Let’s Make An Internship Snowball

image of white papers on a desk

As we come closer to the end of the year, something that always comes to mind is “what am I doing for the summer?”

Gone are the days of waiting for the next school recess to kick back and relax. Now, I’m mostly thinking about what internships or fellowships am I going to apply to?

It can seem daunting at first, with such a big world and not sure where to begin. But lets take a second to break down this giant feat into chunk-size steps that help me get the ball rolling.

Apply to the Right Internships

There’s a saying for Law School applicants that fits the bill here, “apply to the right schools, there’s a seat for everyone interested in law school.” What job industries do you see yourself working in? Would you be okay working in accounting? What about dance and the arts?

Don’t limit yourself to only the top organizations. While it is worth a shot, competition is higher and the odds are stacked against you. Certainly apply, but also create a safety net of options to fall back on if they don’t work out.

Narrow the list down to what you are willing and not willing to do. Can you travel to another state for a few months? Can you do an unpaid internship?

Now that you know what to look for, the next part requires some finesse.

Search

There are multiple ways to do this. If you have an organization already in mind, go to their online web site and see what you can find. If you don’t find anything, send an email to their contact information asking for any information about upcoming internships.

The second option is using a search engine like Google or Bing. Type in the right keywords to narrow the search. If you are looking for an unpaid internship in finance and accounting, type in “internship unpaid finance accounting”  in the the search box. If you want to maximize your search potential, check out these great tips here.

Other options are looking on job boards like idealist.org or internships.com. Even social networking sites like LinkedIn have great listing, just be prepared to have a good profile before applying.

Get Organized

Now that you found some target internships, getting yourself organized will help you avoid sending a resume intended for internship A mistakenly to internship B.

Create a folder titled “Internships. There, you can create sub-folders for each internship. I like to name my folders with the initial of the organization followed by the date I sent the request, “WIIDC-9Dec2013.”

The reason to include the date is to keep track and send a followup in the weeks ahead if I haven’t heard anything back about them receiving it.

Now copy and paste resumes and cover letters and edit as required for that specific application. Also include samples requested to submit and duplicate them to keep all the relevant materials together.

Rinse & Repeat

Now that you have a starting system, keep using and improving it as your needs demand it.

Check Out Careerealism

I cannot stress enough the importance of utilizing the Internet to help you in your career development. There are many sites that give good advice, and my favorite is Careerealism. You can find great professional advice for FREE and, if you want direct coaching, well, they certainly have that too (for a fee).

So what are you waiting for?! Go get the ball rolling on applying!

What other great tips do you recommend for internship seekers?

Diversity and Cultural Competence in the Workplace

disability cartoon

I have tried to help Autism Speaks staffers understand how destructive its messages have been to the psyches of autistic people. We do not like hearing that we are defective or diseased. We do not like hearing that we are part of an epidemic. We are not problems for our parents or society, or genes to be eliminated. We are people. -John E. Robinson

I have come across John E. Robinson’s resignation letter, and I am shocked by the lack of diversity and inclusion within Autism Speaks. This is a troubling issue because an organization that aims to do good for people with autism should foster diverse ideas to keep its pulse on the constituents they serve and maintain relevance. The disability rights movement was born from the misguided assumption that other people define our limits. Each of us has to define our own limits. Autism Speaks should strive to maintain relevance in their efforts and not shut out its most crucial group: autistic people.

In order to be productive in our work, the very people we aim to serve need to be included in the decision-making process. How can organizations do this? One way is by infusing diversity and cultural competence in your work.

Working with People From All Walks of Life

Here’s a known fact: we are all different. Even identical twins develop different personalities according to new studies. It is crucial that organizations begin nurturing a cultural competence and strong diversity management if they have not already. According to Business Week, this competence will help companies effectively draw upon talent, intellectual capital, and motivate more employees. What’s more, by infusing diversity into research and reporting about the needs, issues and concerns of the people you serve, you are more likely to connect with them.

So how exactly can diversity and cultural competence benefit your organization?

Partnerships Depend on Mutual Respect

As organizations like The Arc of the Unites States seek to increase its productivity and social impact, it is crucial to continue building bridges to culturally diverse organizations at the national, state, and local level. A critical component to working together is to nurture a capacity to understand the differences in people in order to get along. Projects and initiatives require numerous people working together, and you want to be able to switch cultural paradigms as needed to reduce alienating your partners. Would you want to work with an organization that does not treat you as a full and equal member? John Robinson felt this way and had to “bow out.”

People Gravitate Towards Likeness

The Girl Scouts of America learned first-hand the value of inclusion and respect for all people. The organization went through much hardship at a point in their history, so much that it was in danger of acquisition. Frances Hesselbein, upon becoming CEO, helped devise new mechanisms to recruit and involve representatives of diverse communities, like increasing their chapters’ capacity to translate information and resources into a wide array of languages. One of those mechanisms involved providing tools for chapters to assess their cultural competence and develop local action plans, including revamping their handbook “so every girl in the country who opened it could see themselves in it.” Today, Girl Scouts of America have 3.2 million Girl Scouts—2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers.

Frances still champions to this day “the richness of diversity provides not a challenge but opportunities for relevance.” Let’s focus on understanding our differences and highlighting our individual abilities for better productivity in our work efforts and delivering results to our constituents.

Help Us Help You

During my time with the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, I learned a lot about cultural competency and its effects on the organization’s capacity and productivity. We provided in-person training curricula at annual retreats, drafted workbooks, guides and other resources to support student chapters in becoming more diverse and culturally competent. Like Frances, I believe that despite our differences, we can all learn from one another and continue to do good work.

One of my goals in leading CCSD was to acquire information to guide our activities and increase CCSD’s relevance when representing over 9,000 students with disabilities. Just last week for 2013 International Day for people with Disabilities, I partnered with United Spinal Association to deliver a disability etiquette workshop at CUNY-City College to develop understanding of diversity and cultural competency for the student community.

It is not too late for Autism Speaks to re-assess the motto “nothing about us without us,” and start re-focusing itself around its personal motto, “it’s time to listen.”

What tips would you give others looking to infuse diversity and cultural competence in their organization?

Image by Missouri State University

My Start in Disability Rights

Coming out of class last week I was asked by a colleague how exactly I started in disability rights activism. If there’s one thing people know me for, it’s disability rights advocacy. She didn’t see the connection immediately and was curious to find out. I have been asked before and the story boils down to being by chance rather than by design. The journey that led me to my passion for disability rights was unexpected and wonderful, and it started at The City University of New York (CUNY).

Photo of Steven posing with colleagues at Kingsborough Community College event in 2010.I have a great passion for service, and began getting involved in student leadership through the Student World Assembly (SWA) campus chapter at CUNY-Kingsborough Community College (KCC). At my first meeting I remember there being on the agenda a special election for the Secretary executive board position. I found myself unsuspectingly placing a bid to run against more “seasoned” members. Much to my surprise, I emerged out of that meeting the with an e-board position, and so began my leadership journey at in human rights activism. It was through SWA that I came to realize how much inequality and injustice exists in the world today, and the need to do something about it.

Photo of Steven posing with colleagues and former CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein in 2011.The next step in my activist evolution was student rights, becoming a student representative. Student government was definitely a hard and mostly unappreciated journey. It pushed me into the frying pan of student politics; it was the center of a three-way tug-of-war with students, faculty and administration over finances, polices and procedures. It was through a series of fortunate events that I went on to become involved with the University Student Senate (USS). This was now me jumping into the proverbial fire of student politics, witnessing a degree of finance manipulation, election and policy tactics, and all sorts of debatable practices. I recall a former mentor once advising me that student politics was a microcosm of what goes on in the real world. I came to understand and love the game of politics, but I was also awakened to the dark side of what it could be used for. I had almost lost hope in politics for good had it not been for an unexpected meeting.

Photo of Steven posing with CCSD colleagues and Rev. Al Sharpton in 2012.I remember heading towards what I believed to have been a USS meeting and instead walked into a meeting for the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD). That was my start in disability rights. I kept returning to the meetings and getting more involved until I became Executive Chair. I have had so many great moments, and even some not-so-great moments. But it was all worth it. What I took from CCSD initially was that the best form of leadership was service to the community and society; it was a community that taught me the value of inclusion, and reinforced the ethos of my inspiration Frances Hesselbein, “to serve is to live.” CCSD renewed my view of what good politics can do for society, with proper vision and a strong moral compass pointing north. I was very lucky with work we accomplished, including playing a central role in the historic reform of the University’s general education requirements.

The journey in disability rights started with CCSD and it continues to this day. The internship opportunities at the U.S. International Council with Disabilities (USICD) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) helped educate me about the history of the disability rights movement and the issues we face today. There is still a lot of work to do, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Should E-Readers be Exempt from Accessibility Standards?

Photo of dirfferent e-readers.

Photo Source: http://gadgetvirtualtour.wikispaces.com/

Disability Scoop recently reported on an attempt by Amazon.com, Sony and Kobo to persuade government regulators that e-readers should not be held to the same accessibility standard as tablets and other devices since they are limited to one core feature — reading. They have filed a petition for a waiver of the Federal Commission System’s (FCC) rules requiring equipment used for advanced communications services (ACS) to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

Their Argument

The Coalition argue that, although e-readers are equipment that consumers can use for ACS, they are designed primarily for reading and therefore qualify for a waiver from the Commission’s ACS rules.

I don’t believe the FCC should grant the request for a waiver on e-readers. These companies are missing the point of the changes to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is to make all digital content available to those with disabilities. The devices they produce consist entirely of “digital content” and they should be required to become compliant. A serious problem with some of these devices is that they lack an accessible text-to-speech function. E-readers are a great way to expand knowledge available to people with disabilities by making digital content available.

E-Readers in Schools

Schools across the nation are using more e-readers in the classroom setting. A Pew Research Center report of 2,462 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers finds that digital technologies have helped them in teaching their middle school and high school students in many ways, “digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization.” 45% report they or their students use e-readers and 43% use tablet computers in the classroom or to complete assignments.

School Compliance with Accessibility Standards

Schools and community colleges must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when introducing any emerging technology, including e-book readers, into classrooms. Making e-readers accessible greatly expands the amount of information available to those with disabilities and is the right thing to do. I believe if e-readers had considered accessibility in their initial designs it would have been much simpler to reach compliance; it is their own design process which has created this issue, not compliance with the law.

Three year ago, the U.S. Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice (DOJ) issued a letter to colleges and universities that sums up the issue of compliance as follows:  “Requiring use of an emerging technology in a classroom environment when the technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities–individuals with visual disabilities–is discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) unless those individuals are provided accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.” Requiring e-reader equipment to comply with ACS would alleviate an undue burden on schools to pour limited resources into compliance mechanisms to make e-readers accessible for the benefit of equal access and opportunity to education for all.

No Exemption

I don’t believe the FCC should grant the request for a waiver on e-readers. Companies must consider disability issues at the beginning of the development and design process, and on an ongoing basis.

The FCS is looking for public commentary until September 3rd through their Electronic Comment Filing System. Send in a response if you feel e-readers should not be exempt from accessibility standards.

8-1-13 Request for Comment Petition for Class Waiver of Commission’s Rules for Access to Advanced Communications Services and Equipment by People with Disabilities. (CG Docket No. 10-213) (DA 13-1686).

Comments Due: September 3, 2013. Reply Comments Due: September 13, 2013.

Public Notice: Word || PDF

Do you feel e-readers should be exempt from complying with accessibility standards?

13

Aug

New Human Rights Watch Report on Barriers to Education in China for Persons with Disabilities

USICD organization logo
In another guest post at the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD), I highlight the Human Rights Watch Report “As Long as They Let Us Stay in Class: Barriers to Education for Persons with Disabilities in China.” China has a gap in enrollment rates for children with disabilities due to bars to enrollment, expulsion from schools, school segregation, and lack of disability rights information.

Swing by and add your own ideas to the post, which is called New Human Rights Watch Report on Barriers to Education in China for Persons with Disabilities. I’m sure USICD would appreciate the visit as much as I appreciate them giving me the shot.

12

Aug

No Pity : People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement

I finished reading No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (amazon affiliate link) and learned some of the amazing history of the disability rights movement. The book was recommended by Curtis Richards during my summer internship in D.C. I highly recommend this book as a great starting point for anyone going into disability rights advocacy.

You will learn about the disability rights movement beginnings at Berkeley with Ed Roberts, the 504 demonstrations in San Francisco C.A. and Washington D.C. with Judy Heumann, the push for the Americans with Disabilities Act and its father Justin Dart, and Patrisha Wright’s campaign strategies to name a few.

It is important to note that the book is written in the lens of an able-bodied person, so some nuances of disability experience are bare and fail to dig deeper. What this means is that the book will serve as a great starting point for both young and mature advocates alike. Chapters 1, 3 and 4 are a must for any intern venturing into the disability community.

Get No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (amazon affiliate link)

27

Jul

A Giant: Michael Winter

Image of Michael Winter

Source: www.itodaynews.com

Every day there are individuals who do amazing things for their communities, and the disability community is no exception. Leaders today stand on the shoulders of giants who have helped pave the way for future generations. Giants like Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Bob Dole and Tom Harkin are some in the disability community. Another such giant whose memorial service I just came from is Michael Winter.

“Michael Winter is a good American,” was the final remark from his cousin Chuck Terzian. His drive for equal access and opportunity was what made Michael a good American. Equality for Michael was a key component to being a good American. Among the many stories shared about Michael, the underlying theme was his commitment to inclusion and quality of life for all people with disabilities. Yoshiko Dart, wife of the late Justin Dart, read some of Michael’s most cherished quotes alongside the iconic Dart hat. Numerous other individuals touched by Michael also shared their own experiences with Michael, all moving and awe-inspiring.

I never met Michael personally, but I have been learning about him through my reading of No Pity by Joseph P. Shapiro, a good first stop to begin learning about the disability movement history. “Michael is a force to be reckoned with,” was both a message within the book and reiterated by family, friends and colleagues at the memorial service today.

image of memorial service remembrance photos
I cannot say I knew him personally, but I can say that I am thankful for what he has done for my generation and the future of disability rights. I picked up a few new insights from the stories and experiences shared today, particularly learning when to raise my voice when advocating.

It’s time to pick up a piece of the torch Michael dropped and carry it on with us. The battle for disability rights still continues…

Do you have any stories of Michael Winter to share?

17

Jul

New Human Rights Watch Report on Barriers to Education in China for Persons with Disabilities

source: www.hrw.org

A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) provides insight into the inclusion of children with disabilities in the Chinese education system through their new report “As Long as They Let Us Stay in Class: Barriers to Education for Persons with Disabilities in China.” Despite China being a model for accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals in regard to primary education, there is a gap in enrollment rates for children with disabilities due to bars to enrollment, expulsion from schools, school segregation, and lack of disability rights information. In its closing summary, the report provides recommendations on how to make genuine inclusive education become a reality in China.

China ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008, thus committing itself to “the goal of full inclusion.” Although the government has made strides to support development and adoption of the CRPD, largely through the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities (LPDP) and the Regulations on the Education of People with Disabilities (REPD) and establishment of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), there is still room for improvement. According to the study, 28 percent of children with disabilities do not receive compulsory basic education; in contrast, children without disabilities receive near-universal compulsory education. Moreover, the burden is on the child with a disability to adapt to the current system in place within mainstream schools.

Teachers are provided little support for classes of up to 60 students, and unable to cope with basic accommodations like magnified printed materials or testing accommodations for children who are blind or have limited vision. There is also a lack of accessible facilities like classrooms and bathrooms, requiring parents to pick up and carry their child up and down stairs. Parents have been found to have little to no knowledge of the existence of alternative special education schools, access to reasonable transportation, and even lack essential information about their child’s educational rights and options.

Finally, children with disabilities are typically segregated away in self-contained special education schools. While resources like funding for support and teacher quality for these schools are generally better, there are significant barriers, specifically around reasonable distance from the home, as well as knowledge about their existence. One story recounts a parent having to wait two years and provide a hefty bribe in order to get their child accepted into a special education school in another district. Even more pressing is that “many students with severe disabilities are excluded even from special education schools.” Moreover, special education schools have limited career fields available.

People with disabilities are China’s “largest minority,” with over 40 percent being illiterate; the estimated 83 million people with disabilities is far below the global disability prevalence rate estimated by the World Bank in 2011, which is 15%, and should be around 200 million for China. By ratifying the CRPD, the continued barriers to education faced by children and young people with disabilities need to be addressed with consistent strategies.

The Human Rights Watch report provides a list of key recommendations to help China move towards inclusion and compliance with the CRPD. These recommendations focus around governmental policy, mechanisms and programs:

  • Revise the Regulations on the Education of People with Disabilities to bring them in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Specifically, the new regulations should state clearly that the Chinese government’s overarching goal in the education of people with disabilities is full inclusion at all levels of education and set forth specific actions authorities should take to ensure reasonable accommodation of students with disabilities in mainstream schools.
  • Develop a time-bound, strategic plan to move towards an inclusive education system, with specific indicators to measure access to education for children with disabilities.
  • Immediately repeal the Guidelines for the Physical Examination of Students in Recruitment for Ordinary Higher Level Educational Institutions because they allow disability-based discrimination in higher education.
  • Develop guidelines for the effective evaluation of students with disabilities studying in mainstream schools and ensure that their educational progress is reflected in the performance assessment of their teachers and schools.
  • Provide financial and other resources, including adequately trained staff, to mainstream schools so that they can ensure the provision of reasonable accommodation to pupils and students with disabilities.
  • Establish an independent body made up of independent disability experts and representatives of children with disabilities and their parents to monitor the school system’s compliance with relevant laws and regulations and to receive complaints about discrimination and lack of reasonable accommodations at mainstream schools. The body should be charged with making recommendations for reform.

For more detailed information, you can check out the 75-page report here: http://www.hrw.org/node/117059.

16

Jul

Students and the CRPD

I was oblivious to the disability movement five years ago. That is, until I accidentally walked into a meeting for student disability advocates. I realized soon after that I knew nothing about the disability community, their struggles, and the lack of rights afforded them. I made friends and, as I started to get more involved in the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, my passion for disability rights began.

image of students supporting CRPD

The City University of New York is the largest public urban university system in the nation. With an estimated 9,000 persons with disabilities enrolled, you can imagine the enormous task that student disability services has before them. However, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its predecessor Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, those services are in place to begin with. The fact that these students can acquire an education at CUNY speaks volumes for the evolutionary standard of disability rights in the US.

The ADA is the gold standard for disability rights around the world. In some countries abroad, the process for better quality of living for persons with disabilities is stuck. They don’t have the ADA. And now, due to recent failures by the Senate to ratify an international disability treaty, these countries do not have an important actor like the United States directing efforts on the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). By refusing to ratify the CRPD, the US is sending the signal abroad that it is not interested in promoting equal access and opportunities for students to study abroad or people with disabilities around the world to be treaty with dignity. This “out of state, out of mind” perspective is saddening.

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 6.5% to 764,495 during the 2011/12 academic year according to the Institute on International Education. With over 1 billion people with disabilities according to a World Health Organization report, nearly one in five people have a disability. Ratifying the CRPD is important to countless of students with disabilities all over the nation who want the same opportunity to study abroad as everyone else and their fellow members of this important minority all around the world.

My fellow student at CUNY, Edmund Asiedu, was born in Ghana and recently shared his experiences on disability rights abroad and the need for the United States to ratify the CRPD.

In Ghana, people with disabilities face so many problems that hinder their personal development. Persons with disabilities are seen as object of pity, helpless, and good-for-nothing by Ghanaians due to lack of awareness on disability issues. This is a country where people still see disability as evil and because of that we are highly stigmatized and discriminated against in all spheres of life.

I believe strongly that the US can help alleviate the pain, abuse, and torture that are inflicted on persons with disabilities in Ghana and around the world by ratifying the treaty and getting the opportunity to serve on the monitoring committee which allows America to come together with my fellow persons with disabilities. I know America believes in upholding and respecting human rights. God bless America!

America made one small step towards inclusion with the ADA, and now is the time for one giant leap with the CRPD.

How are you mobilizing students in your community?

17

Jun

Guest Post on USICD

USICD organization logo
The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) was kind enough to let me do a guest post on their blog. Swing by and add your own ideas to the post, which is called The Visibility of Disability in Business. I’m sure USICD would appreciate the visit as much as I appreciate them giving me the shot.

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