Open to new ideas (USBLN2012)

[a “snapshot” of first full day at USBLN national conference–jb]

What happens when you are open to possibilities and selecting a pathway less traveled? You continue to learn new things, meet new people, and connect with others infused with passion.

I’m at USBLN’s 15th annual conference in Orlando. This year’s theme is “Disability Inclusion: Driving Success in a Competitive Business Environment.” As a new director for a brand new BLN affiliate up in Maine, I’m overwhelmed by everything there is to know and do.  This being my first conference related to disability issues, there are also so many new faces and interesting people that I want to have time to talk with and tap into their knowledge and expertise. I worry that I’ll run out of time.

The morning plenary session with heavy-hitters like Randy Lewis and Deb Russell from Walgreens, as well as former congressman, Tony Coelho, and Joyce Bender/Bender Consulting set the bar pretty high on the first full, official day of the 3-day conference.

The morning breakout session on a pilot project that provides career mentoring opportunities to college/university students was amazing. The mentees/mentors were articulate and there was no lack of passion in the room about the case for hiring recent college graduates with disabilities, a group that incredibly, has an unemployment rate that’s double that of all college graduates. In fact, I learned that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the U.S. is close to 70 percent.

This afternoon, I got BLN 101, signed, sealed, and delivered, thanks to Lynn Kirkbride, USBLN’s director of affiliate relations. This was a great opportunity to hear what other BLNs are doing nationally, and what’s working. I have some ideas to carry back to Maine that I want to implement in my home state.

My afternoon concluded with a great panel presentation from disability hiring experts like Florida Blue and CSX, touting disability certification for businesses.

Tonight, I’m headed out to a “mixer” and hoping to spend a bit more time meeting and networking with other USBLN conferees.