International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebration, December 4, 2023

Invitation flyer for the MaxAbility 2023 International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebration with keynote speaker Gaelynn Lea musician and public speaker, Date/Time: December 4, 2020 3 to 6 PM CT, Location: Rochester Art Center Registration: bit.ly/2023IDPWD. A headshot of Gaelynn Lea and Logos for sponsors Mayo Clinic, Disability:IN MN, Workforce Development Inc., United Way Olmsted of County, SEMCIL, and the Rochester Art Center.
Image Description: Invitation flyer for the MaxAbility 2023 International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebration with keynote speaker Gaelynn Lea musician and public speaker, Date/Time: December 4, 2020 3 to 6 PM CT, Location: Rochester Art Center Registration: bit.ly/2023IDPWD. A headshot of Gaelynn Lea, musician and public speaker. Gaelynn addresses her audiences with honesty, enthusiasm, humor, and power — she is a strong advocate in the disability community who boldly uses her voice to promote positive social change. Logos for sponsors Mayo Clinic, Disability:IN MN, Workforce Development Inc., United Way Olmsted of County, SEMCIL, and the Rochester Art Center are in row along the bottom.

Past Events and Resources:

Reverse Job Fair April 27, 2023:

Purple and orange postcard with MaxAbility logo text saying Thank you to everyone who participated! 2023 MaxAbility Reverse Job Fair a collage of photos from the day although with text thank you sponsors and logos from United Way, DEED, Workforce development Inc., 125 Live

Thank you to everyone who participated in the MaxAbility 2023 Reverse Job Fair! Because of you, it was a huge success. There were 22 jobseekers with disabilities ready to connect with employers from Ability Building Community, City of Rochester, Hy-Vee, Mayo Clinic, McDonald’s, Olmsted County, Pharmaceutical Specialties, Presto Janitorial Services, Rochester Motors, Rochester Public Schools, Spectrum, Terraloco, TPI Hospitality, and Weis Builders. The event, held at 125 Live, was hopping with lively conversation between jobseekers and employers.

One job seeker commented after the event that, “I am excited for my future prospects.”

An employer stated that, “I am impressed by the candidates! I have my eye on someone already.”

The following is a note received by the MaxAbility team.
Thank you, employers, for making a difference!

Hands opening a thank you card

Dear Employers: 
Thank you for coming to the MaxAbility Reverse Job Fair.  We liked being able to get to know you and your business.  Some of us are very interested in completing applications. 
Thank you again for spending the time to attend.  Hopefully we can connect in the future!
Sincerely –

RAIL Student Participants
For more about RAIL, click here

MaxAbility was joined by 185 attendees in an engaging conversation on: Honoring Disability by Reframing Language “Together we can find a way forward and bring new meaning and power to the word disability. Let’s keep a movement going beyond this lunch & learn to include all our identities.” Headshots of presenters Brittanie Hernandez-Wilson, Equity and Justice Director at The Arc MN and Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer for The Arc MN  are stacked on the right and logos line the bottom for MaxAbility, Workforce Development Inc., Disability:IN MN, and The Arc MN
MaxAbility Logo
Honoring Disability by Reframing Language

MaxAbility extends a huge thank you to our presenters, Brittanie Hernandez-Wilson, Equity and Justice Director at The Arc MN and Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer for The Arc MN, and everyone who participated in our Lunch and Learn on March 29th.

Presenter Biographies:

Brittanie Hernandez-Wilson lives in St. Paul Minnesota and works as the Equity and Justice Director at The Arc Minnesota, an organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Brittanie identifies As a Disabled, Queer, Woman of Color passionate about disability justice and ableism. She serves on the Sub Minimum Wage Task Force and The Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. In her free time, Brittanie enjoys, reading, zooming in the woods, and trying new food!

Alicia Munson (she/her) has been working alongside and on behalf of Minnesotans who have disabilities for more than a decade. In starting her career as a Direct Support Professional, Alicia’s work and allyship was informed by her personal experience as the family member of a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During her time as Public Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota, Alicia earned the respect and trust of community members statewide through her grassroots and lobbying efforts. Now as Chief Program Officer for The Arc Minnesota, Alicia’s work focuses on shifting programs and services internally, as well as systems and society externally, to align with the disability justice movement. She also serves on the Board for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

Postcard invitation to, We Bring Value, with Ashley Harris Whaley Jan 25, from 12-1pm CT. Register for this free online event at https://bit.ly/MaxAbilityDR2023

Image Description:

Postcard Invitation for Disability Reframed. Peach background with headshot of Ashley Harris Whaley. Gray text reading, Join Ashley Harris Whaley for “We Bring Value, Disability History And The Future Of Inclusive Employment” on January 25th, 2023 12:00 PM -1:00PM CT. Be introduced to elements of disability history and the disability civil rights movement. Learn about historical and current discrimination against disabled people in the workplace. Discuss how to make hiring practices and workplaces inclusive and steeped in allyship. Sponsor logos for the Mayo Clinic, Disability:IN Minnesota, the Workforce Development Center, MaxAbility, and United Way of Olmsted County. @disabilityreframed disabilityreframed.com. Disability Reframed Logo line the bottom.

We had a great turnout at this event yesterday, with 307 people joining us! The participants had great questions informed by the presentation, and enjoyed learning more from Ashley Harris Whaley. 

Event takeaways –

  1. If you look back at the history of disability, there are some horrifying stories of exclusion and elimination of people with disabilities.
  2. The Disability Civil Rights Movement is not past tense. The Disability Civil Rights Movement is present tense.
  3. If you have not seen, “Crip Camp,” watch it.
  4. It takes intentionality and prioritization of disability inclusion best practices to attract and retain a disabled workforce.  

“Ashley’s energetic and engaging style kept me riveted and I learned a lot! Definitely watching that Crip Camp movie tonight.”     -Webinar Attendee 

For more information and resources go to the Disability:IN Minnesota website.


December 1, 2022 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 

Inspiring. Inclusive. Engaging.

The 6th Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities Celebration shared the importance of connecting with one another through storytelling!

Kevin Kling Headshot

“If you don’t write your story, your story will write you.” Kevin Kling

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2022 International Day of Persons With Disability hybrid event a success! Working with the many strengths of multiple teams made the event run seamlessly. During the different aspects of the event, the collaboration and exceptional teamwork was apparent. Our new technology vendor (Fisher Productions) really elevated the entire show.


Below is the link to all the videos in a playlist format from the December 1st celebration. Included are the keynote with Kevin Kling along with the art exhibit and awards presentation videos. The short films compiled from around the world are listed individually. The talent recording will be coming soon.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022 – Video Publishing Portal – Mayo Clinic

Here are a few highlights from year six:

  • Hosting the event at the Chateau Theatre was accessible, accommodating, and well received.
  • We had 74 virtual attendees and 128 in-person attendees.
  • Kevin Kling’s stories inspired attendees to narrate their own stories.
  • The Art Exhibit included 37 pieces. The “Juror’s Choice” and “Best of Show” along with three additional pieces will be on display at the Rochester Art Center December 14 – March 1.
  • The People’s Choice Awards went to: “One of a Kind Mind” by Timothy Putzier
A framed painting of a person

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
  • Past performers and new acts brought down the house.
  • We received media coverage from KAAL-TV:


October 27. 2022 11 AM – 1 PM, Career Connections Career Fair

 A job seeker registers at the MaxAbility table decorated with red balloons. Text reads: Thank you employers and job seekers for attending Career Connections! Sponsor Logos for MaxAbility, CareerForce, Workforce Center, 125 Live, and United Way of Olmsted County.

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we hosted Career Connections at 125 LIVE in Rochester, MN. The event kicked of with employers participating in a rich dialog facilitated by Ability Building Community on reducing barriers to employment for people with disabilities. A Project SEARCH graduate shared her employment journey highlighting internships as a way to grow workplace skills.

Job seekers where able to make connections with the following employers: City of Rochester, FedEx, Hy-Vee, Kwik Trip, Mayo Clinic, McDonald’s, McNeilus, Olmsted County, Seasons Hospice, Spectrum, Think Bank, TPI Hospitality, and Workforce Development, Inc.

October 13. 2022 12 PM – 1 PM, Lunch and Learn:

Best Coaches in the Game

With Ryan Rotundo-Manager of Employment Programs at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) 

Headshot of Ryan Rotundo, Manager of Employment Programs at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). With text Join us virtually for The Best Coaches in the Game. Text reads thank you. Sponsor logos for MaxAbility, Workforcecenter, United Way, and the Arc Minnesota.

Watch the webinar by clicking here.

Passcode: E#Lv@2zl

Some lessons shared from Ryan’s experiences were:

  • That you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to make the most impact!
  • It’s not so much about what you sell, but how you sell it.
  • If you can dream it, you can do it!
  • If you love something it should show, and you should talk about it loudly.
  • That everyone has something to offer.
  • Ryan shared that the disability community is the largest minority group in the US and experiences the highest unemployment rate.

Ryan gave pointers on getting started with inclusive hiring practices. He spoke of an employer who said, “We’re gonna make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect.”

Here are some additional resources:

August 24, 2022 12 PM  – 12:45 PM CST, Lunch and Learn

Virtual Lunch & Learn August 24, 2022 12 pm - 12:45 pm. Free event sponsored by MaxAbility, CareerForce, Workforce Development Inc, United Way, and DEED. ASL Service Industry intro Participants will learn some of the things that make American Sign Language (ASL) unique as well as inclusive communication tips to make your deaf and hard-of-hearing guests feel welcome and valued. The workshop will offer a few basic ASL signs to greet customers and coworkers. Facilitator: Eileen Bruns A certified American Sign Language Interpreter and Instructor, Eileen has worked in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community for almost 25 years. She is planning workshops to share cultural information & practical ideas for creating Deaf/Hard of Hearing friendly businesses in our local communities. Employers bring your lunch and log on to learn more about American Sign Language. Register now! SHRM Credit available.

Eileen Bruns, certified ASL Interpreter and Instructor, led us in an active conversation on how we can all be more inclusive to employees and community members that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Below are the ASL agencies that Eileen provided as a resources:

June 6-9, 2022

MaxAbility in collaboration with The Arc Minnesota and Opportunity Services hosted the first Unified Work Mobile Academy in Rochester, MN.  The workshop held at the Hilton Garden Inn provided job skills training to help improve productivity, job satisfaction, and retention for people with disabilities. With topics ranging from self-confidence and goal setting to leadership and problem-solving, the goal of this program is to supercharge workplace vitality across the region. Nine job seekers participated in the inaugural cohort. To wrap up the workshop job seekers toured Mayo Clinic departments and Morrison café/kitchens to learn more about career opportunities.


The MDI Unified Work Mobile Academy created awareness regarding the importance of career training and soft skills to support our future workforce with disabilities. Below are the links to the media coverage we received:


For more information, visit MDI

4/21/22 – 2022 Reverse Job Fair

A professional looking woman sitting at a conference table in front of a laptop is signing to someone . The text reads You're invited to the 2022 MaxAbility Reverse Job Fair, Career Fair and Educational Event. Thursday, April 21, 2022, 11 AM to 11:30 AM Inclusive Communication 2.0, 11:30 to 12:30 PM Reverse Job Fair, 12:30 to 1 PM Employer Networking. Location: 125 Live 125 Elton Hills Drive Northwest Rochester, MN 55901. Logos of the sponsors include United Way, DEED, WDI, 125 Live



The team at MaxAbility would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who attended and participated  in our Reverse Job Fair. 125 Live was buzzing with activity and the excitement was infectious!!

This is a collage of photos with candidates speaking to employers.

collage of photos with candidates speaking to employers.

3/23/2022 Lunch and Learn Virtual Event #2      A woman smiling at the camera with a laptop computer and files on a desk in front of her. She is eating lunch at work. The text reads: Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. The March 23rd event is on Moving from Orientation to Onboarding. Click on the link to register or go to https://bit.ly/LunchNLearnFlyer

Catherine Davis, an EquityLogic™ trainer from the Diversity Council, led this session that was jampacked with information on the topic of Moving From Orientation to Onboarding in our Attracting and Retaining Diverse Workforce series. 29 people were able to attend over the lunch hour and shared their experiences and ideas.

The following are resources provided by The Diversity Council following the event:

  1. Accenture Inclusion and the Power of Diversity (video): Accenture Inclusion & The Power of Diversity | Accenture
  2. Tips for onboarding and training employees with disabilities:   https://www.accessibility.com/blog/tips-for-onboarding-and-training-employees-with-disabilities
  3. Remote work and accessibility:  https://www.accessibility.com/blog/remote-work-and-accessibility-assistive-technology
  4. Understanding Employee Onboarding: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/understanding-employee-onboarding.aspx#:~:text=%22Onboarding%22%20refers%20to%20the%20processes,%2C%20vision%2C%20mission%20and%20values.
  5. Incorporate Reasonable Accommodations Practices into your Onboarding Process (includes downloadable accommodation worksheet)   https://askjan.org/articles/Incorporate-Reasonable-Accommodation-Practices-into-your-Onboarding-Process.cfm?csSearch=3745239_1
Poll taken during the Lunch and Learn event showing improved confidence in attendee's knowledge over the course of the event.

2/23/2022 Lunch and Learn Virtual Event #1   

37 attendees joined us over the lunch hour for education and connection. Our instructor was Catherine Davis, an EquityLogic™ trainer, whose energy was infectious and information was spot on!
“We need to make sure that everyone feels
supported and set up for success in their career.”

The following are resources provided by The Diversity Council following the event:

  1. “5 Must-Do’s for Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions”: https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-acquisition/must-dos-for-writing-inclusive-job-descriptions
  2. “6 Tips Inclusive Recruitment Writing”: https://hiring.monster.com/help-center/traditional-products/job-ads/6-tips-inclusive-recruitment-writing/
  3. “10 Ways to Reduce Interviewer Bias”: https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-strategy/ways-to-reduce-interviewer-bias
  4. “Unconscious Bias in Recruiting” Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-Dp372Jsj4
  5. Tools for Reviewing Job Descriptions:
  1. Textio: https://textio.com/
  2. Gender Decoder: http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/
  3. Readability Analyzer: https://datayze.com/readability-analyzer.php

Together we can attract and retain a diverse workforce that includes all!

2/15/2022 – Disability Reframed                   Ashley Harris Whale, smiling at the camera on a pink background with the text disability reframed, changing perspectives education and conversation

Ashley Harris Whaley’s discussion on CULTIVATING AN ANTI-ABLEIST WORKPLACE 

We had a great turnout, 283 people joined us! The participants asked great questions informed by the presentation and Ashley Harris Whaley graciously granted us some of her resources. Click on the links below.

Takeaways from the event –

What does allyship look like?

  1. Advocating for continued workplace flexibility
  2. Ensuring digital accessibility
  3. Eliminating any assumptions
  4. Listening to specific needs of your colleague(s)
  5. Educating yourself on disability history and issues faced by the disability community

“I wanted to take just a second to thank you and the MaxAbility committee for the training yesterday. I enjoyed it and learned many things. Right after the training I was reading some text for an upcoming radio spot and it occurred to me that some of the wording may be off-putting to someone with a disability. We easily changed it and although it was a small thing, I feel like that is the kind of change that might make a difference to someone. Thanks for helping me and others see things through a different lens.” -Webinar Attendee

Further resources:

Power of Language

Disabled People’s Preferred Terminology

Resources on disability representation


International Day of Persons With Disability – 12/2/21               MaxAbility International Day of Persons With Disability Logo – two blue clipart figures in the shape of a heart around a green outline of a globe. The left figure represents allies while the right figure represents a disabled person using a wheelchair.

The 5th Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities Celebration encouraged us to include the disability lens on everything! We were emboldened to increase collaboration between local, state, and national resources for better outcomes for disabled people and other underrepresented groups. We need to see ourselves as “advocrats.” A phrase coined by one of Judy Heumann’s friends, our keynote speaker. She defined an advocrat as someone who recognizes a problem, connects with disabled people living those experiences, and together solves the problem.

Each year we enjoy the opportunity to celebrate together and to re-connect. This was especially important to so many as the pandemic continues to be isolating. We could feel the joy at The Castle, and in the chat during the Art Exhibit and Celebration of Talent!

View the fireside chat with Judy Heumann as well as other event videos from the evening by clicking here.

Bite Sized learning modules for employers, introduced in October 2021, are full of information and resources:

Card announcing Bite Sized Learning for Disability Inclusion

Career Connections Career Fair — 10/07/21

Employers were excited to connect with over 60 job seekers!

Comments we heard from job seekers included:

“This event was very helpful. I was able to set-up an in-person interview with [an employer] who I applied for.”

“I appreciated the smaller intimate atmosphere of this event.”

“I liked how there was a lot of employers to choose from.”

Many thanks to the following employers who actively engaged in
Career Connections:

Ability Building Community (ABC), Avra Hospitality, Charter Communications, City of Rochester, Fastenal (Winona), Jennie-O Turkey Store, Kwik Trip, McDonald’s, Mayo Clinic, Nexus Family Healing – Southeast MN Crisis Center, Olmsted County, Pace International, , Seneca Foods, Think Bank

MaxAbility Quarterly Network Meeting – 8/18/21

Recognizing and Implementing a Request for Reasonable Accommodations

Our key takeaways from the meeting included:

  • The best place to start is asking employees what they need regarding reasonable accommodations. Employees have lived experience and can work with their employer to find creative solutions.
  • A welcoming environment where employees feel supported sets the stage for interactive conversations to happen.
  • During new employee training, it is important to introduce new tasks one at a time and use a layered approach. This helps ALL employees to be successful.

Watch an Employee/Employer Success Story

Download the Bite Sized Learning Take Away Card

Film and Panel Discussion, Hearts of Glass June 2021

“Building an Equitable Workforce” presented by Angie Guenther, Metro Regional Quality Council Recording

2021 MaxAbility Reverse Job Fair Recording

MaxAbility Quarterly Network Meeting Recording – 2/24/21

Passcode: WKz7E9.q


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