Why I’m a Fan of the USBLN

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SSB BART Group sponsored and exhibited at the USBLN Annual Conference this year in Louisville, KY. This was my fifth year to exhibit. The first four years were as TecAccess and now SSB has joined the tradition. Why would a small firm spend time and money to sponsor an event like the USBLN National Conference? Well, first let’s look at SSB—what is our core makeup?

SSB is dedicated to ensuring that Internet, Communications and Technology (ICT) is fully accessible. We work with clients of all shapes and sizes to help them create accessible websites, web applications, software applications, multimedia applications, eLearning programs, kiosks, HR applications and systems, mobile devices and applications, product development and social media tools.

We are also committed to a diverse workforce and we are proud of our team that includes many technologists with disabilities. We are also proud that our efforts are narrowing the digital divide globally and that we are a socially responsible corporation.

There are many reasons we choose to be part of the USBLN, but here are a few of them:

Over the years we have found that the USBLN Annual Conference & Expo is the gathering place for Global Thought Leaders, companies that want to be “Employers of Choice”, Multi-National Firms, Fortune 1000 firms from all over America, Federal, State and Local governments, universities, small and medium sized businesses, and disability associations and advocates. We have never found a more interesting and exciting gathering of thought leaders that want to provide a fully inclusive experience for employees, clients, guests, partners, vendors and stakeholders.

This is the one place that leaders from all over the world come together for B2B conversations. We share best practices, obstacles and opportunities. I have heard leaders like IBM, Lowes, Merck, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Ernst & Young, AT&T, AMC Entertainment, Proctor & Gamble, Motorola, Starbucks and Qualcomm say that in this space we do not have to worry about competition because everything we do here makes the world a better place. Of course there is friendly competition but this conference is packed with experts sharing data that can not be found any other place. Each year, I come away from this conference with 1000 new ideas to help my organization thrive in the market place.

Another reason is the USBLN Affiliate program. Many states have affiliate chapters, and some states like Florida have more than one chapter. I am the chair of the board for the Virginia affiliate, the VABLN, and each month we have B2B conversations about disability access, the ADA, Section 508, 504, 503, ICT Accessibility and how to include and retain more people with disabilities and wounded warriors in our work force. I am proud to share the board leadership with organizations like Altria, Owens & Minor Medical, Sands Anderson, Manpower, Suntrust, Capital One, PopRocket Media, Omni Hotels, Fluor Enterprises and VCU Health System. We also have an advisory board of organizations in Virginia that support people with disabilities, including the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. Our Executive Director is a brilliant professional with many years of corporate experience and is also a woman that lost her sight about fifteeen years ago. The affiliate relationships make the USBLN a better organization by including everyone in the conversations.

A few years ago the USBLN created a certification program that certifies businesses that are owned by individuals with disabilities. This is another exciting program that allows USBLN members to show leadership across the nation and mentorship to smaller businesses.

The USBLN Disability Supplier Diversity Program (DSDP) offers businesses that are owned by individuals with a disability, including service disabled veterans, an exciting opportunity to increase their access to potential contracting opportunities with major corporations, government agencies and one another. Through the USBLN DSDP, businesses can obtain Disability-Owned Business Enterprise Certification and get connected to a nationwide network of corporate and government procurement professionals, disability advocates and other certified disability-owned businesses.

Certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprises are incorporated into the USBLN Certified Supplier Database, where procurement representatives from major corporations actively seek potential candidate vendors for bidding opportunities. Additionally, certified disability-owned businesses are eligible to participate in DSDP matchmaking and educational seminars. To learn more about the benefits of certification, you can download the USBLN DSDP Business Opportunities Toolkit Overview at http://www.usbln.org/programs.html.

The USBLN has many other wonderful programs, including Student Council Advisors (SAC) and TOWER initiatives.

All of these programs are amazing, and the leadership and team led by Jill Houghton is impressive. However, all that is just icing on the cake. The real value is the businesses that are now part of the conversation. The companies that are sharing their best practices, amazing ROI successes and the tools and programs that have been created because of these dialogs. Plus the numbers of people with disabilities that are now employed in meaningful well paid positions with benefits. That is why we participate.

These B2B conversations with all stakeholders having a voice are changing the employment landscape for people with disabilities, plus adding major ROI benefits to the businesses that are taking advantage of the information, data and contacts.

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