Jonah Browne 2014 Recipient of the IL Young Leader Award
Award winner tells employers to listen up
By: Bonnie Belec, The Evening Telegram
December 4th, 2014
Young man who is deaf says businesses need to open their minds and doors.
Jonah Browne’s proud moment is temporarily overshadowed by frustration as he talks about trying to find meaningful employment in what he calls a tuned-out society.
The winner of the Independent Living Young Leader Award for a young person with a disability, under 30 years of age, told The Telegram Wednesday he is still amazed by the lack of understanding for people with disabilities in the working world.
“When it comes to job searching, job hiring, people shouldn’t be so closed-minded,” he said through American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter Sheila Keats.
Sitting on a bench in the hallway of Government House after receiving his award, the 25-year-old said people with disabilities have so much to give and are just as capable at holding down full-time employment as any able-bodied person.
“They don’t understand,” said Browne. “I graduated from office administration from the College of the North Atlantic, and I work some hours with an inventory company, but overall there is a lack of willingness to hire people with disabilities.”
Browne was one of three people and one business recognized Wednesday — the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities — during the Independent Living Resource Centre’s awards ceremony.
Executive director Wayne Penney said the centre began about seven years ago to raise awareness about the contributions people make towards including people with disabilities in all aspects of society.
“There are barriers we aren’t even aware of as a society that we put in front of people with disabilities all day long,” he said before the ceremony.
“We need to be aware of them and break them down,” said Penney.
Browne, who lost his hearing as an infant due to an illness, won his award for his ongoing contribution as a volunteer at the Independent Living Resource Centre.
“Jonah’s commitment to helping others is evident in the various tasks he takes on, specifically ensuring that all members participate in the centre activities by interpreting in ASL for other young members and providing supports to them individually to ensure their full participation,” says a news release from the centre.
“Jonah also has a keen interest in computers and technology and is often available in our (computer) room to help tutor others in various aspects of computer literacy and navigating through the Internet.”
When Browne’s name was called, he stood up and gave the room a gratifying smile.
“I was so proud,” he said afterwards.
“Volunteering helps keep me positive and busy, because when I’m not doing anything, it is boring. It helps me to help other people with disabilities,” said Browne.
The other 2014 Independent Living Awards recipients are: Jennifer Rimmer, the Cecilia Carroll Award for Independent Living for a person with a disability; Erin Holland, the Social Inclusion Award; and Target Ltd. for the Business Award.
The Telegram will take a closer look at the two other individuals and one business that have been recognized by the Independent Living Resource Centre for their work in promoting inclusion for people with disabilities.