Disability Mentoring Day at the UW-Madison: A Promising Practice in Staff Training
Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is officially commemorated on the third Wednesday of every October and is recognized in locations around the world. DMD promotes career development for students and job-seekers with disabilities through job shadowing and hands-on career exploration. With leadership, coordination, and resource materials from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), local communities around the country organize activities to bring students and employers together for informational sessions about career opportunities and one-on-one mentoring with volunteers at public and private places of employment.
While many DMD activities are student-focused events, the Midwest Alliance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took the opportunity to provide an awareness event to campus faculty, administrators, and other staff. "Disability Mentoring Day & Tools for Accessible Web Content" included a series of presentations that focused on technology and accessibility, mentoring students with disabilities, and a luncheon discussion and breakout session funded in part by AccessComputing.
The luncheon and breakout sessions focused on opportunities in computing fields and strategies for building sound networks. Midwest Alliance staff arranged for faculty and student presenters who focused on the importance of web accessibility. A student who is blind demonstrated what he experiences when accessing electronic materials. A demonstration followed that illustrated how to create accessible resources. Other presentations focused on demonstrations of assistive technology used by people with visual impairments and learning disabilities.
Breakout groups discussed the role mentoring plays for students with disabilities, with an emphasis on students pursuing computing fields. Faculty and staff also identified possible areas for student internships and research opportunities in computing.
This promising practice expanded the traditional student mentoring activities on DMD to include disability awareness opportunities for administrators, faculty, and staff.
AccessComputing minigrant activities have been funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, CNS-1042260, and CNS-1539179).