September 19, 2016
Reflections on the Rising Leadership Academy

Guest blog: Jonathan Duvall, Chair, Student Advisory Council, USBLN and PhD student, Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

Jonathan Duvall

After completing the Rising Leadership Academy, it warms my heart and inspires me to see so many students and recent graduates with disabilities who have achieved so much success at their schools and universities. It reinforces and proves that people with disabilities have so much to offer companies, employers, the United States and the world in general. At the same time, it disappoints me that so many of these awesome students are looking for full-time work and have been looking for quite a while. The unemployment rate in the United States has been declining but people with disabilities are still about twice as likely as the general population to be unemployed. The Americans with Disabilities Act produced some great advances for people with disabilities but those advances do not include better employment of people with disabilities.

That is why the USBLN is so important, and why I am proud to be a part of the Student Advisory Council. We are showing employers that they shouldn’t hire people with disabilities because they have to according to law, but because it will allow them to produce better products and services and it will increase their bottom line, not hinder it. I will always remember someone telling me a while ago that in many STEM fields like engineering, people with disabilities should actually be considered MORE qualified than their peers without disabilities. This is because critical thinking, troubleshooting and problem solving are skills that people with disabilities have developed because of living with a disability and these are skills that employers want.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the conference and can’t wait to network with more companies and professionals around inclusion of people with disabilities.

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