Persons with disabilities continue to struggle for self determination and inclusion especially when it comes to finding a job, but signs of progress and rays of hope light the way. That was the theme of last month’s AbilityLinks Consortium Employment Expo where over 300 job seekers with disabilities, employers and vocational rehabilitation professionals met in
Over 300 Persons attended the 2008 AbilityLinks Expo
“Successful rehabilitation therapy is a time consuming and challenging process but well worth the effort especially when the individuals that finish rehabilitation have the opportunity to live a life of their own choosing. AbilityLinks was created to make that possibility a reality,” said Kathleen Yosko, President and CEO of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital and Co Chair of the AbilityLinks Consortium, a role she shares with Tim Moen, Executive Vice President of Northern Trust Bank. “Today is an example of how coming together as a consortium can accomplish what no single individual, company, non profit or government agency can effectively do alone, shine a light on persons with disabilities that successfully go to work everyday and increase employment opportunities for others like them that are looking for work” Ms. Yosko went on to say.
A Day of Education and Awareness
The 2008 AbilityLinks Expo featured a full day of educational programming including sessions on successful interviewing, disability awareness, starting your own business, employment law, disability research and fast growing occupations where jobs are being created, but the highlight was a key note address by Randy Lewis, the father of a child with Autism and a top Walgreen Co. executive. Mr. Lewis spoke about the hope he has for his son and others like him, that they have the opportunity to do many of the things that most of us take for granted, like working or driving a car.
As the parent of a disabled child he has experienced first hand how the world can be less than kind and encouraging to a person with a developmental disability like Autism. Mr. Lewis spoke of a steady stream of meetings with educators and medical personnel to plan his son’s education and discuss his potential, meetings that all too often were short on hope and long on sobering descriptions of his son’s limitations.
Randy Lewis, Walgreens Co., Kathleen Yosko, Marianjoy
Walgreens Innovative Diversity Initiative
The title of Mr. Lewis’ remarks “When Hope and History Rhyme” is borrowed from an ancient poem which tells us that what we hope for and the opportunity to achieve it occurs together only once in a life time. It’s a message that inspired Mr. Lewis, a Senior Vice President of Logistics for Walgreens Co. to act by leading the company’s unique initiative to embrace disability as part of diversity. The results so far have been good.
Walgreens Co. recently opened a new high tech distribution center in
Hope and History Can Rhyme
To further demonstrate their commitment to diversity and share what they have learned, Mr. Lewis and Walgreens invite other companies, even competitors to visit
Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured. …
History says, don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
An excerpt from “The Philoctetes,” by Sophocles, translated by Seamus Heaney.
AbilityLinks Award Winners Honored
AbilityLinks annual award winners were also announced and honored at the Expo. The AbilityLinks Visionary Award was accepted by John Roth and Zrinka Allen of Wolters Kluwer Company,
Zrinka Allen, Wolters Kluwer
The AbilityLinks Advocacy in Action Award was accepted by Jennifer Irby of the Doubletree Guest Suites in
Kathleen Yosko, Marianjoy, Jennifer Irby, Doubletree Guest Suites, Ken Skord, AbilityLinks
The AbilityLinks Spirit Award winner was Yemisi Olubodun a recent Nigerian immigrant who is deaf and had to learn about American culture, Hearing culture and how to talk with American employers all at once so she could land a job and live an independent life in the
Expo Sponsors and Volunteers
“We are grateful to all of the individuals that are here today and especially thankful to the excellent group of presenters, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers from the AbilityLinks Consortium that worked so hard to make this event a great success,” said Kathleen Yosko.
The event was presented in partnership with the College of DuPage and business sponsors included Northern Trust Bank, Walgreens, RR Donnelley, ChicagoJobs.com, Kensington International, Advanced O & P Solutions, Ball, DoubleTree Guest Suites, Bowe Bell + Howell, Carnow, Conibear & Associates, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital and The Martin-Brower Company. AbilityLinks Consortium Members that volunteered their time to present the event included the Illinois Department of Human Services,
Busy Expo Volunteers
AbilityLinks is a consortium of leading businesses, government agencies and non profits that help employ persons with disabilities by sharing information about job opportunities and job candidates.
The centerpieces of the AbilityLinks Consortium is AbilityLinks.org, a newly designed, upgraded and award winning job opportunity website which provides a single point of contact for persons with disabilities, service providers and employers.
AbilityLinks offers top-level educational programming that empowers employers to embrace disability as diversity and teaches individuals effective job search strategies. Via live text chat and telephone, AbilityLinks Information Specialists support employers and job seekers that use AbilityLinks.org.
AbilityLinks is in partnership with CareerBuilder, disabilityworks at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Arbita Global Jobs Cross-Posting and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a program of