Enable America was started in the year 2002 by Richard Salem, an attorney, as an organization that was dedicated to assisting people with disabilities to find employment and live independently.
The organization was the first one dedicated entirely to the reduction of unemployment among people with disabilities. Enable America takes a two-pronged approach to accomplish their goal, reaching out to members of both the disability community and the business community.
Enable America hosts Community Connection Meetings across the nation; they are a first step in the creation of a national information-sharing network comprised of local community task forces which are devoted to the elimination of barriers to employment of people with disabilities. The organization's second approach is to host a series of business breakfast meetings as a follow-up to their Community Connection Meetings. The breakfast meetings will involve managers, business leaders, inspirational speakers, and resource professionals.
The goal of the Business-to-Business Meetings is to encourage prospective employers to hire employees with disabilities through demonstrating the many benefits of hiring them, as well as by answering questions employers may have related to personnel policies, insurance and taxes. Enable America desires to embrace not only people with disabilities and the organizations that support them, but business leaders and communities as well. To better understand the different issues facing people in the disability community, the organization has traveled across America conducing Disability Town Hall Meetings in greater than twenty cities and seventeen states over a three-year period of time.
Enable America's listening tour gathered members of the disability community that included educators, business people, civic organizations, social service providers and political leaders in cities that included Boston, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Tampa, Los Angeles and San Diego. The people who participated identified five key areas of concern among people with disabilities:
While the organization was on their twenty-eight city listening tour, they learned that the door to the workplace swings both ways. People with disabilities have to enter themselves; no one can do it for them. Employers; however, have to be willing to substitute knowledge and confidence for any latent fears that present attitudinal barriers at the entrances to their offices, shops, and plants. Enable America's Community and Business Partners have joined them in their effort to throw open the door. Enable America itself remains committed to raising awareness of employment-related disability issues on both local and national levels.
Meet the Enable America Staff
Richard J. Salem: Richard Salem is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Enable America. He founded Enable America in 2002 to eliminate the significant barriers to not only employment, but civic involvement and social inclusion that Americans with disabilities face. Enable America reflects Richard's belief that good things happen when people have jobs.
Richard lost his eyesight as a teenager. He has been practicing law for greater than thirty years, and is the founding partner of the Tampa-based Salem Law Group. He manages an active business and governmental practice, and is a member of the Florida Bar, the American Bar Association, the American Blind Lawyers Association, and the International Bar Association. John D. Kemp, co-founder of the American Association of People with Disabilities has said that, "Richard Salem brings new and exciting ideas for political participation and active civic involvement to our diverse and, oftentimes, fragmented disability community. Richard is no overnight sensation; simply looking at his career, his life, shows us all what major contributions he's made to the quality of everyone's lives he's touched in so many different circles."
Steve LaBour: Steve LaBour is the Executive Director of Enable America, with greater than thirty years of experience in the fields of nonprofit programming development, community and business connections, community involvement, civic engagement and government relations. Steve has extensive experience with bringing diverse groups together in order to achieve common goals.
Steve's career has found him working with deaf students who attended the National Institute for the Deaf while still in college. After graduation he continued working with people who are deaf, serving on the board of directors and as board president for the Deaf Services Center in Tampa, Florida. Steve also worked for the Major of Tampa to assist in the establishment of the city's first ever Mayor's Alliance, a group of community service providers, businesses officials and community leaders, to work on a number of issues facing people with disabilities in the Tampa area.
Armando Sanchez-Aballi: Armando Sanchez-Aballi is the Director of Business and Community Connections at Enable America. As such, Armando is responsible for engagement of the disability and business communities through outreach programs and facilitated meetings with the goals of identifying and alleviating barriers to employment.
Before joining Enable America, Armando held executive-level positions at a state trade association. He also advocated for business interests before the Florida Legislature and the Office of the Governor. Armando served in positions of leadership in a number of non-profit organizations, developing and implementing community outreach and organizing programs. Armando earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Davidson College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Georgia.
Dave Mikes: Dave Mikes is the Communications Manager for Enable America, handling media and public relations, as well as web development. Before coming to Enable America, Dave worked as a broadcast journalist for a number of television affiliates in Internet development and on the air. He has experience in advertising, marketing and PR as well. Dave graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.
Enable America Programs
Enable America has various programs that have been established since the organization began. The organization improves employment opportunities for people with disabilities by matching them with employers who are working to improve their workplace, for example. 'Mentees,' spend a day working with their employer, 'mentor,' in order to gain valuable workplace experience that is many times difficult for them to find, as well as connections that can assist them to further their careers. Below are other examples of programs through Enable America.
Community Connection and Business to Business Meetings: Community connection and business to business meetings bring local leaders, lawmakers, employers and service providers together so they may learn, as well as share stories of their success. The meetings are an important step towards building a bridge between people with disabilities and the communities they live in.
VetConnect:VetConnect is dedicated to assisting wounded warriors to re-acclimate to civilian life or return to active duty. The program enhances existing rehabilitation programs for wounded veterans, actively engaging local civic, business, and community leaders in the process of reorientation of wounded warriors in the communities of which they are a part. The VetConnect program improves the recovery outcome of wounded warriors through pairing them with other warrior mentors who have also been wounded and have completed, or are completing, the recover process. Since the year 2007, greater than two-hundred wounded warriors and their family members have been served through VetConnect mentors across America.
The VetConnect program through Enable America has supported the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a number of private organizations who address the needs of wounded warriors via the operation of programs that assist them in adapting to everyday routines and disability. VetConnect has assisted wounded warriors to secure jobs with government and private employers, or return to active duty.
Team Enable:Team Enable is a program that is designed to organize people with disabilities and other community members through training groups and sports activities. The program was started in April of 2009 when Team Enable fielded a team at the St. Anthony's Triathlon. The team included two blind participants at the time, one of whom was Richard Salem himself. Richard competed in biking while riding a tandem bike with Air Force General Robert Holmes. The other blind participant was U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Ivan Castro, who ran in the 10k with assistance from his running partner, Scott Heintz - www.enableamerica.org
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