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From the Editor
What does a job offer? A paycheck, a chance to use our talents and skills, social interaction, and so much more. People with disabilities and people from excluded or underserved communities often struggle to find jobs as compared to the rest of the population. In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are devoting this issue of Bridges to Employment.

We hope the tips and resources in this issue will help you or your loved one with a disability find or keep a job.

Best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
The theme for NDEAM 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDEAM is held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.
Planning for Employment after School
Employment goals on the Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Your child’s IEP includes a section for postsecondary goals, including employment.
The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires transition services on the IEP (Individualized Education Program) to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually. The IEP’s Transition Services must include:

  • Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
  • The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.
For more information, please see NYS Ed Special Education
Developing Your Job Skills
Top Skills to Learn
Also known as interpersonal skills, soft skills define how you work. Here are some of the most valuable soft job skills that employers are looking for.

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Problem solving
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Hard skills are the expertise and knowledge you need to do your job to the best of your ability. A few examples of hard job skills include accounting, carpentry, engineering, and photography.

Hard job skills can be taught step-by-step through a variety of means. These include:

  • Volunteering
  • Job shadowing
  • College
  • Trade school
  • Training programs
  • Apprenticeships
  • Certification programs
  • On-the-job training

Self-Advocacy in the Workplace
Requesting Job Accommodations
Self-advocacy is knowing what you want, what you do well, and what you have difficulty doing. It includes knowing your legal rights, your needs, and telling that information to the appropriate person.

Be productive! Bosses and co-workers are more likely to agree to accommodation requests from people who are considered productive workers. Do your personal best at all times.

Market your work to your bosses and co-workers. Each organization has its own signals that show you are a hard worker. Common expectations include wearing clean, well-fitted clothes; arriving at work on time; keeping connected to the office through e-mail if you are working at home; and keeping conversations with co-workers related to the job, and keeping your supervisors posted.

Be helpful. When you are asked to do something, see it as an opportunity to serve. The more people feel supported by you, the more likely they are to give you the support you need when you ask.

Know your legal rights as a person with a disability. Study the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Knowing that the law is on your side will give you tremendous confidence.

Study yourself doing your job, and consider: Your work space, how you communicate with others, and your job tasks

Research accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has qualified people to help you find the best accommodation solutions. Call them at 1-800-526-7234 and be ready with a clear definition of your problem.

Make your request. If you choose to tell your supervisor that you have a disability, or “disclose” it, then have a clear description of your disability, the accommodations needed, and the modifications needed in the work environment to ensure that you successfully perform your job. If you do not choose to disclose your disability, “productivity” and “quality improvement” are good reasons for the employer to meet your disability-related needs. Explain what you want in positive terms. Follow up with a brief written request.

Right Talent, Right Now
"America's Recovery: Powered by Inclusion" symposium
Keynote speaker Ketrina “Trina” Hazell, Ms. Wheelchair NY 2018, kicked off the symposium on Oct. 7 with her “Dream Big: On a Path to Breaking Barriers” theme.

Trina described how, at the moment of her Cerebral Palsy diagnosis at 9 months old, expectations were low for her. For example, as a senior in high school, the only option offered to her was a day program. But through the support of her parents and her own determination, she went on to graduate from college. In college, she learned that “nothing is given to you; you had to ask for it.” Trina had to be a “fierce advocate” for herself, asking time and time again for her accommodations. She has accomplished more than anyone expected.

Among her other accomplishments, Trina graduated from Partners in Policymaking in 2014. She is the founder of her own advocacy group, Voices of Power, and now Disability Champion Mentoring Network. Affiliated with many disability-related organizations, she serves on many related councils. In January 2020, Trina began working for the Regional Center for Workforce Transformation as the self-advocacy lead for Region 4 in New York City. In January 2021, she became a certified life coach through a program called We Live Without Limits.

Here are a few quotes from Trina’s keynote address:

"Success doesn’t look the same for everyone."

"Following your heart’s desire is so important."

"People with disabilities can change the world."
Starbridge Employment Services
Supported Employment
Employment Counselors help individuals to find and maintain employment through job search resources, guidance on resume development and interviewing, job coaching, and assistance with implementing workplace modifications.

Community Pre-Vocational
This program is 100% community-based; offers opportunities for people to develop transferrable skills as well as focusing on individualized interests in job-related areas to prepare for competitive employment.

Starbridge Internship Program
Youth and young adults gain 160 hours of paid work experience in careers that interest them.

How do you get started?
For individuals seeking job placement or job supports, please start by contacting your local ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation) office or attending an orientation session at ACCES-VR. The schedule for orientation sessions for the Rochester District Office is available here 
ACCES-VR staff may be able to refer you to Starbridge for Employment Supports. 

Starbridge also offers Employment programs funded through OPWDD. Please see Additional Resources below.

To learn more about Starbridge Employment Services, please contact Ursula Nicholson, Director of Employment Services, at 585-224-7342 or email [email protected]
Employment Equity Coalition
The Employment Equity Coalition is a collaborative initiative comprised of more than 30 Rochester-area organizations, experts, and partners dedicated to increasing equitable workforce opportunities, decreasing poverty, and removing barriers for people with disabilities in Monroe County. ​Starbridge is part of the coalition.

We believe that through education, collaboration, and advocacy, we can create a community where people with any disability have equal opportunities to secure employment.​ To learn more, please contact Christina Eisenberg, Director of Employment Equity, at 585-224-7227 or [email protected]
Additional resources