|Volume 18, No. 2 - Spring 2010||
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We Connect Now
Gabriela McCall Delgado Creator and Webmistress We Connect Now
We Connect Now, http://weconnectnow.wordpress.com/, was designed to connect college students with disabilities so that they could share experiences and work together on issues of common interest. The website began with seed money from a grant received from Young People For (YP4), www.yp4.org, which is a “strategic long-term leadership development program that identifies, engages and empowers the newest generation of progressive leaders to create lasting change in their communities.” As the creator of the website, I believe that people with disabilities need to be involved with activism on issues beyond just disability-related matters in order to be truly powerful in society. From the research that I did and as a college student with a disability, there was no place to go in order to connect with each other about the college experience. Thus, the idea for the We Connect Now website was born.
We Connect Now is dedicated to uniting people interested in rights and issues affecting people with disabilities, with particular emphasis on college students and access to higher education and employment issues. One of our goals is to help college students with disabilities succeed in their studies by getting the information and support they need through various resources—links, blogs, news, laws, stories, events, and jobs. Through We Connect Now, people can share and read stories from other contributors, and we encourage website visitors to take action by writing blogs, hosting events, or becoming involved in politics by learning about upcoming legislation. We have a “focus of the month” that addresses a particular disability or condition in an effort to bring our visitors more information and support. In addition, if people have questions, we encourage them to contact us.
The “links” that have been compiled on We Connect Now run the gamut, currently from “A” to “W.” The aim of the links is to help site visitors connect and learn more about their rights as a person with a disability, take action, and network. Included resources have several areas of focus—diagnosis based agencies/organizations, national and community based organizations that focus on disability services, college and university programs serving students with disabilities, various advocacy organizations, and so much more.
The “blog” segment of We Connect Now gives our site visitors a voice. Bloggers and readers, alike, are welcome! You are invited to blog for the site as a regular contributor or as a guest blogger. Simply email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, send along your resume, and let us know why you would like to blog for us. You are also welcome to promote the website by sending the blog to friends and associates. We’d appreciate you letting us know when you pass along this information. In addition, we share information about other “blogs worth reading” along with “reading for thought.”
Check the “news” page for the latest information affecting people with disabilities. Common segments of this page include national and international news, as well as past articles, that we think are of particular interest. We are always looking for additional information and welcome individuals sharing important news items with us. We may even feature you as our news source of the week, with your permission.
The “laws” page is widely varied in its content. A wide range of laws, regulations, pending legislation, and other legal resources are touched upon in this section. Not surprisingly, federal laws governing the rights of individuals with disabilities are included as are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We also include information related to international laws governing the rights of individuals with disabilities, legal resources on rights to vote in national elections for people with disabilities, and some state specific information.
“Stories” can be vital in our understanding of the people and world around us. We Connect Now site visitors are invited to acquaint others with what it is like to be a person with a disability in college or elsewhere in life. You are also welcome to read others’ stories and compare experiences. Stories can be submitted in several formats—written, audio, or video—by creating a link to a video posted on YouTube. Check out several students’ stories at the “We Connect” YouTube page, http://www.youtube.com/user/weconnectvideo, and please remember to take care with what you share on social networking sites like YouTube! Social networking via the internet can have great benefits, but it can present challenges and hazards, too. With that said, it is important to remember that We Connect Now is not responsible for other content or information contained on the YouTube site.
The “events” page is an invaluable resource for our site visitors! Listings typically cover the gamut with regards to location and event type—fundraisers, rallies, and disability related employment. We would be happy to post information about upcoming events scheduled to take place at your college or in your community that celebrate or support people with disabilities. We also encourage you to create your own event within your school or community that supports your cause, and it would be great if you would forward photos of the event. We would love to hear from you so that we can help you publicize your upcoming event, as well as hear about the event itself.
People with disabilities face challenges and discrimination in the work place. According to the United States Department of Labor statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities far exceeds that of individuals without disabilities. In an effort to promote increased equality between these two populations, the “jobs” section presents several broad topics to assist college students with disabilities to obtain gainful employment. One of the best places to find work as a college student with a disability is with your college disability service office. College students interested in public service should consider the federal government, which is one of the main employers in tough economic times. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management site, http://www.opm.gov/disability/, is dedicated to disabled Americans looking for a job with the federal government. Teach For America, http://www.teachforamerica.org/careers/, is a nationwide service corps that works to place people interested in helping underserved public schools. You need not be an education major to serve. These are but a few resources available on the “jobs” page.
If you would like to help develop We Connect Now further, I am currently seeking people to blog on national and disability-related issues. In addition, we would like you to share your personal stories about having a disability in college. If you are interested or know someone who is, please email me at email@example.com. Lastly, I would appreciate it if readers of this article provided me with their comments regarding the website, which can be sent to the email above. Your feedback will help me improve the website, with the ultimate outcome of it being more beneficial to college students with disabilities and others. ■