Workplace Voices Share during National Disability Awareness Month at Berkeley College

Contact: Ilene Greenfield
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“A Day in the Life with a Disability,” recognized the importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month on October 24, 2018, at Berkeley College in New York City. The Berkeley College community gathered and listened to the live broadcast of individuals who shared their experiences with visible and invisible disabilities in the workplace.

Speakers included (pictured from left) Sharon McLennon-Wier, PhD, Berkeley College Director of Disability Services and the program’s producer and moderator; Jordan Burnham, Director of Student Engagement at Minding Your Mind; Preston Burger, CUNY LEADS Advisor at Bronx Community College; Tabitha Haly, Vice President, Developer Lead, at JPMorgan Chase; Leydy Rodriguez, Peer Specialist at ACCESS-VR; and Kenneth Emeghebo, Career Counselor, Berkeley College, and Master of Ceremonies.

“You learn a great deal by listening to these experiences firsthand,” Dr. McLennon-Wier said.


Mr. Burger spoke on “invisible disabilities” such as living life with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning autism spectrum disorder. Mr. Burger explained how he excelled academically throughout his life, and graduated from Princeton University. He said his challenge is with understanding social cues. “I have no filter. That’s part of my challenge,” said Mr. Burger, who advised audience members to be open with their disabilities in the workplace so that proper accommodations can be made for a supportive and accessible environment.

“To start a disability services program you need a team,” Dr. McLennon-Wier said. “You need the buy-in of people with and without disabilities.”

Ms. Haly, an accomplished professional in the financial services industry and singer/songwriter, shared her heart-wrenching quest for love as a woman who suffers from muscular dystrophy. When asked about how individuals with a disability can overcome shyness and feeling like they are being judged, Ms. Haly said, “Keep being social. Speak up even when you are shy. Think about asking people what they like to do. Ask people questions about themselves … then people will open up and you will feel comfortable opening up.”

Mr. Burnham discussed the journey that led him to become a mental health advocate, including his bouts with depression and alcoholism in high school, and a failed suicide attempt after jumping from his nine-story bedroom window during his senior year in high school. Mr. Burnham said the fall left him physically scarred, but impassioned with a calling to help others who suffer from depression and mental-health disorders. “Bipolar doesn’t define me. My work and the passion that I have for my job is what defines me today,” Mr. Burnham said.

“It’s been just over 11 years since my suicide attempt and I love what I am doing today,” he added.

As a mental health advocate, Mr. Burnham helps middle school and high school students start mental health clubs and is a national public speaker on the topic.

Ms. Rodriguez, a native of Colombia, discussed the stigma of having a mental disability. “What is the face of someone who has a mental illness?” said Ms. Rodriguez, adding, “Breaking those chains of thinking about what my community would say about me saved my life. The meaning of life is living – getting out there in the morning and making it happen.”

“At Berkeley we prepare students and alumni for the diverse global workforce experience,” said Amy Soricelli, Berkeley College Vice President, Career Services. “So often today you are likely to have a coworker with a disability.”

“This is why we do this workshop, to spread awareness,” Dr. McLennon-Wier said.

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 7,000 students – including more than 350 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.


Berkeley College has three New York campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. In New Jersey there are four campuses – Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For five consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is

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