Saturday morning, Mary Brougher, Chief Operating Officer, of Bender Consulting Services, Inc., and I left Pittsburgh for a State Department trip to Seoul, South Korea. Even as I am blogging this, I cannot believe what an honor and wonderful opportunity this is for me; a chance to make a difference in the world for the quality of life for people with disabilities in South Korea is hard to fathom. This trip is a result of outreach from the embassy in South Korea to the U.S. State Department requesting someone with a specialization in the employment of people with disabilities come and share best practices. When the State Department called and asked if I would go to represent the U.S. to talk about employing people with disabilities, I was so excited and very humbled. If you know me, you know I am on a crusade for quality of life and freedom for people with disabilities and that means employment. We all know that without employment, you will never be free in any country.
The message I must convey is the incredible talent and value people with disabilities bring to the workplace. A few years ago, I was sent to Panama for the same reason—to talk about employing people with disabilities, and I shared that same message. I take this seriously – representing our country, providing hope and changing the views about people with disabilities in another county.
The first leg of our trip was to San Francisco, with a layover, before boarding a 13 hour flight to Seoul. The minute we walked on the plane, it was a new world with great hospitality and Korean food. On the flight, we enjoyed a Korean dish, Bibimbap, also known as Goldongban. This is a mixture of white rice, various vegetables, pan-broiled meat, and red paste known as Gochujang.
On the flight, everything immediately felt so different, and yet so wonderful. I love to travel and see the customs and culture of other countries. It is different, except for one thing—disability is an important issue worldwide.
I am so glad to have Mary with me on this trip. When I looked across the aisle, I was reminded what great people work with me on this crusade – like Mary, Paula Ballog, and all of our team Bender colleagues. How lucky I am to have so many great employees. What really struck me the most was how exciting it will be to meet new people in a new country where we have the great honor of leaving our footprint—reminding the people of South Korea that it is all about making talent the only discriminator.
As I write this, we are close to landing. I can’t wait to talk about the great changes that have occurred in the nearly 26 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Since its inception, Bender has aligned over 1,000 people with competitive employment in the U.S. I look forward to sharing the strategies that helped us achieve this goal and improve the lives of so many people with disabilities. As I said, we are different and yet the same—a seizure anywhere in the world is still a seizure.