Last week I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Boston Disability Mentoring Day (DMD). This event was a partnership between the City of Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, to both conclude our mentor/internship program and recognize October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). In the three years since launching this event, we have grown our partnerships and sparked interest in many City Departments.
DMD started with Boston’s longest standing mayor, Thomas M. Menino, who believes that government is about helping people, and Kristen McCosh, Commissioner for the Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities, who was the driving force for DMD day in Boston. McCosh was hired three years ago as by Mayor Thomas Menino to help people with disabilities have full and increased access to City Services and immediately took that challenge head-on, using the mandate from the mayor to encourage access to employment opportunities within city government and beyond to local Boston employers.
The city of Boston is one of America’s oldest and has often led the country with both its economic and social policies. Now, Boston is moving forward, along with the entire Commonwealth, on outreach and inclusive hiring for people with disabilities.
So what is Disability Mentoring Day (DMD)?
In 1999, 11 people with disabilities were invited to the U.S. White House as special guests and were allowed to shadow employees working there. Since then the program has grown, and with the help of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), last year over 16,000 people with disabilities participated in over 250 employment locations across the country.
The purpose is not job placement, but rather a reciprocal introduction between employers who may not understand how they can serve this community and talented individuals with disabilities who are interested in knowing more about jobs that the company commonly offers. It is incredibly fulfilling to see the excitement that comes from these meetings; to see the mentees’ genuine thrill to meet their employer mentor and interest in future opportunities. The experience is often emotionally palpable when I see both mentees and mentors begin to better appreciate the value of what the other has to offer.
Often participants in these mentor programs get jobs. This year some of our mentees were asked to apply for jobs personally by their mentors and invited to second interviews. One great example is of CVS/Caremark’s senior management, who now want to expand the reach of their DMD event to other Boston companies and will personally be reaching out to bring more interested partners to the event next year.
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission continues to expand DMD days acorss the Commonwealth, and we can now count five cities as official participants. If you would like to learn more about this event or how your company may benefit from a more inclusive workforce, please contact the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s (MRC) or contact an employment specialist team at 617-645-9142.