What a great day! Early in the morning, our wonderful contacts from the embassy met us to take us to a meeting with the President of Korea Nazarene University. We were also joined by a translator and an intern from the embassy.
At Korea Nazarene University, we met with the President and his staff for a briefing. To say he is wonderful and gracious cannot completely convey the character of this man. This university has a focus on providing education to a cross-section of students with disabilities. Of their population enrolled, 300 are students with disabilities. KNU is a Christian university founded in 1954 by the church of the Nazarene. He is proud of the inclusion of students with disabilities, ranging from students who are blind and who use wheelchairs to students with significant learning disabilities.
After the briefing, I spoke to about 150 students about the employment of people with disabilities and provided examples of success stories like the Honorable Tony Coelho, U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth, and Temple Grandin. It was all about inclusion, empowerment, and no pity.
The students asked good questions and were very interested in the discussion. I was overwhelmed when I saw a huge banner that said Joyce Bender above the stage; I never saw my name so large!
Mary Brougher, my COO, also presented on digital accessibility and the Disability Equality Index, the benchmarking tool developed by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the U.S. Business Leadership Network. She did a fantastic job sharing information about these important topics.
Then the President took us to lunch in the cafeteria with members of his staff. It was a sampling of Korean food, from seaweed soup to kimchi and bulgogi. It is always exciting to taste food from a new country.
What moved me the most is when the President asked if he could use my name for a program called the Joyce Bender Program for Employment of People with Disabilities –You have no idea what this meant to me. He wants to focus on employment.
We had a brief meeting with the director and his staff from the Ministry of Employment and Labor to discuss issues such as subminimum pay and employment. They do have sheltered workshops here and subsidies for employers based on the severity of the disability. They have ground to cover, but that is why I am here. I commended them for wanting to improve in this area.
Later we travelled to Daegu and had a wonderful Korean BBQ dinner with our work team from the embassy.
I am thrilled and honored that I had such an impact that the President of Korea Nazarene University wants to name a program after me and wants to improve employment for students with disabilities. What greater experience is there than to see my message of competitive employment of people with disabilities in another country.