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Transition conference promotes self-advocacy for Delawareans with disabilities

Delaware Public Media

The state held its annual conference to help people with disabilities to prepare themselves for the workforce.

More than 500 students and several adults attended this year’s Transition and Self-Determination fall conference—an event held each year through a partnership of state agencies.

The conference included speakers and interactive workshops to help students and adults with disabilities to prepare for the workforce and reach their personal goals. The workshops focused on job demand, self-advocation and soft skills.

Dale Matusevich is the Associate for secondary and transition services for the Department of Education. He says the event has proven to successful and is becoming more popular each year.

“I think the information we are providing students, if they take that information to heart and they go back and they work with their parent to use that information, there’s nothing to hold them back from what they want to do,” said Matusevich.

Kevin Fortunato was among the speakers. He says learning to self-advocate has helped him to no longer see himself as defined by his diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

“You are not your disability. You are all your strengths, your exceptionalities and what you have a natural talent of, and all of that has helped me live the life I’m living today,” said Furtunato.

Fortunato is now employed as a preschool teacher.

The state Department of Labor statistics show 17.1% of people with disabilities over the age of 16 are unemployed.