Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott to deliver keynote on overcoming adversity at Work Without Limits conference

October 19, 2016

Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott will deliver a keynote address, Overcoming Adversity, at Raise the Bar Hire! October 25 in Norwood. The annual conference is hosted by UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits, a statewide network of engaged employers and innovative, collaborative partners that aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities.

Abbott was just 38-years-old on April 15, 2013 when an annual fun day with friends turned tragic. Her tight-knit group attended a Red Sox game and headed over to the Boston Marathon, as was tradition. Shrapnel from the second bomb that detonated near the finish line struck Abbott while she was cheering for runners. Badly wounded, she relied on strangers to carry her to safety.

After three unsuccessful surgeries in four days, Abbott made the gut-wrenchingly painful decision to have her left leg amputated below the knee. Again, she relied on strangers—this time, fellow amputees, to help her adjust to living without a limb. With their support, intense rehabilitation, and an unbreakable spirit, she resumed the activities she loves, including stand-up paddle boarding, running and wearing high heels just months after the bombing.

Abbott will be joined by fellow keynote speaker Randy Lewis, founder of the NOGWOG Disability Initiative, which assists businesses and communities developing and launching disability hiring programs. As Walgreens’ senior vice president of supply chain & logistics, Lewis pioneered a model for a more inclusive workforce. Thanks to his efforts, more than 10 percent of Walgreens’ logistics employees are people with disabilities who perform the same jobs, earn the same pay and are held to the same performance standards as other team members.

Laura Stout, director of contract operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Richard Curtis, vice president of workforce development at State Street, will co-host the event.

The conference will also feature the presentation of workplace diversity awards. The Exemplary Employer Award will be presented to the Kraft Group’s TeamOps division for its leadership in hiring and supporting individuals with disabilities. William Fahey, an employee of TeamOps who has cerebral palsy, will receive the Exemplary Employee Award.

Other conference highlights include exhibitors and educational breakout sessions on a variety of topics including stigma, youth and employment, supplier diversity, accessible online recruitment, employment and social security benefits, and accommodating workers with low vision. Additionally, five companies with local presence that made the national list for The 2016 Best Places to Work for People with Disabilities – CVS Health, EY, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, P&G, Gillette and Raytheon – will present what they are doing to drive business success through disability inclusion.

Employers, employment service providers, state agencies and people with disabilities and their families are all encouraged to attend Raise the Bar Hire! It is scheduled to run for two days at the Four Points by Sheraton, 1125 Boston-Providence Turnpike/Route 1, in Norwood. Day one of the conference on October 25 will include the keynote addresses, exhibitors and breakout sessions. Day two, October 26, will feature a half-day career fair from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. where job seekers with disabilities can meet and network with some of Massachusetts’ leading employers. For more information, visit Raise the Bar Hire!

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