Join Us for EmpowerCon 2020

Logo: EmpowerCON 2020 in blue across the top; Learn! Share! Celebrate! in blue across the bottom; blue and red people and yellow and orange stars flying up and out of the center of the logo

What is EmpowerCon?

EmpowerCon is an event where people with disabilities, their families, and other supporters can learn and share everyday skills and resources to live more independent lives. But more than that, it’s a place to be who you are and to have fun. 

EmpowerCon 2020 is a virtual event about Access, which is an important part of Independent Living. We’ll talk about voting, preparing, learning, sharing, working, advocating, playing, and living. You’ll share your stories of what access means to you and how we all can fight for our rights to equality — not just as people with disabilities, but as people with intersecting identities. 

EmpowerCon 2020 is a celebration! We’ll honor the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its impact on everyday lives. We’ll celebrate an individual and a business who show the world what it means to be independent and accessible as we present the Floyd Stewart Everyday Hero Award and the Access Music City Business Champion Award. And we’ll celebrate people and the diversity that lives within the disability community. 

EmpowerCon is our place to show up, be seen, and be heard. So, come in your best Zoom comfy clothes, your Cosplay, your Drag, or whatever makes you feel your best. Come with your signs, Come with your ideas. Come with your friends. Come and make new friends. Y’all come! 

When is EmpowerCon?

Days: Tuesday, November 17- Wednesday November 18

Time: Events throughout the day and evening — from 10 am – 10 pm 

Join us for the entire time or pick and choose sessions that interest you!

What is the Floyd Stewart Everyday Hero Award?

The Floyd Stewart Everyday Hero Award is given annually to an outstanding member of the community that embodies the characteristics of Floyd Stewart who inspired others in the disability community to show their strength and integrity every day.  Floyd Stewart touched everyone with whom he came in contact. He  encouraged others to share their talents and make meaningful contributions to the world.  Please nominate up to 3 people and explain why they should be considered for the 2020 Floyd Stewart EveryDay Hero Award.

What is the Access Music City Business Award?

Each year Empower Tennessee chooses a local business that purposely makes strides to include people with disabilities. This business ensures that people within the disability community can participate, engage and be included in all the activities, goods and services that business provides. This business listens to the needs of the community and takes action.  Please nominate up to 3 businesses you believe meet or exceed the criteria of this award.

Interested in Partnering with us for EmpowerCon or adding Swag to the Swag Bags?

Job Opening: Information & Referral

Empower Tennessee is seeking qualified candidates to fill the position of Information and Referral Coordinator.

For consideration, applicants should submit a cover letter, professional resume, and online application form via the button link below by September 4, 2020.

TITLE: Information and Referral Coordinator

POSITION: Regular, Full-Time, Hourly, Non-Exempt

SUPERVISOR: Associate Director

SUMMARY:

The Information and Referral Coordinator is the initial point of contact for consumers (people with disabilities) and other interested parties, particularly those who walk-in, call-in, or e-mail the agency, who are seeking or inquiring about services from Empower Tennessee. The Coordinator provides information regarding available agency programs as well as referrals to relevant community resources. The Coordinator also organizes the supplies and materials required by the agency and staff to perform operational and program duties, as well as other administrative tasks, as assigned. The Coordinator incorporates the Independent Living Philosophy (i.e. client-directed goal setting, dignity of risk, peer mentorship, etc.) in interaction with consumers and the community at-large. In all circumstances, the Coordinator represents and advocates for Empower Tennessee and its mission and fosters meaningful collaborations with consumers and like-minded community partners to achieve strategic goals. The Coordinator exhibits the values of empowerment, partnership, fairness, accountability, sustainability, and knowledge in completing job duties.  

DUTIES:

Specific:

  • Greet all visitors to the agency and provide information and referrals to meet the visitor’s request;
  • Answer agency main telephone line and provide information and referrals to meet the caller’s request;
  • Monitor agency main fax and email addresses and provide information and referral to meet the sender’s request;
  • Update and maintain referral database of community resources and contacts;
  • Coordinate and prioritize functions of agency operations (i.e. digital calendars, supplies, equipment, program materials);
  • Support and provide, as necessary, Independent Living core services to people with disabilities, including: information and referral, peer support, advocacy, skills training, and transition activities in the achievement of consumer goals;
  • Coordinate with program volunteers/interns, as needed, to effectively integrate program goals with an engaged and meaningful experience;
  • Document all activities and interactions according to established standards.

General:

  • Adhere to agency policy and procedures;
  • Participate in agency meetings and events;
  • Represent agency in inter-organizational or community meetings; 
  • Perform other duties as assigned by supervisor or agency.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Education or experience equivalent to a four-year degree, required;
  • Understanding of and commitment to the Independent Living philosophy and disability rights movement, required;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of, and ability to link clients with, community resources, required;
  • Exceptional oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills, as well as customer service acumen, required;
  • Organized, disciplined, self-motivated, flexible, and cooperative work ethic, required;
  • Working knowledge of, and skill with, computer systems/applications, required;
  • Demonstrated ability to respect and empathize with people of diverse backgrounds/experiences, required;
  • Ability to obtain Level 5 Federal Suitability via an extensive background check, required;
  • Regular access to reliable transportation, required;
  • Willingness to work primarily in an office setting, required;
  • System knowledge of disability-specific resources, including, but not limited to: TennCare and related waivers, DIDD, Special Education, employment, housing, strongly preferred;
  • Personal experience with disability, strongly preferred;
  • Fluency in language(s) beyond English (including ASL), strongly preferred.

Posted qualifications serve as a guide for candidate review and are not fixed in stone. Empower Tennessee reserves the right to deviate from posted credentials in determining what combination of candidate education, experience and skills are best suited to a position.

Empower Tennessee is an equal provider of services and an equal opportunity employer—

Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Application for Employment

30 Years of the ADA: A Call for Solidarity and Action

By April D. Meredith, Independent Living Specialist, Empower Tennessee

On July 26, 2020 we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We are truly grateful for the rights and protections the ADA affords people with disabilities. However, another aspect of the ADA that is sometimes overlooked is the responsibility it charges us with – to ensure the legislation is enforced, kept relevant, and improved when necessary – which sometimes requires action.

The ADA is powerful, and so is the population it protects. That said, people with disabilities are not superhuman. We are strong but we have limitations, just like any other group. Much of our wisdom and progress have come from a place of vulnerability. Our strength often comes from trauma that we endure, like the COVID-19 pandemic we are living through right now. That’s why it’s important that we reach out, offer, and accept appropriate support. We must uplift each other. We must also be sensitive to the struggles our peers in other marginalized groups are experiencing.

Many “-isms” such as racism, ageism, and sexism plague our country, and disability-related issues often overlap with all the other ones. This means the disability community is in the unique position to utilize the foundation the ADA provides us to expand on our human rights. It is vital that we pull together, acknowledging the intersection of disabilities and race, culture, socioeconomics, gender, and sexuality. Every marginalized group has experienced a long history of discrimination. However, when you are a person who is both disabled and a member of one or more marginalized populations, you are forced to face multiple barriers to equality. That is why we must combine our resources and our voices through collaboration.

This process begins with respecting each other’s perspectives. Even in areas where we may be able to relate, we should strive to avoid discounting the personal experiences of those in different communities from our own. Being open to having uncomfortable conversations and listening without defensiveness is challenging but essential. We can utilize any privileges we do have to help raise up others. We must be careful not to view the actions of historically-oppressed populations seeking systemic change as threats. When we empower those who are hurting the most, everyone benefits. This is in alignment with the heart and purpose of the ADA.

Despite the confidence shown in speeches, music, protests, social media posts, and other public outlets, these efforts are oftentimes coupled with fear, frustration, and cries for help. When you add the additional stress of a pandemic, emotions are heightened. But this is the perfect opportunity to transform our trauma into positive, lasting change. Let’s take advantage of this crucial state of unrest to show our solidarity for all people with disabling conditions – especially for our black, brown, Asian, economically-disadvantaged, female, and LGBTQ+ loved ones, colleagues, and neighbors who have multi-layered laws, attitudes, and systems working against them. We can work to create inclusive policies, programs, artistic endeavors, communities, and support networks. We can show up and speak out. As a unified voice of disabled advocates highlighting the beauty, challenges, and successes of our diverse situations, we will be able to make a more equitable, welcoming, and accessible society. Through our collective actions, we can raise up the Americans with Disabilities Act, and how it is applied, to the standards we expect and deserve.

Job Opening: Technology & Access

Empower Tennessee is seeking qualified candidates to fill the position of Technology and Access Coordinator. For consideration, applicants should submit a cover letter, professional resume, and application by May 8, 2020.

TITLE: Technology & Access Coordinator
POSITION: Regular, Full-Time, Salary, Non-Exempt
SUPERVISOR: Associate Director

SUMMARY:
The Technology and Access Coordinator (TAC) works collaboratively with the Independent Living Specialists to increase consumers’ access and independence through technology. The Coordinator also develops technology program standards, works with leadership to develop program funding and budgets, and organizes the supplies and materials required by the agency and staff to perform operational and program duties. The Coordinator incorporates the Independent Living Philosophy (i.e. client-directed goal setting, dignity of risk, peer mentorship, etc.) in interaction with consumers and the community at-large. In all circumstances, the Coordinator represents and advocates for Empower Tennessee and its mission and fosters meaningful collaborations with consumers and like-minded community partners to achieve strategic goals. The Coordinator exhibits the values of empowerment, partnership, fairness, accountability, sustainability, and knowledge in completing job duties.

DUTIES:
Specific:

  1. Develop and maintain a consumer goal-based technology lending program;
  2. Oversee the conversion of materials to alternative formats (i.e. Braille, Large Print, Captioning);
  3. Lead programs and/or initiatives related to consumer and/or community access and technology needs, including, but not limited to: Access Music City, Controls4Control, Empowered Home, and Empowered Business Solutions, as assigned;
  4. Develop/Maintain/Strengthen relevant relationships with community partners to advance program objectives;
  5. Provide information and assistance in identifying and accessing supports needed to increase or maintain community independence in areas such as; housing, transportation, assistive technology, durable medical equipment, and other supports needed by people with disabilities;
  6. Be an advocate with and for consumers regarding specific individual issues as well as systemically bringing awareness and positive change to the community at-large;
  7. Support, and provide as necessary, Independent Living core services to people with disabilities, including: information and referral, peer support, advocacy, skills training, and transition activities in the achievement of consumer goals;
  8. Coordinate with program volunteers/interns, as needed, to effectively integrate program goals with an engaged and meaningful experience;
  9. Demonstrate flexibility and initiative as agency priorities may change;
  10. Document all activities and interactions according to established standards.

General:

  1. Adhere to agency policy and procedures;
  2. Participate in agency meetings and events;
  3. Represent agency in inter-organizational or community meetings;
  4. Perform other duties as assigned by supervisor or agency.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  1. Education or experience equivalent to a four-year degree, required;
  2. Understanding of and commitment to the Independent Living philosophy and disability rights movement, required;
  3. Demonstrated knowledge of, and ability to link clients with, community resources, required;
  4. Exceptional oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills, as well as customer service acumen, required;
  5. Organized, disciplined, self-motivated, flexible, and cooperative work ethic, required;
  6. Working knowledge of, and skill with, computer systems/applications, required;
  7. Demonstrated ability to respect and empathize with people of diverse backgrounds/experiences, required;
  8. Ability to obtain Level 5 Federal Suitability via an extensive background check, required;
  9. Regular access to reliable transportation, required;
  10. Demonstrated knowledge of assistive technologies, required;
  11. System knowledge of disability-specific resources, including, but not limited to: TennCare and related waivers, DIDD, Special Education, strongly preferred;
  12. Personal experience with disability, strongly preferred;
  13. Fluency in language(s) beyond English (including ASL), strongly preferred.

Posted qualifications serve as a guide for candidate review and are not fixed in stone. Empower Tennessee reserves the right to deviate from posted credentials in determining what combination of candidate education, experience, and skills are best suited to a position.

Empower Tennessee is an equal provider of services and an equal opportunity employer—Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Download Application Here

Send all completed application packages to careers@empowertn.org

Click the image above for
the PDF version of the application.

Click the image above for
the Word version of the application.

Blog

Empower Tennessee Consumers Shine in the Wake of Adversity
Author: April Meredith

On March 3, 2020, Tennessee was hit with a series of devastating tornadoes. Many in the state found themselves suddenly facing structural damage and psychological effects – the Empower Tennessee office building and staff notwithstanding. Despite the direct impact, Empower Tennessee employees quickly regrouped to coordinate outreach efforts. As we checked on the people we serve, we soon began hearing stories of hope, strength, and love even when the individual’s own life had been disrupted. Because March is both Women’s History Month as well as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we would like to highlight commendable actions of some of the kind-hearted women with whom we spoke. Each of these women have selflessly given to others with and without disabilities during our community’s recent time of adversity.

• Albrice recognized the fear and panic her fellow apartment complex residents were experiencing. She clicked into her role as a motherly figure, providing spiritual guidance and a calming voice for everyone around her. While meeting the needs of her daughter and grandchildren, she has treated her neighbors as family and has offered a helping hand whenever they call. Albrice has been a source of stability during these chaotic events
• Carol responded swiftly with care and compassion after the tornadoes struck. As the President of the Mid TN Council of the Blind (MTCB), she worked tirelessly for days to reach out to every MTCB member, checking on their safety and listening to their concerns. She was especially sensitive to the assistive technology and other needs particular to those who are blind or have low vision. Carol has made sure no one she knows feels alone as a result of the tornadoes, nor due to the Novel Coronavirus safer-at-home mandates that followed.
• Clarisse refused to let the tornadoes intimidate her from exercising her right to vote. She utilized paratransit to travel to her polling site on the morning of March 3 and confidently cast her ballot in the presidential primary election. She volunteered that whole day, assisting voters with and without disabilities, to make their experience as stress-free as possible. Clarisse has continued to be a sounding board to friends and loved ones who have needed to talk and process all that happened on the third and since.
• Beverly utilized her faith community connections to provide some comfort and relief to those without power immediately following the tornadoes. She and her husband Alex opened up their church’s doors, and offered all a warm, dry place to charge their phones and communicate with loved ones, or find much-needed resources. Beverly has remained dedicated to her ministry throughout the tornado recovery process and into the pandemic.
• Lacey Looked beyond her personal loss and sought ways she could give to others impacted by the storms. She decided to buy specific recovery items listed on the Amazon.com wish lists of a local community center and school, both of which serve children and youth but were severely damaged on March 3. Lacey has provided safe accommodation for her own students, as she responsibly switched her college course to be online.

While Tennesseans are still recovering from the early March storms, the entire world, including our local disability community, is now tasked with the unprecedented challenge of dealing with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although these specific circumstances are new to us, coping with social isolation, managing limited access to few resources, and working diligently to remain healthy are areas where people with disabilities have become experts. These women will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and guide our peers with and without disabilities to safely navigate the uncertain times in which we’re living. We encourage people with disabilities everywhere to shine during these dark times – leading by example and sharing our wisdom with others. We are in this together! We are Tennessee Strong!