Washington, DC – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) today kicked off a two-day conference bringing together more than 200 leaders in the disability and service communities to develop strategies to support the full inclusion of people with disabilities in national service.
The 2011 Symposium on Service and Inclusion: Improving the Member Experience, is sponsored by CNCS in partnership with the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) and the National Service to Employment Project (NextSTEP) of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“Service empowers individuals and transforms lives,” said Robert Velasco, II, Acting CEO of CNCS. “For people with disabilities, national service is a powerful chance to be on the giving, rather than the receiving end of service. Inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the best thing to do, and we at the Corporation for National and Community Service are committed to doing our part.”
The symposium will bring together representatives from the disability and national service communities and their partners to exchange promising, evidence-based practices, focusing on one of goals laid out in CNCS’s Strategic Plan – making service opportunities accessible and attractive to Americans of all backgrounds.
CNCS has a longstanding commitment to disability inclusion, and has invested more than $80 million to engage and support people with disabilities in national service over the past two decades. In 2010 alone, CNCS has reinforced this record, improving inclusion through a continued commitment:
- 12,000 national service participants received training and technical assistance from NSIP.
- 35 States formed Inclusion Teams to ensure that national service programs include the disability community.
- Through the NextSTEP project, CNCS conducted research to identify best practices to make sure service is a pathway to employment and education.
- CNCS also launched a special initiative, Engaging Veterans with Disabilities, to enhance the capacity of national service programs to engage veterans with disabilities in service.
The symposium will feature plenary presentations, capacity-building workshops, intensive seminars and interactive forums that will focus on topics including universal strategies for access and accommodations, service as a path to employment, and recruiting and supporting underrepresented populations.
As part of the symposium, CNCS will release the results of “Engaging Veterans with Disabilities in National and Community Service,” a report commissioned by CNCS that looks at how military veterans benefit from AmeriCorps and strategies to recruit more veterans into national service. This study included one-on-one interviews with veterans, as well as focus group sessions among veterans and active duty soldiers.
The report highlights the opportunities within AmeriCorps for veterans to serve, how veterans view current recruitment strategies, and the best ways to communicate with veterans in order to successfully engage and retain them in service programs.
“This study shines a light on an important issue – how to engage those who have served in our armed forces in a new mission on the homefront,” said Velasco. “We know that national service helps returning veterans transition back to civilian life and gives them an opportunity to use the invaluable skills they’ve gained in the military to meet community needs here at home. We are committed to recruiting more veterans to serve in AmeriCorps and other our programs, and to expanding the support we provide to veterans and military families.”