Our veterans deserve employment


North Carolina has the fourth highest military population in the United States, with nearly 800,000 veterans. Camp Lejeune is home to fourteen percent of these veterans, as well as thirty-eight percent of North Carolina's active duty military personnel. After September 11, 2001, there was a huge increase in the United States military. Now that marines are coming home from Afghanistan, there is a reduction in active duty marines. Lt. Col. Bruce Sizemore says “this reduction is creating an overabundance of veterans who are trying to find the same civilian jobs.”

Veterans are required to take classes that assist them in transitioning to civilians. The classes covering resume writing, understanding services, and other skills. Veterans Affairs and the G.I. Bill offer money and training for the education of these veterans. Veterans typically try to find jobs that align with their skill sets, e.g., an engineer may want to be mechanic, or a fighter pilot may want to be a commercial pilot. Lt. Col. Sizemore gave a list of military friendly companies hiring in North Carolina, which are listed below:


CACI International: 18% Veteran employment          

DSR Technologies: 19% Veteran employment

Booz Allen Hamilton: 30% Veteran employment

Cubic Corporation: 40% Veteran employment

American Eurocopter: 43% Veteran employment

Dyncorp International: 60% Veteran employment



Shame on you, NBC's Today show


News that a sign language interpreter at a memorial for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was not really interpreting for the deaf, but instead gesticulating gibberish, has understandably outraged many in the deaf community.   But perhaps the outrage is misdirected; the bigger culprit here appears to be NBC and the “Today” show.


Millions of TV viewers saw the interpreter, 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie, interpreting at Tuesday’s service. But the gestures made no sense to millions of the deaf around the world. South Africa’s leading deaf association quickly called attention to the incident, calling Jantjie a fake, and saying he was inventing signs.


Today Jantjie explained that performance to Johannesburg’s Star newspaper by saying he may have suffered a schizophrenic episode, that he heard voices in his head and started hallucinating.   He says he had taken his medication, and there was nothing more he could do.


While the truth behind Jantjie’s performance may be in question, there is little doubt of the disgrace NBC rightfully faces for an incident on the “Today” show.   While the incident was being discussed by show hosts, a show staffer popped up in the bottom of the screen, much like an authentic deaf interpreter might do, and began making his own fake gestures. The joke did not go over well.


To their credit, the shows star’s (who nonetheless will bear the brunt of this disaster) immediately recognized how wrong this was. Natalie Morales quickly tried to stop it, shaking her head, saying “Oh no, no, no. Guys, let’s not do that.” Other “Today” stars agreed and the insert was soon taken down, but the damage had been done before a nationwide audience.


NBC’s insensitivity is the real outrage in this incident.   If the producers of the “Today” show have such little understanding and total disregard for the disability community, they should be in a different line of work, starting tomorrow. A sensitivity class would also be helpful.


Mentoring Helps Unemployed Vets Expand Job Network



Across the country, U.S. military service members will be leaving the military in record numbers.  In addition to facing the challenge of unemployment, many cope with a service-related injury or disability.   Enable America’s Career Mentoring Days offer a valuable connection for these veterans to employers who want to hire individuals with their leadership, management, and problem-solving skills.


Enable America organized several Career Mentoring Days for Wounded Warriors and Disabled Veterans in North Carolina, a state that has the third largest military footprint in the United States.  Today it is estimated by the NC Department of Commerce that over 11,000 transitioning military reside in North Carolina, and that number is expected to increase to 20,000 per year for the next three years.   In November employees at Lenovo, Duke Energy and WRAL/Capitol Broadcasting Companies served as mentors and paired up with veterans to provide career coaching and job search assistance.   


At Duke Energy Raleigh, the DO-IT! (Disability Outreach & Inclusion) employee network group hosted their 5th Annual Enable America Career Mentoring Day for 9 veterans.    Each attendee or “mentee” was mentored by a Duke Energy employee who represented an area of interest to the job seeker.  A rewarding experience for both mentee and mentor, information is shared and relationships are developed that would otherwise not be readily available to the job seeker. 


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Duke Energy, Raleigh NC, November 20. 2013


At Lenovo’s North American headquarters in Morrisville NC, Enable America partnered to host the 3rd Annual Career Mentoring Day at Lenovo.  Veterans preparing for careers in computers and software learned about upcoming technology advancements and specific skills that will be in demand in the near future.  The mentoring day provides highly valuable one-on-one coaching for the job seeker to improve their job search and hone their skills.   In November the Enable America event was one of many programs Lenovo implemented to celebrate veterans and their military service.



November 26, WRAL/Capitol Broadcasting Companies in Raleigh NC will host their 5th Annual Career Mentoring Day for 10 veterans referred to Enable America programs by Ft. Bragg Warrior Transition Batallion, Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Durham VA Medical Center, Wake Tech Community College and My Computer Career.  Attendees will hear about job opportunities at each of the Capitol Broadcasting Companies including WRAL, Microspace, CBC New Media Group, Durham Bulls Baseball, and MIX 101.5.



Enable America Career Mentoring Days are sought after opportunities for job seekers to explore careers in a specific industry, at a specific company, or in a specific position or function.   The 2014 schedule will be developed over the next few months – visit this website for upcoming events: 


 Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.

Hope for Humanity


In the midst of the outrage many of us felt after hearing a blind person had been kicked off a US Airways flight comes a ray of hope.  That man did not go alone, as the ensuing objections of some 35 other passengers were so great the flight had to be canceled.


No doubt you have heard the story from last week, when a US Airways flight attendant insisted 49-year-old Albert Rizzi restrain his guide dog, Doxy, and put him under the seat.  Rizzi says he flies monthly, and relies on Roxy to get around.  When Rizzi could not do as the attendant wanted, he was escorted off the plane, left standing in a Philadelphia terminal unsure how he would return to his home on Long Island, NY. 


But Rizzi would not be alone.  Shortly after his ejection we was joined by other passengers in protest.  Together with his new friends, Rizzi returned to the Long Island MacArthur Airport by bus (chartered by US Airways, it should be noted), and even got a car ride home from a fellow passenger.


While the incident is infuriating to those who advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, it is encouraging that so many able-bodied people did not just stand aside, but stepped up.   More and more of us have that opportunity each day, and we do not need such an outrageous incident to spur action.


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.

Blind Lifter, the Pat Leahy Story


A wonderful story of inspiration is being passed around the Enable America offices today, about a young man whom we've known for years.  Now his story is being told in a documentary, Blind Lifter, which will be an inspiration to all, not just people with disabilities.


Pat Leahy was born with a rare genetic disease that left him with only four percent of his vision as a child.  But he refused to listen to those who said he could not live a normal life.  Among his many accomplishments, Pat was quite athletic, first on a local swim team, then as a gymnast and wrestler. When he lost what was left of his limited sight, Pat devoted himself even more intently to bodybuilding, and became a champion.


You learn more abut this remarkable man in a wonderful story that aired on NBC's Today Show, the Inspiring Blind Bodybuilder Story can be seen here.


 Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.

From a Russian Orphanage, to History in the NYC Marathon


Over the weekend came great news on wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, truly an inspiration. Competing and winning in this past Sunday's New York City marathon, she completed the 26.2 mile route by making history.  The Russian born, US paralympian athlete has now completed an unparalleled sweep of four major marathons, winning the women's wheelchair divisions in Boston, London, and Chicago as well.   McFadden won NYC in less that two hours: one hour, 59 minutes and 13 seconds, to be exact, more than three and a half minutes ahead of the runner-up. She is the first marathoner ever, disabled or able-bodied, to win all four marathons in a single year.

But these accomplishments do not tell the most interesting story of this athlete's perseverance, nor why she is an inspiration to all people, not just those with disabilities.  "I don't look at myself as disabled," she says.  "I don't think any wheelchair racer thinks of themselves as disabled."


Never having known her mother after being born in Russia, Tatyana was paralyzed as an infant by spina bifida, in which her spinal column did not fully develop.  She was given up to an orphanage outside St. Petersburg, Russia, no wheelchair, having to make do by crawling around with her hands.  Her world changed in 1993, with a visit to the orphanage by Deborah McFadden, director of the International Children's Alliance.  There was an immediate bond between the two, and while McFadden did not make the visit with the intention of adoption, Tatyana sparked the possibility.  Fearing Tatyana would not survive until adulthood, Deborah McFadden made the decision that made yesterday's historic NYC Marathon a possibility.


A hand up is what Enable America provides to people with disabilities.  And in that spirit, that's what Deborah McFadden did.  Tatyana took if from there.


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.


October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month


Each year during the month of October, many diverse and inclusive employers celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an initiative of the Department of Labor-Office of Disability Employment Policy.  At Enable America we partner with employers to host Career  Mentoring Days, matching job seekers with disabilities to mentors who provide employment information, career coaching, and encouragement.    The mentoring company and it’s employees are exposed to a talented pool of resources while the mentees or job seekers further their understanding of the industry, company and position which they are targeting.  Building these bridges of knowledge and education is the mission of Enable America, an advocacy for increasing employment of persons with disabilities, wounded warriors and disabled veterans.


Enable America works with 24 employers across the State of North Carolina, including the Carolina Hurricanes of Raleigh and Costco of Durham.   This October the Carolina Hurricanes held their 5th annual Enable America Career Mentoring Day.  Hurricanes employee Johnny Gill spent the day with Richard referred by the DHHS Division of Services for the Blind, providing a behind-the-scenes view of the hockey operation and career advice; as well as involving Richard in the planning of an upcoming Hurricanes promotion.    Also in October, Costco of Durham held their first Enable America Career Exploration Day when General Manager Brian Minion and his staff hosted 20 job seekers referred by DHHS VR, Rainbow66Storehouse, Durham Veterans Administration, Becoming of Durham, Carolina Outreach, Community Partnerships, and Ft. Bragg WTB.  Job seekers learned about Costco’s unique company benefits and position in the retail industry, as well as employment opportunities and process.   Networking opportunities like the Hurricanes and Costco mentoring days give job seekers a competitive edge and can help accelerate their job search while expanding visions of what is possible, for both the job seeker and the employer.   Thank you Carolina Hurricanes and Costco of Durham for your inclusive culture!


Enable America’s mission continues throughout the month of November when in addition to persons with disabilities, the nation recognizes National Disabled Veteran Employment Awareness month.   Recruitment is underway for wounded warriors, disabled veterans and persons with disabilities to attend  mentoring days offered by Enable America in partnership with Eaton Corporation, SAS, Lenovo and Duke Energy.  For more information, visit www.EnableAmerica.org


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.

Lovers Lame, a novel by Robert Rudney



Robert Rudney, a former intelligence analyst with Booz Allen Hamilton and Senior Advisor with the U.S. Air Force has authored his first novel, Lovers Lame, which details the life and loves of main character David Levin. David has paralysis on the left side of his body, and yearns for two things – a women and a job. The book chronicles David’s awkward dating experiences, love found and lost, his job search and finally, acceptance of his own disability status.


Rudney’s main character, like many people with disabilities, lives a life of relative social isolation. He unabashedly sets out to have his main character tackle his loneliness and learn how “ to chat up a woman with half your bod doing its own thing?”


When not searching for love, the main character Levin is searching for work. It is during this time that Levin starts to identify as a person with a disability having spent much of his life trying to pretend he is “normal.” This realization is tied to the obstacles Levin faces in securing gainful employment. When he goes on SSDI, Rudney writes: “…I was now a part of American society’s warehousing system for crips who couldn’t make it….I knew that only a few people escaped SSDI to find a real job. Most just die”.


The protagonist Levin helps form a self-help group for people with disabilities to confront the obstacles to securing employment. (In real life, Rudney in fact ran such an organization named Excel.) Rudney doesn’t shy away from naming real life challenges such as job portals that people who are blind can’t navigate because they are not accessible, the challenges of dealing with the of vocational rehabilitation, and the built in disincentives to getting off SSDI (which by the way less than 1% of people ever do.). This work of fiction is all too real for people with disabilities.


In the end the main character David Levin gets the girl but then losses her. But, he does get a great job offer. For everyone, life has its ups and downs. It is just that it is tougher for people with disabilities to get the girl (or guy) and the job to pay for the dates. Thank you Bob Rudney for your honest portrayal of life in America as a person with a disability.


Lovers Lame is available at http://www.loverslame.com/


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.

Goodbye, to a Friend and Supporter


Shortly after I wrote our thanks last week to Congressman CW "Bill" Young for his service to our country and Enable America, did we receive word of his passing.   In the immediate hours since that news broke, the outpouring of sentiment and affection has been overwhelming.  Enable America is just one example in the long, long line of organizations now in existence that will serve Americans in the years ahead, cementing the Congressman's legacy.

As I wrote last week, generations to come will benefit from the Congressman's service.  True then, even more true today.


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org.


Thank You Congressman Young



It is ironic that the first chapter in the new Enable America blog coincides with the closing of another chapter, for a person very close to us.    This week U.S. Representative C.W. “Bill” Young announced he will retire at the end of his current term in 2014.  With that, a long and illustrious career for the currently longest serving Republican in Congress, a great supporter of so many causes including Enable America, will close after 22 terms in office.


In the months to come there will be much deserved adoration for Congressman Young, on behalf of the many people he helped both politically and personally.  The Congressman’s commitment to supporting the U.S. Military, and by that I mean the men and women in the service, is well known.  He has dedicated his life and career to supporting our troops, not only making sure our military is the best in the world, but by providing the necessary equipment and assistance to men and women in uniform so they can accomplish their mission.   And the Congressman’s support does not end once that mission is over.  At a time when many need help in transition, Congressman Young is always there, whether it is on a legislative or personal level.


We at Enable America have witnessed this over the years, and have been honored as benefactors of the Congressman’s leadership, guidance and endorsement of our programs.   Last September we were proud to honor Congressman Young, along with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, with Enable America awards of appreciation, for their service to all people with disabilities.    The occasion was Enable America’s tenth anniversary, which would not have been possible without his support from our very beginnings in 2002.   Concurrent with our anniversary, the Congressman read a proclamation on the House floor, in praise of  Enable America and our founder Mr. Richard Salem.  A framed copy of his words sits next to me as I write this.  In part, the Congressman said “This organization has assisted countless people with disabilities in finding a job and the belief that ‘good things happen’ when people have jobs underpins their effort.  (In addition)... Enable America assists our wounded warriors as they return to active duty or civilian life. Enable America honors their service and sacrifice by showing businesses that investing in our nation’s veterans and honoring their service to our nation is not charity, but a smart business decision.”


Congressman Young, now it is our time to extend our appreciation, though it is impossible to fully convey that appreciation to the level you deserve.   Words alone will not capture the impact you have had on our nation and its people,  your devotion to our most deserving citizens in the military, and your bipartisan spirit that is so much in need these days in Washington.   On behalf of the millions of Americans whose lives are forever enriched from your actions, and the generations to follow who will likewise benefit from that service, thank you.


Please send questions and comments to Blog@EnableAmerica.org. 


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VIDEO: Ten Years of Accomplishments

Founded in 2002, Enable America provides a wide range of programs that directly engage with and improve the lives of people with disabilities, including disabled veterans and wounded warriors. Watch this video to see highlights from the past ten years.

Senator Tom Harkin recounts his years of fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, as he accepts the Enable America “Award of Appreciation” at the 10th Anniversary Reception held in Washington, DC.

Founder and CEO Richard Salem addresses the audience at Enable America’s 10th Anniversary Reception, recounting his journey as a person with a disability, and his inspiration for helping others.

dCFC #11704

In the CFC manual, we are: Disabled Americans Employment Services (Enable America Inc)

Isolation end where employment begins. Help our nation’s wounded warriors and people with disabilities take the most important step in reconnection with their communities.