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“Building Careers, Building Lives” was this year’s theme for the 34th Annual Consumer Conference attended by more than 400 people this week. The conference was organized by three state commissions – Mass. Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), Mass. Commission for the Blind (MCB), Mass. Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) – and the Statewide Independent Living Council (MASILC) to provide people with disabilities the tools they need to find employment and live more independent lives.

 

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

 

Commissioners Adelaide “Nicky” Osborne (MRC), Heidi Reed (MCDHH), Paul Saner (MCB) and MASILC Chairperson Michael Kennedy kicked-off the day with a welcome panel. Each agency head welcomed the crowd of consumers and exhibitors, and was able to speak directly to their consumers about the missions and successes of their respective agencies.

 

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

2015 Annual Consumer Conference Morning Panel (left to right): Michael Kennedy; MRC Commissioner Osbonre; MCDHH Commissioner reed; and MCB Commissioner Saner.

 

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

Oswald “Oz” Mondejar, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, delivers keynote, “Impossible is nothing.”

“I am delighted to be here for my second consumer conference. This is the epitome of cross agency collaboration. I want to, on behalf of the Baker Administration, let you know that the disability focus remains very, very strong.” Said Commissioner Paul Saner

Oswald “Oz” Mondejar, Senior Vice President of Mission and Advocacy for Partners Continuing Care Inc., Partners Network, delivered the keynote address. Mondejar reflected upon his personal adversities growing up in the 1960s and 70s with a disability and how mostly everyone focused on “what he could not do.” He learned at a very early age that he would constantly have to prove to others that he could get tasks done, even if he had to achieve it “differently.” Later in life, Mondejar used these adversities as opportunities and focused on what he could do and on his talents. He urged the audience to do the same when interviewing or seeking employment.

“Most employers want to know you can do the job and you need to be able to explain that you can… also find a job that matches your interests. If you want to be colorful, you may not want to work at a bank” said Mondejar.

He ended his remarks by showing a photo of a ceiling tile, on the tile were two hand prints and the words, “Impossible is Nothing.” He uses this prompt as a reminder to himself to press on and beyond what is expected of him and that consumers should do same.

The day-long conference provided both an opportunities for participates to attend workshops, a morning and afternoon workshop session, as well as visit with over 30 vendors from a variety of organizations focused on educating attendees on products and/or services that may enhance the lives of people with disabilities. Some of the workshops offered were:

Eliminating Communication and Visual Access Barriers in Employment;
What You Need to Know When Your Receive SSDI or SSI Benefits and Work;
Transition from High School to Success in the Community;
Are you Ready to Work? Making the Most of MRC and MCB’s Job Readiness Programs;
The Perkins Library: Providing Tools for Job Seekers with Disabilities;
How to Create a Home: Combining Government Benefits and Personal Resources;
Mentoring for Career Success; and
Vocational Rehabilitation Focus Group

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

2015 Annual Consumer Conference attendees participating in “Are You Ready to Work? Making the Most of MRC and MCB’s Job Readiness Programs” workshop.

"Transition from High School to Success in the Community" workshop geared towards transitioned aged youth, their families, and providers.

“Transition from High School to Success in the Community” workshop geared towards transitioned aged youth, their families, and providers.

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

2015 Annual Consumer Conference attendees walking through hallway of exhibitors collecting information.

 

More photos of the event below:

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

Building Careers, Building Lives: 2015 Annual Consumer Conference

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Chilmark Chocolates of Martha’s Vineyard was awarded the Moro Fleming Award in recognition of their employment efforts. One young adult employee said about her experience, “I read somewhere there is no such thing as unskilled labor, only undervalued skills.”

 

 

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