Alliston Provides Training, Promotes Employment for People with Disabilities through Fellowship Work in Kenya
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 10:23am | By: Tyler Johnson
Dr. Jerry R. Alliston, associate director of The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies (IDS), is an educator and champion for young people with disabilities. He promotes their inclusion in the community and workplace in Mississippi and across the United States.
Alliston recently had the opportunity to share his expertise and enthusiasm for transition to adulthood in Nairobi, Africa, through the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment (PRP-IDE). PFP-IDE is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is implemented by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Institute for Community Inclusion, and Humanity and Inclusion.
Alliston's trip was in reciprocation to a month-long visit in May 2018 from Vincent Ogutu, a disability employment specialist in Kenya representing the Cheshire Disability Services Kenya (CDSK). Like Ogutu, Alliston worked as an international fellow, being hosted by Ogutu and his family during his trip to Kenya.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of the entire outbound experience was living with Vincent Ogutu and his family,” said Alliston. “Not only did Vincent welcome me into his home, he welcomed me into his family, giving me an experience that highlighted the generosity and strength of the African culture in Kenya.”
During his first week, Alliston was able to observe several meetings to learn about “Employable Phase Two”, a three-year Kenyan employment program that focuses on the promotion of employment and the development of inclusive employer partnerships for youth with disabilities.
Alliston also attended collaborative meetings between numerous partners who focus on employment of young adults with mental and/or intellectual disabilities, employment training and employer technical assistance. Primary partners included Light for the World, Liane Funds, and the Agency for Disability and Development in Africa (ADDA). In these meetings, partners would propose strategies or solutions in the employment of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
He was able to share information on the use of customized employment practices including job coaches, how to fund positions, how to collaborate with universities/colleges, how to work with employers in hiring people with disabilities and how to establish a fatherhood support network.
Alliston also had the opportunity to collaborate with the staff at Cheshire Disability Services Kenya, who openly welcomed Alliston as a colleague and new partner. During his second week, Alliston led a scheduled staff training to discuss specific training focusing on three major areas: job coaching, inclusive youth councils, and the use of technology to impact employment opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities.
He specifically discussed the successes of IDS' Starting Today Empowering Peers through Uniting and Participating (STEP UP) to Leadership Council model. Based on The University of Southern Mississippi's Hattiesburg campus, the STEP UP Advisory Council is composed of youth and young adults with and without disabilities who serve as leaders within their schools, colleges/universities and communities. The Council focuses on issues facing all young people including leadership, self-advocacy, transition, health care, education, employment, and recreation.
As someone who regularly strives to establish “networking” opportunities everywhere he travels, Alliston had the chance to network with other local agencies, with one highlight being a tour of the Mukuru Promotion Centre. While visiting, Alliston, at his request, attended an inclusive meeting of all youth groups, called labs, at the facility. The meeting concluded with a discussion of future plans and possible needs—with the overwhelming issue presented being a lack of funding/resources.
Even when asked directly by staff regarding the inclusivity of the meeting and the future participation of the students without disabilities, the student representative only voiced concerns over the lack of resources, with little or no attention directed at the meeting being inclusive.
“This was a major highlight for me,” said Alliston, “It justified why the meetings need to be inclusive and that the agenda could move away from just funding/resources to several other activities such as advocacy development, and recreational events.”
Since his return from Africa, Alliston and IDS transition-to-adulthood staff have provided training and technical assistance to the CDSK staff in Kenya through video technology such as Zoom. These trainings have focused on the use of job coaches, training job coaches, and job coach documentation.
Plans for future training, technical assistance and collaborations with CDSK and its partners are currently in development. In addition, Alliston is developing a follow-up trip to Kenya to discuss possible new opportunities. Alliston aims to assist in the expansion of future employment services to assist youth and young adults with disabilities. He wants to promote the implementation of assistive technology – more specifically the utilization of technology for career development.
Additionally, he plans to promote the future development of youth councils similar to the STEP UP program to foster leadership and self-advocacy development. Two self-advocates will accompany Alliston to lead advocacy trainings for various groups and individuals.
To learn more about the Institute for Disability Studies at USM, call 601.266.5163 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/disability-studies