August 10, 2018
2018 Annual Conference Wrap-Up

This wrap-up post is written by Hannah Chadwick, Disability:IN Program Coordinator.

You might have heard, USBLN is now Disability:IN! We were all IN at the 21st annual Disability:IN conference hosted at the fabulous Cosmopolitan hotel, right in the heart of The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are thrilled to announce that the 2018 conference was sold out with over 1500 attendees, all of whom were dedicated to furthering disability inclusion. Huge thanks to all our partners, volunteers, supporters, and staff who came together to make this event a phenomenal success!

 

In 2017, I attended the conference as a NextGen Leader, and had many opportunities to network with other employers; and this year, I attended as part of the Disability:IN staff! This was a fantastic opportunity for me to connect with and introduce our talented young individuals to employers at the conference. As Ted Kennedy Jr. said in his remarks: “When you give someone a job, you give them freedom.” I have definitely gained my freedom since becoming employed and I know lots of others who have experienced the same this year.

This year, we had over 130 NextGen Leaders in the Talent Accelerator Program. Our partners interviewed 75% of the students that we brought to our conference, and many of them participated in 3-6 interviews. We’re so happy to report the following companies ended the week by offering job offers to NextGen Leaders: Baxter Healthcare, Boeing, Boston Scientific, First Data, GeoTraq, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Corporation, PNC Bank, Raytheon, and TJX. It is exciting to see that as we continue to grow our talent pool, our partners continue to extend more offers, and we are forever grateful for all the support and generosity.

 

Photo Depicts the 2018 student matchmaking session at Disability IN's Annual Conference, students and mentors are seated at tables in a large ballroom

Photo Depict two Nextgen leaders speaking together at the 2018 student matchmaking session at Disability IN's Annual Conference

There were many highlights throughout the conference, but the biggest moment for us was during the opening plenary, when we unveiled our new name and transitioned from USBLN to Disability:IN. This was a very moving experience for all of our partners and supporters as they gathered together to show their dedication to advancing disability inclusion in the workplace.

Photo depicts Disability:IN staff in front of a sign reading Are You IN at the 2018 Annual Conference

After surveying conference participants at the 2017 Disability:IN Conference, many meetings with key stakeholders, working with a brand identity agency, Disability:IN was chosen from among over 800 names. We wanted a name that would reflect our mission, what we do, and a name that is recognized globally as the leading organization on disability inclusion across businesses.

This was reflected in a speech by Voya Financial’s CEO, Rodney Martin: “By working with organizations like Disability:IN, we are constantly advancing our efforts to best support people with disabilities and their caregivers – from an employment standpoint as well as a customer and client standpoint.” Voya is part of our Inclusion Works Program, and they are very dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in the workplace. This is further emphasized in Rod Martin’s statement that, “If we want to be America’s Retirement Company, we need to serve ALL Americans.”

Photo depicts Rodney O. Martin, CEO of Voya Financial giving a speech at the Rising Leaders Plenary Luncheon. Rodney is standing at a podium branded with the Disability:IN logo.

During this process, we have also changed the names of our programs and initiatives to match the theme of Disability:IN. For more information about our new change and programs, please visit: disabilityin.org

Another highlight was Ted Kennedy Jr’s speech where he said: “We want paychecks, not pity.” This statement resonated with many attendees, in particular those who are seeking employment.

Another exciting moment for everyone was during our awards dinner, where we invited Mandy Harvey to perform for us. Mandy is deaf and was a finalist on America’s Got Talent; she writes her own music, and has a beautiful voice. This was a prime example of how with hard work, dedication and the right opportunity, we can succeed in whatever we set our minds to.

Photo Depicts Mandy Harvey Singing onstage, playing the ukulele with the Disability:IN logo in the foreground

This year we had several tracks, including technology, workplace, marketplace, and supply chain. In addition, there were multiple roundtables and plenary sessions to highlight best practices for disability inclusion. In collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities, we’ve also released the 2018 Disability Equality Index report, and announced the top scores of companies with the best disability practices. There are countless moments that emphasized the value of the Disability:IN conference, and I’ve only been able to include a few of the key highlights.

With our new name, we hope to increase our support, and each year we continue to grow our conference. We hope to see you at the 2019 Disability:IN Conference! Disability:IN 2019 will be held from July 15 through July 18 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile! See you there!

All photos from the 2018 Disability:IN Conference can be viewed here.


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