National Disability Mentoring Day coming October 16

Focus on employment opportunities during the month of October

University of Hawaiʻi
Diane Hino, 808-956-3648
National Technical Assistance Center
Lucy Wong-Hernandez, 808-956-5344
National Technical Assistance Center
Posted: Sep 24, 2002

Census data tell us that more than 230,000 of 54 million Americans with disabilities live in Hawaiʻi — approximately 19 percent of the state‘s population — yet fewer than one-third of those who can work actually are employed.

An opportunity to help change that is approaching under a program organized through the UH Center on Disability Studies which is urging communities to participate in National Disability Mentoring Day to be observed nationwide October 16, 2002. Mentoring Day aims to promote career exploration and expand employment opportunities for students and job seekers with disabilities through one-on-one job shadowing and group visits to public and private employers.

"We‘re looking for positive and rewarding connections between students and others with disabilities," said Diane Hino, (title) with the UH Center. "We have found that this kind of hands-on career exploration can have a life-changing impact on someone‘s employment future.

"We are encouraging participation by parents, students, teachers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, employers, service organizations and anyone who has an interest in employment issues affecting persons with disabilities who are willing and able to work," Hino added.

National Disability Mentoring Day is one of several programs scheduled during October 2002 — designated by President George W. Bush as National Disability Employment Awareness Month with the theme "New Freedom for the 21st Century." The initiative aims to maximize programs of education, socio-economic development and equal participation in society for persons with disabilities.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the U.S. Department of Labor are involved in nationwide efforts to coordinate the day‘s activities as well as the year-round effort to connect employers with the disabled. The federally funded National Technical Assistance Center (NTAC), based at the UH Center, is spearheading publicity for the Mentoring Day program. NTAC‘s main mission is to increase employment opportunities for disabled Asian Americans and Pacific islanders, but has broadened its scope to heighten awareness of the issue for everyone.

"These programs really work," Hino said. "Many of the connections made during the mentoring day activities have resulted in real-life career opportunities."

Here are ways families, employers and job seekers can participate:
- Parents of disabled young people can take them to the workplace for job-shadowing, or contact friends or acquaintances that could do so.
- Students and job seekers with disabilities can initiate contacts with employers in the community for job-shadowing experiences.
- Employers are encouraged to offer job-shadowing or internship experiences.
- Disabled people who are employed can serve as mentors for other potential employees.

Those wishing to participate in the October 16 National Disability Mentoring Day or other activities during National Disability Employment Awareness month may receive further information and how-to assistance by calling the National Technical Assistance Center network coordinators — Lucy Wong-Hernandez at 956-5344 or Diane Hino at 956-3648.