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Employment conference, technology fair held Wednesday at JCC

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The first step toward successful employment is having a little faith in yourself, according to Len Statham, employment specialist with the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

Mr. Statham was the keynote speaker of the “Living, Learning and Earning with a Disability” employment conference and assistive technology fair Wednesday at Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen St. His talk focused on the struggle people with disabilities may have in gaining employment.

“It’s a very difficult journey, but it’s well worth the time and effort you put into it,” he said.

A few dozen people listened to him speak about maintaining a positive attitude, and not letting a physical or mental disability halt a job search.

“My message to you is, you don’t have to believe negative thoughts that come to your mind, too,” he said. “We can define how we are going to take a look at things.”

He had the crowd repeat, “I can choose what thoughts to believe today.”

“We have to remain full of strength and courage to carry on,” Mr. Statham said. “On the national average, it takes 10 interviews before you get a job. We can always learn something from those opportunities.”

Rejection is just one part of the employment process, he said. When work is obtained, it serves as a mental health recovery tool. Mental health recovery is about positive opinions about one’s future, a decrease in psychiatric symptoms, an increase in income, an increase in self-esteem and an increase in social status, Mr. Statham said.

He encouraged people to share their stories, to help dispel any myths that might circulate about people with disabilities.

After Mr. Statham’s presentation, conference attendees were able to browse the near dozen vendors who showcased their assistive technology products and related services, such as vehicle modification hand controls, powered wheelchairs, speech-activated software and automatic doors. Staff members from JCC’s own Learning and Success Center were on hand to inform attendees, as well as students strolling through the area, about devices to assist people in reading and writing. The center lends out recorders, pens that can read and scan papers, talking calculators and special software that helps read documents.

The conference and fair were hosted by the North Country Job Placement and Resource Network.

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