In the past, Parkinson’s Disease was considered a disease which primarily affected individuals in their retirement years. We now know that Parkinson’s Disease can be acquired during an individual’s prime working years. How do we accommodate our valued employees who have contracted Parkinson’s Disease? Participants learned answers to this question from our speaker, Steve DeWitt, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Advocates for Parkinson’s (CAP). Steve is the recipient of several awards for his advocacy on behalf of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease including being honored as a Champion for Change at the White House in 2015. Executive Director Sharon Denson, who lives with an Orthostatic Tremor, discussed how other movement disorders differ from Parkinson’s Disease and how we, as employers can understand these disorders and accommodate individuals who live with non-Parkinson’s movement disorders.
Biography of speaker Steven D. DeWitte , RNG
Steven DeWitte is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Advocates for Parkinson’s (CAP). CAP began as a Support Group for People with Parkinson’s (PWP) who were defined as Young On Set, or diagnosed prior to the age of 50. Steve was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in March 2005 at the age of 48. Since inception in 2006, CAP has grown from eight members, to three chapters and over 130 active constituents. CAP filed for 501C3 status in 2011, and with Co-Chair Michelle Hespeler and a team of “Believers”, the organization has developed national recognition for support of research, education, advocacy, and quality of life initiatives. Steve is also credited with the formation of the Make A Difference Parkinson Alliance (MADPA), which brought the three largest Support Groups in Connecticut together to provide enhanced Educational Programs and unified Advocacy Voice to its over 300 members. Steve serves in an advisory role for such organizations as the Parkinson’s Movement NA,, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. He served as an Ambassador for the World Parkinson Congress in 2013, and was a graduate of the 2008 PAIR (Parkinson’s Advocates In Research) Program presented by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. He was selected to serve as Patient Advocate at the 2013 DIA 50th Annual Meeting through the Patient Advocate Fellowship Program. He is credited with developing the Clinical Trial Transportation Program (CTTP), which has provided nearly 100 volunteers for Parkinson’s Clinical Studies, with the assistance of MADPA.
In March 2015, he was recognized as a Champion of Change at The White House (https://www.whitehouse.gov/champions/parkinson’s-disease/steve-dewitte-). He accepted an appointment to the Editorial Board of the Parkinson’s Journal in June 2015. He is often asked to speak on the subject or Patient Engagement and Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment and Retention Practices. He has accepted invitations to speak to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) and the VanAndel Institute. He is serving as an Advisor to Dr. Bas Bloem (http://www.wfneurology.org/bloem-bastiaan) of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands in support of the ParkinsonNet Program’s entry into the US.
Steve was recently selected to be the co-recipient of the 2017 Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award presented by the Parkinson’s Alliance to individuals who selflessly devoted time to patient advocacy through research and direct interaction with physicians. http://www.unitywalk.org/bonander.php#sthash.QQA0mfYb.xRwP2dnp.dpuf
June 1, 2017 – Matchmaker Event (at Genrgras Student Union at the University of Hartford )
Disability:IN Connecticut served as a publicity sponsor for CT Business Matchmaker Event held by the University of Hartford Entrepreneurial Center.
Executive Director Sharon Denson described the value of this event “Since deciding to sponsor this event, I have spoken to several people who have connected with great contracts or even new employment through the contacts made at the Matchmaker. We are very excited to be a part of an event which has helped so many businesses and individuals reach their goals.”
This event provided an opportunity for Prime attendees to connect with potential suppliers including disability and minority owned businesses during a series of 10 minute 1 on 1 interviews.
Prime participants included large and medium-sized companies, federal and state agencies, municipalities and educational institutions. Registration was free for Prime attendees.
Small established businesses, including disability owned businesses, used the event to open the door to contracts and more by presenting products to Prime contractors, government agencies and municipalities in the 10 minute 1 to 1 presentations as described above. It was also a great opportunity to network with other small businesses.
Disability:IN Connecticut became a sponsor as part of its supply chain diversity initiative as part of the USBLN’s efforts to open up opportunities for disability owned businesses through the USBLN Disability Owned Business Certification.
Governor Malloy presented the keynote address.
Participants and sponsors…..
- Became a part of history as Disability:IN Connecticut and the USBLN honor Governor Malloy for the State of Connecticut’s innovative disability supplier diversity program which was instituted in 1992
- Heard Governor Malloy speak about his experiences as the Governor of one of the most progressive states regarding disability inclusion.
- Enjoyed a delicious lunch while Disability:IN Connecticut honored Commissioner Currey and Meg Yetishevsky of the Department of Administrative Services as the Department which administers this progressive disability owned business set-asid, and. Commissioner Amy Porter of the Department of Rehabilitation Services for their innovative programs which support individuals with disabilities who want to start their own businesses.
- Heard a Valuable Best Practices presentation by a leader in Diversity and Inclusion – speaker to be announced.
- Watched special award presentations to a Connecticut business for their disability supplier diversity initiative and a Connecticut business for disability diversity and inclusion best practices
September 15, 2017 – The “Inclusion Works Here Series” The first of this series of programs, hosted by Walgreen’s in Windsor, was “Creating an Inclusive Workplace from Recruiting to Retention.” Like our “Accommodation Series”, each session in this series covered a topic on steps a business can take to create a disability inclusive workplace. These steps are applicable to the creation of a workplace culture which includes with employees and applicants who represent all types of diversities. “Inclusion Works Here” provided valuable information for all professionals who participate in hiring and management process including executives, human resources, diversity and inclusion professionals, hiring managers and diverse team members. Businesses seeking qualified talent in an increasingly competitive environment can avail themselves of previously untapped sources of talent including qualified individuals with disabilities. “Inclusion Works Here” helped form strategies for finding, recruiting and retaining that talent.
Attracting diverse talent including individuals with disabilities starts with how we define the essential functions of a position in a job description. The job description is used as the basis for marketing that position to attract qualified talent, eliminate unqualified talent through HR software and narrow the applicant pool to the most qualified individuals. Do our job descriptions accurately reflect the essential functions of a position? Are we unknowingly eliminating our most qualified individuals with disabilities by the words we use in our job descriptions? Participants discovered how to ensure that the job description, which is a most important recruiting tools, can be created in a manner to attract the most qualified diverse talent for that position, your business and more.
The session was led by a panel of experts who discussed the importance of creating job descriptions which focus on the essential functions and talents necessary to perform the job, strategies for creating job descriptions which will attract the best diverse talent for doing that job and how our job descriptions impact your legal obligations to your applicants and employees.
November 2, 2017 – The second program in the highly successful Includsion Works Here series, was held at The Travelers Claim University in Windsor, CT. This program featured a panel composed of experts including David Gilman of Gilman Performance Systems and our Executive Director Sharon Denson who spoke about inclusive interviewing techniques. Topics included creating an inclusive interviewing environment, accommodations for job applicants, interviewing techniques for finding the best candidates to fulfill the essential functions of the job and techniques for assisting hiring managers to “keep their eyes on the prize” or shifting from the culture of personality to the culture of professional competency.
October 7, 2017 (Waterbury/NVCC), October 11, 2017 (Middlesex Chamber of Commerce) and October 31, 2017 (New Haven/GCC) Diverse Ability Career Fairs
Disability:IN Connecticut (then-Disability:IN Connecticut) partnered with The Connecticut Departments of Labor and Rehabilitation Services to present a fall career fair series including four Diverse Ability Career Fairs in partnership with the CT State Colleges and Universities, and an October 11 Middlesex County Career Fair held in conjunction with the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce 2017 Business Showcase.
“Disability:IN Connecticut is excited to work again with our Connecticut State partners to give employers the opportunity to recruit qualified individuals with disabilities by participating in the highly successful Diverse Ability Career Fairs. The successful partnership between Disability:IN Connecticut’s diversity committed employers and the State agencies which connect those employers to qualified job seekers with disabilities is a vital part of our shared vision to grow Connecticut businesses through diversity and create positive change in the employment picture for job seekers with disabilities.” said Sharon Denson, Executive Director, Connecticut Business Leadership Network.
State Labor Commissioner Scott D. Jackson noted “Our career fairs have attracted thousands of jobseekers and hundreds of businesses – and many have made successful employment connections. This year’s schedule includes a series of Diverse Ability Career Fairs designed to help businesses build a more diverse workforce and also take advantage of the talent and expertise persons with a disability can bring to the job.”
In addition to Disability:IN Connecticut, Workforce partners assisting with the Diverse Ability Career Fairs included the Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, and the state’s Workforce Development Boards.