Disability does not discriminate. It knows no boundaries of affluence, gender, age, ethnicity or race. More than 85% of our worldwide population will either experience disability or care for someone with a disability in their lifetime.
While there has been much work done in the past, one organization actively advocating for greater inclusion and visibility of the disability community today is Build Inclusion, Inc., a Lexington non-profit that became a federally registered 501(c)(3) in March 2015.
Annette Jett, MBA and the Executive Director of Build Inclusion shares, "When my husband and I had our first child who was born with developmental disabilities in 2005, it opened us up to a whole new world. Her younger brother was born just 20 months later. It took a while, but I realized I knew little about parenting and even less about resources for disability. I was lucky to be able to pursue a Graduate Certificate at the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky while my husband supported our family. It was there that I was catapulted into a group of like-minded people and mentors who guided me to become the advocate that I am today."
As one of the only four agencies in Kentucky to have received a state grant to offer customized employment to the people they serve, Build Inclusion staff pursues training and certification in best practices in disability employment through internationally- acclaimed Marc Gold and Associates.
Annette says, "We believe it's about human rights: disabled people deserve to live as independent a life as they desire. That's why we say, 'Exclusion isn't always intentional, but inclusion must be.' We look forward to continuing our work in Supported Employment and facilitating relationships between job seekers with disabilities and business leaders, which often requires job customization. In addition, we will continue to offer a curriculum that concentrates on communication and other soft-skills, self-advocacy and job exploration to high school students and young adults who are preparing to enter the workforce."
Here she expresses how far Build Inclusion, Inc. has come since its inception four years ago and where they are headed next.
TOPS: What are your goals for the coming year?
ANNETE JETT: While we started out primarily in community education, our concentration is now in helping young adults find competitive, integrated jobs. Employment gives people so much more than just money; it’s about making friendships, increasing self-esteem, finding purpose and contributing to our communities.
TOPS: What does the organization mean to you?
AJ: As a provider, I’ve seen multitudes of lives changed through employment and community engagement. As a mom, it means everything to me to know that my daughter has a lifetime of opportunity ahead and that Build Inclusion has had a part in paving that way. This was always personal for me however I knew if it could benefit my daughter, it could benefit others and their families too.
TOPS: What has it been like to watch your vision come to fruition in Lexington?
AJ: Lexington is my hometown. Both my husband and I moved away for many years, only to return in the early 2000’s to raise our family. In addition to the many local resources and amazing people that support Build Inclusion’s efforts in our city, I am proud of the progressive diversity and inclusion initiatives in Lexington.
TOPS: Do you have a favorite moment that resonates with you and captures your mission?
AJ: My favorite moments always lie in watching people get jobs that they love and then watching them grow in confidence, expectations and relationships. The sky’s the limit given the proper accommodations and resources.
From participating in their Annual Inclusion Palooza to considering hiring one of the skilled job seekers they serve, there are a plethora of ways to get involved with Build Inclusion, Inc. Please contact [email protected] or 859.286.9713 or visit build- inclusion.org for more information. If you know a high school student or young adult who has faced barriers to employment, education or community inclusion, please reach out.