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Students with Disabilities Spend a Day in the Workplace

October 17, 2013
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, FL

Note: The online story includes a video (1:49 minutes) without captions. (Tiered subscription model.)

Students from [Tallahassee, Florida] area high schools are getting some time on the job this week as part of the annual Disability Mentoring Day events designed to acquaint them with career possibilities.

The activities began Wednesday and included the annual luncheon, held at Lincoln High School. More mentoring is taking place today and tomorrow at such locations as the Tallahassee Police Department, Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Westwood Animal Hospital and Advantage Dental Design Lab.

A program of Ability1st, Disability Mentoring Day is a job-shadowing opportunity that gives students with disabilities the chance to learn hands-on skills, observe different occupations, and get a better understanding of the workplace environment.

“We find when we match students with employers in the community, they learn that the student with a disability has a lot more abilities than disability,” said Carrie Milhous, assistant director at Ability1st. “They learn that they are very conscientious, very eager, very punctual and reliable.”

“It gives the employer a great experience of working with somebody with a disability, and it gives the student an exposure early on to a career they might not have known existed,” she said.

Charles Faircloth, a senior at Lincoln, spent the afternoon with Atul Kumar, programmer analyst at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR).

“I am looking forward to meeting all the new and interesting people here. Each one works different and possesses different abilities,” Faircloth said. “I am looking for different characteristics of them all.”

Kumar was looking forward to having a student shadow at his office and planned for Faircloth to meet some of his VR colleagues working in other capacities at the agency.

“I think these people are great and they can do what we do, and I think it’s our social and personal responsibility to help them,” said Kumar, who has a sister in India with a disability who runs her own business.

Disability Mentoring Day had 55 students participate this year and more than 30 different workplaces, some of which, like Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, had groups of mentees visit for the day and have tours.

Disability Mentoring Day is a national initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities. It is organized in Florida by The Able Trust, VR and a collaboration of statewide disability organizations.

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