Blog – first posted on Carreer Access blog site in July 2014!
My parents made sure I was educated so that I could be employed. But we all know that no matter how much parents protect, energize and support us life happens. I am blessed to have lived through a career to have known the ups and downs of employment. In my dream career, which is what I do now, I am a Policy Analyst and advocate for disability rights. In that work there are three important issues and one can not exist without the other, they are education, housing and employment.
For the past four summers I have had the honor of being a mentor for young interns with disabilities in Washington, DC. The experience has been wonderful and taught me so much about being a youth with a disability (YWD). My most profane observation about these internship programs is that these YWD rarely obtain positions in DC at the end of the internship. I also learned that some YWD are not able to take the internship in DC because the services needed to live here will not transfer for the six weeks they need to be in DC. The number of YWD who are unemployed is beyond alarming and I have made a personal commitment to change this outcome.
In 1963 Same Cooke sang “A Change is gonna come” and in 1964 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. It was the beginning of a new era. It is the reason I am able to live the life I live each day. In 1990 President George H. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and again a new era began. Today’s YWD are affectionately called the ADA generation, yet in many ways the “barriers” of challenge known prior to the ADA, remain. One barrier is the arcane Social Security Insurance policies initiated in a time when the internet was not even created. How can the digital youth work with a program from the paper & pencil era? We must dismantle these horrible policy impediments and the time is now.
I learned the motto “Nothing about us, without us” early in my advocacy work and it is my guide. I believe in the initiative Career ACCESS because this value is intricate to the work. The YWD are going to make the change and we need them now more than ever. We need YWD to get the word out about the five benefits that this program offers:
• Eliminating the “incapacity to work test”
• An individualized career plan
• Life coaching
• Benefits planning and asset building
• Employment support services
We need YWD to tell the policy makers that now is the time to get involved and increase employment outcomes for this community. As Margaret Meade said “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
In my work I get to talk to congressional representatives and their staff, the Administration and the media. It is my goal to take the message of Career ACCESS to all of them and make sure they “hear” that YWD are demanding employment now.
I pledge to be a change maker, will you?
L. Dara Baldwin, MPA
Advocate for Disability Rights
NCIL – member & Co-Chair ADA/Civil Rights Subcommittee
Washington, DC – 2014
Follow on Twitter: @NJDC07
Read blogs: https://thewiyatt.wordpress.com & http://www.leadonnetwork.org/wordpress/2014/06/27/column-the-real-deal-on-the-hill-june-27-2014-by-dara-baldwin/