By Theresa Chavez
Over 1,000 guests from the disability community convened in Anaheim, California last week to attend the SourceAmerica National Training and Achievement Conference May 19-22. Attendees included SourceAmerica members and staff, honored employees with disabilities, federal customers and guest speakers. Centered around the theme of "Achieving Our Mission Together," the event kicked off with an opening session that was inspirational and included a call to action.
"Meeting our goals and overcoming obstacles as a community will require strong relationships, open communication and collaboration," said SourceAmerica Chief Operating Officer Steve Krotonsky. "It will take each of us contributing our expertise, our talents and our time for something bigger than ourselves."
John Kelly, SourceAmerica vice president of government affairs, moderated a speaker panel which included Neil Romano, chair of the National Council on Disability; Tom Robinson, AbilityOne Commission chair and director of Air Force contracting; Norm Lorentz, SourceAmerica board chair; Carol Carr, president of the NCSE; and Anthony Cornell, self-advocate and manager of Career Connections at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. Panelists shared their thoughts on career choice, roadblocks to employment, a transition plan to support members moving away from the 14(c) certificate business model and potential changes to the disability ratio requirement.
On the topic of potentially phasing out the use of 14(c) certificates, Romano said any implementation would need to be carefully considered. Romano's organization, NCD, historically has not supported the use of 14(c). In March, SourceAmerica's board of directors announced it would support the eventual elimination of 14(c) use within the AbilityOne Program, a position aligned with that of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission.
"I believe it's possible to eliminate 14(c) while minimizing job loss but we'd have to work together to do it effectively," Romano said. "There have been situations where it's been implemented well and others not as well," "The fact that I'm sitting here having this conversation is a great first step. We need an honest and open dialogue."
Dr. Victor Pineda, an accomplished disability advocate, was the keynote speaker. Pineda is a professor at University of California at Berkeley and founder of the World Enabled Global Initiative, which promotes the rights and dignities of people with disabilities through research, education and field initiatives.
He applauded SourceAmerica and its members for providing employment opportunities that are designed to maximize career potential for people with disabilities.
"Putting people with disabilities on the path to transformation gives them courage and strength. They may not know what the rest of the world has to offer, but what they will know is that they had a place to start," Pineda said.
Our members also benefited from sessions on computer-aided productivity engineering, employing veterans with disabilities and developing customized employment programs. Nearly 50 SourceAmerica staff led or moderated sessions as well.
The conference wrapped up on Wednesday night with a special awards ceremony emceed by Paralympian Josh Sundquist. He introduced the winners of SourceAmerica's highest honors from the past year, Achievement Award recipients, who exemplify our mission in many ways. See the full list of winners.
Be sure to save the date for next year's National Training and Achievement Conference, which will be held April 6-8 in Washington, D.C.
View some of the photos from the 2019 Conference below. The photos will open in a new window when selected.