Knoxville Tennessee NewsThe Mayor’s Council on Disability Issues (CODI) invites the public to a follow-up Community Conversation hosted by the Knoxville Area Employment Consortium (KAEC) and featuring keynote speaker Michael Hingson, whose book “Thunder Dog: The Story of a Blind Man, A Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero” was a New York Times best-seller.


Hingson will share his story of surviving the Twin Towers attacks on 9/11 as well as advice gleaned from his successful 27-year career in high-tech sales and management.


The meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. Monday, March 27, at Holiday Inn West at Cedar Bluff, 9134 Executive Park Drive. Its goal is to update attendees on the progress made since stakeholders met in August 2015 to gather ideas and brainstorm strategies to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in Knoxville.


“I think people will be encouraged by our progress, but there are still a lot of untapped opportunities for employers and people with disabilities,” said Stephanie Brewer Cook, the City’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator. “We want to keep the momentum going to educate the larger community about employment successes, obstacles and ways to create sustainable, meaningful change.”


Cook especially encourages attendance by area employers who are interested in hiring people with disabilities. Job-shadowing and mentoring opportunities also help build a base of support for meaningful disability employment, she said.


Approximately 70 percent of people of working age with disabilities aren’t meaningfully employed. That’s absolutely unacceptable, considering the ADA is 27 years old, Cook said.


“People with disabilities want the same things as anyone – to be able to live happily in our communities in a manner that is independent and self-sufficient,” she said. “But one can’t be independent or self-sufficient if he or she is trying to scrape by on a meager Social Security check because there are no available jobs or employers who are willing to hire them.”


In the 19 months since the first meeting, CODI and KAEC have accomplished several initiatives:


  • CODI established an Employment Subcommittee, which remains very active;
  • CODI and KAEC have partnered on a disability-focused job fair and the creation of several short educational videos to educate the community at large about employment of people with disabilities; and
  • KAEC ran a design contest for a window sticker that will identify local employers and businesses who hire and/or mentor people with disabilities.


“Our hope is that, by acknowledging these efforts, other businesses might consider reaching out to learn how they can get the same recognition,” Cook said. “We’ll be happy to invite them to participate as a mentor and possibly as a hirer down the road.”


To register and learn more about the meeting, visit https://knoxvillefollowup.splashthat.com. Anyone needing a disability accommodation to be able to attend should contact Cook at [email protected] or 865-215-2034. For an English interpreter, contact the City Law Department at 865-215-2050.


CODI’s survey seeking input on how Knoxville can be the friendliest city to people with disabilities and seniors is still open. You can find the survey and more information about CODI at www.knoxvilletn.gov/ada.

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