partnership with the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JP Morgan Chase and the World Institute on Disability ensures that the perspectives of the disability community were represented in body, mind, and voice, allowing for a real-time sharing of knowledge and resources that will benefit all programs, projects, and neighborhoods represented at NTI. Thanks to the focus on accessibility and the purposeful inclusion of people with disabilities, I was able to access knowledge and experiences that I would not typically have access to. I was able to share my knowledge and resources as it relates to disability resources and programs that may have complimentary missions and purposes to those of NeighborWorks programs. This allows all of the programs to better fulfill their missions and include all members of their community.


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:

Brenda Muhammad’s NeighborWorks blog
Richard Rueda’s NeighborWorks blog

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

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Conference Access Blogs: Danielle Anderson

Financial Health Network EMERGE 2019 – “The Aging & Disability Connection at Emerge”

by Danielle Anderson

My name is Dani Anderson, I am the Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC), serving Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, and I live in Camarillo, California. This was my first time attending a conference about financial health/empowerment. The location was beautiful! I use a power wheelchair, so as far as accommodations; I requested an accessible room with a roll in shower. The room was set up perfectly, and the grounds were impressively accessible. In the conference area, there were always staff and friendly attendees available to assist me with
doors and most importantly, getting coffee!

This year’s conference had a track about financial health/empowerment focused on the Aging population. I found this to be very beneficial to the attendees. I work regularly on programs aimed at bridging the gaps between the Aging and Disability communities; many of the services and struggles are the same. My understanding is that Aging was a new focus for the conference this year. In conversations I had, there was a positive response to emphasizing Disability in the same way next year. It is important to keep Disability relevant in these financial health/empowerment conversations in order to embark on new and fresh ideas for our Disability community, which consists of a majority of individuals falling into the Low Moderate Income (LMI) category. Those in this category are commonly not there by choice, and financial programs focused on Disability can have a huge impact on increasing the integration of people with disabilities in important components of life.

4 people and a service dog pose in front of WID table
WID staff Tom and Jessica with two Disability Ambassadors, Danielle and Harry at the Disability Concierge Desk.

For me, the networking and relationship building at the conference benefited most, I think our presence was powerful for the other attendees. My colleague and I were the only two wheelchair users there, and I think that encouraged other attendees to strike up conversations with us and listen to our new perspectives. With continued disability involvement year round, I believe the Conference Accessibility Initiative can assist in big changes, benefiting the largest minority group in the United States by helping us feel cared about and equal in the financial sector.


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 Emerge 2019, follow either link below:

Harry Hebeler’s Emerge blog
Christina Mills’ Emerge blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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