At The Family Café in June some FSA Central staff had an eye-opening conversation with Steven Allen of PolicyWorks, a Florida-based national organization determined to make an impact on the lives of people with disabilities through the development of employment and mentoring programs.
There is a tremendous amount of material that can be written about PolicyWorks and this article will undoubtedly be the beginning of a much-needed conversation. In this piece we will outline PolicyWork’s basic mission as well as highlight some key programs and initiatives that may interest our readers.
From the beginning, the organization saw beyond diagnosis and disability. PolicyWorks was founded by Susan Daniels. You might recognize Daniels’ name because of her work with the life changing Ticket to Work program. Initially, PolicyWorks focused on mentoring and while peer mentoring is still the main focus of the organization, they continue to branch out to other areas of disability programming. What follows is a list of PolicyWorks programs and initiatives. Details on these programs can be found at www.disabilitypolicyworks.org.
College to Career (C2C): Students with disabilities who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree or higher are eligible to take an on-demand course to improve their employability. The goal is to improve the employment rate of college graduates with disabilities.
Career ACCESS: An initiative that aims to change existing Social Security Insurance (SSI) policies to improve the economic wellbeing and employment prospects of people with disabilities.
National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC): The goal of the NDMC is to increase the awareness, quality, and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities across the nation.
National Youth Transition Collaborative (NYTC): This program provides funding for the NYTC toolkit, which is designed to help engage individuals with disabilities who have experience with using tools such as Social Security Work Incentives, enabling them to share their experiences with the tools to help others.
Peer Mentoring Works: PolicyWorks online training program for State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Community Rehab Providers, Peer Mentor Coordinators, and Peer Mentors working with transition-aged students in pre-employment programs. The program is divided into nine modules and guides that cover everything from self-advocacy basics to self-determination, disability etiquette, and information on the rights of people with disabilities.
Lights Camera Access: This is a program that aims to increase both the employment of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry, while also working to see the power of film and television is used to effectively and openly represent people with disability in all areas of life.
WINTAC: WINTAC is designed to ensure compliance with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. This act is designed to help disabled and non-disabled people to find the best work and is also designed to help employers connect with qualified job seekers.
Self-advocates in Florida could really benefit from the peer mentoring program and Lights Camera Access in particular. Mentoring is a key part of advocacy. It is up to self-advocates with extraordinary skills to pass them down to other advocates. As far as Lights Camera Access is concerned, it is important for people with disabilities to utilize the power of the ever-growing force and influence of the media.
It will be interesting to see what comes as a result of the new connection between Allen and this organization with Florida Self-Advocacy Central. It is clear that PolicyWorks understands that the most powerful voices are indeed the voices of those who have disabilities.
For more information about PolicyWorks and these programs, visit www.disabilitypolicyworks.org.