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On Friday, September 15, 2017 the Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) was joined by nearly 300 guests representing various sectors of the community for the agency’s third annual Summit. Held in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House, Boston, the theme of this year’s program was “Employment Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities.”

The program opened with David Manzo, President of the Cotting School in Lexington, MA. The Cotting School was founded in 1893 to serve students with special needs ages 3-22. David’s presentation, “Looking Back to Look Forward: Encouraging, Supporting and Creating Employment Opportunities,” gave attendees a look at the early days of employment training for persons with disabilities through historical photographs and success stories of Cotting graduates past. David reflected on how we might learn from the past in our current efforts to foster employment opportunity and independence. David sent message that “everyone has something to offer society.”

Next, Independent Researcher Matthew Brault, formerly of the U.S. Census Bureau, presented “Trends in Disability Data for Massachusetts.” Matthew is currently working with New England ADA Center on a project to estimate the size and characteristics of the population of people living in the New England Region who might assert rights or accommodations under the ADA.speaker matt brault addresses audience in Great Hall of Flag

David D’Arcangelo, Director of MOD and Jabes Rojas, Deputy Chief for Access & Opportunity and Community Affairs of the Office of the Governor of Massachusetts shared “Current Employment Initiatives in State Government.” Toni Wolf, new Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) as of July 2017, gave her first public address as MRC Commissioner at the Summit. Each speaker addressed the efforts being made by the Commonwealth to improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Commissioner Wolf smiles at podium

MRC Commissioner Toni Wolf

Rick Fiery, Co-founder of InventiveLabs in Amesbury, MA, shared the amazing story behind the innovative creation of this research lab and business incubator that helps people with learning differences find their passions and create new businesses in an all-accepting environment. Rick shared how InventiveLabs programs like Entrepreneurship, Gap-year, Pitch Competition and Business Accelerator, provide an alternative path to success that allows us to “Stop wasting this necessary brilliance!”

Lastly, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion, Tom Sannicandro, presented the Thomas P. Hopkins Access Award to William Kiernan, PhD., Dean of the University of Massachusetts School for Global Inclusion and Social Development.  For the past 40 years, Bill Kiernan has served in a variety of capacities at the Institute for Community Inclusion, as well as a senior staff member of Boston Children’s Hospital. Bill has served as an international consultant in seven countries in the development of adult service systems for people with disabilities, and has provided training and technical assistance in more than 45 states. He is the author of more than 130 articles and reports in the field of disabilities, covering topics such as transition from high school to adult life, employment, public policy development, workforce development, and systemic change.

Tom Sannicandro presents Bill Kiernan with award at podium.

Bill Kiernan accepts the 2017 Hopkins Award

The Summit was immediately followed by the “Campus to Careers Reception,” hosted by National Organization on Disability, Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities and Work Without Limits.

The 2017 Summit program was designed to inspire leaders, advocates, and persons with disabilities to continue the conversation around employment opportunities. Successful employment outcomes foster dignity, self-determination, and independence, which are goals at the core of MOD’s mission.

If you attended the Summit, please complete our brief survey- http://ow.ly/ztTk30fbUJ0 .

Summit 2017 was supported by the New England ADA Center.

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