Turning the Tassel—Helping people with autism spectrum disorder earn a college degree and be prepared to enter a competitive workforce

LinkedIn

By Rebecca Hansen, Ed.D.

Meet Jeff Staley. Jeff is from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and is currently studying computer and information technology at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Before graduating from Poolesville High School, Jeff earned 15 college credits from coursework in algebra, calculus, analytical geometry, and statistics. Jeff was accepted into The West Virginia Autism Training Center’s College Program for Student’s with Autism Spectrum Disorder following his junior year of high school. For five weeks, between the months of July and August, The College Program hosts a high school summer transition program, in which students who have been accepted by Marshall University take one college class of their choice, live in the residence halls, and participate in social skill development workshops and activities led by peer mentors and mental health counselors.

For the past 10 years, students have reported that this experience helped to ease the transition from high school to college by providing them with newfound self-confidence, autonomy, and understanding of the expectations of advanced learning.

Jeff spent the summer following his junior year of high school earning an additional three college credits in general psychology. During this summer experience, Jeff learned how to balance free time, live away from home, create and maintain peer relationships, and navigate a college landscape. Many people with autism spectrum disorder find comfort and reassurance in experiencing the physical layout of a new environment in advance, guided by a trusted professional who understands how anxiety producing establishing a new routine can be. Proper planning and anticipation of a change in routine can help alleviate the stress and anxiety related to it. The College Program recommends visiting a variety of college campuses to find out the types of supports that may exist to help with academic demands, social opportunities, and residence life needs.

An impressive 94 percent of students who have received services from The College Program have graduated or are currently on track to graduate from Marshall University.

Jeff Staley
The College Program provides individualized skill building and therapeutic supports to degree seeking students with Autism Spectrum Disorder through a mentored environment while navigating a college experience at Marshall University.

The College Program is dedicated to create safe spaces for people with autism spectrum disorder throughout campus, in the community, and on the job. The College Program’s Allies Supporting Autism Spectrum Diversity movement works to educate people who wish to provide a safe and accepting environment for individuals living with autism spectrum disorder. The one-hour training provides participants with the opportunity to better understand challenges with social communication and provides practical ways in which to best communicate with someone on the autism spectrum. Many people are still afraid to talk to someone with autism because they don’t know what to say or how to best interact. Our advice? Don’t shy away. Invest time in learning more about how autism affects someone’s daily life. Oftentimes, they will thank you for it. Knowledge decreases the fear factor and leads to an environment where everyone can experience a life of quality.

People with autism, such as Jeff, can feel empowered by talking about how the disorder affects daily life. These conversations are at the crux of creating an inclusive campus culture. Neurodiversity is becoming better understood and sought after on campuses throughout the nation and beyond the graduation stage as employers are now seeking to hire people with autism. Employers are beginning to see the benefits of hiring someone with autism because they have established creative interviewing practices so that the candidate’s skill set is emphasized over their potential inability to maintain small talk.

Every June, for three weekdays, The College Program offers an employment preparedness workshop where participants have the opportunity to learn more about the job search process, cover letter and resume development, the proper use of social media, issues surrounding disclosure, self-advocacy skills, finance management, and the importance of networking. A panel of local employers from a variety of businesses and non-profit sectors participate to share the necessary skills to obtain and maintain employment. The College Program recognizes the importance of meaningful employment and the need that exists for practical information to assist students as they transition into more independent adults. What to learn more about Jeff? Check out marshall.edu/collegeprogram/employment-preparedness and watch the six-minute video about the Employment Preparedness Workshop.

To learn more about how to become an ally, participate in the employment preparedness workshop, or to apply to The College Program, please visit marshall.edu/collegeprogram or call 304-696-2332.

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter From Scratch in 30 Minutes

LinkedIn

You know enough to regularly update you resume—so if you find a job posting you’re interested in, you’re halfway through the application process.The other half, of course, is your cover letter. If you have some time and are just rusty, you can make a game plan to write a draft, then take a break, and come back to it with fresh eyes.

But if you see the deadline to apply is just 30 minutes away, you don’t have any time to spare. Here’s how to write a cover letter that will bolster your application—in just half an hour. (And if you need to revamp your resume or prep for interview in the same amount time, look here and here.)

Minutes 1 Through 10: Write Down Your Main Points

Maybe it’s just me, but I often struggle the most on the opening line of a cover letter. I know I shouldn’t lead with “My name is…,” and I want something that’ll grab the hiring manager’s attention. But my quest for the perfect beginning can lead me to spend 15 minutes (or more) typing and deleting the same line over and over. (And at that rate, my 30-minute cover letter would be all of two sentences.)

So, skip the intro if need be, and just start writing about why you’re a great fit for the open position. Don’t stress about the very best way to phrase your current responsibilities. Just write down your main points.

Need a prompt? Answer these questions: What do you find most exciting (or interesting) about the position? What relevant experience do you have? What would you bring to the role (and/or company) that’s unique to you?

Definitely make sure to have your resume and the job description open or printed out next to you. That way you can glance over at both and make sure you’re highlighting the right experience.

Minutes 10 Through 20: Add in Examples

OK, so you’ve written out all of reasons why you’re perfect for the job. Now it’s time to make sure you’re on the same page as the hiring manager. How so? Go back to that job description.

Re-read what the position calls for. Did you mention the experience and skills they’ll be screening for? To connect the dots in a way that’s clear—but wouldn’t be confused with a laundry list—add in an example or two.

If the job calls for people skills, swap out the line that reads, “I have excellent people skills” with a line that explains how in previous roles you’ve managed relationships with board members, which taught you about working with opinionated stakeholders. Does the position call for someone with sales experience? An anecdote about how you’ve been in sales since you set up your first lemonade stand when you were seven years old is memorable.

Continue onto Muse to read the complete article.

11 Simple, Proven Ways to Optimize Your Mental Health

LinkedIn

Only you truly know the unique triumphs and travails of living in your own head. If you experience ongoing depression, anxiety or other symptoms, “Seeking professional help as early as possible, rather than waiting, can be critical,” says Dr. Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City. However, you needn’t be diagnosed with a mental health condition to benefit from taking steps to improve your psychological well-being. Here are some ways you can get a mental edge. The payoff could include everything from a happier, healthier, longer life to better relationships.

Get moving.

You might not want to sit down for this. “Physical exercise is very important in preventing or reducing mental health problems,” Klitzman says, which include depression. “When we exercise, our body releases endorphins – natural opiates that improve our mood and make us feel good. Exercise can also help cognitive functioning – how well we think.”

Watch your weight.

Being sedentary, by contrast, can prove a double whammy, since we don’t get the mental jolt from exercise – and we’re more likely to pack on pounds. Putting on extra weight, research shows, can weigh down our mental health, too. Obesity and diabetes increase the risk for depression, says psychiatrist Dr. Mahendra Bhati, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Be careful what you consume.

Your diet – whether predominantly plant-based with healthy greens, nuts and other lean proteins (good), or laden with saturated fat, processed foods and sugars (not so good) – can impact mood and anxiety levels. So, too, can other things we put in our body to get by in the moment, from tobacco and alcohol to recreational drugs. Better to avoid the feel-good momentary fixes, Klitzman says, and spare yourself the crash later.

Stay in the moment.

We all sometimes seek to avoid uncomfortable situations, either by physically removing ourselves or checking out mentally. “That’s normal … it’s just that when you do that very chronically and habitually, it could develop into significant problems with anxiety and depression,” says psychologist Brandon Gaudiano, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Experts recommend practicing mindfulness instead to help deal with difficult circumstances and emotions. “It’s paying attention to the present moment and what your experience is,” says Gaudiano, noting that approaches vary. “Bringing awareness, acceptance, self-compassion, curiosity and just noticing non-judgmentally those internal experiences as they’re arising.”

Continue onto U.S. New & World Report for the complete article.

Hiring People With Disabilities Is Good Business

LinkedIn

By: Ted Kennedy Jr.

Microsoft, Bank of America and CVS are just a few big companies that profit from their proactive employment practices.

For years, companies have maintained low expectations about hiring people with disabilities. Most of these companies believed that employees with disabilities could not perform well in the workplace and that actively hiring them would drag company performance and profits down.

Thankfully, over time, many employers have come to understand that these perceptions are untrue. And new research strongly suggests that the opposite — that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.

A recent study has shown, for the first time, that companies that championed people with disabilities actually outperformed others — driving profitability and shareholder returns. Revenues were 28 percent higher, net income 200 percent higher, and profit margins 30 percent higher. Companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were also four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

These findings, presented in a report from Accenture, in partnership with Disability: IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, give companies a new reason to hire people with disabilities. The results are based on an analysis of the financial performance of 140 companies that averaged annual revenues of $43 billion and participated in the Disability Equality Index, an annual benchmarking tool that objectively rates company disability policies and practices.

What exactly are these exemplary companies doing?

Well, Bank of America brought together 300 people with intellectual disabilities to create a support services team to manage fulfillment services and external client engagement. Microsoft built a successful disability hiring program specifically for people on the autism spectrum. The program, designed to attract talent, is a multiday, hands-on academy that gives candidates an opportunity to meet hiring managers and learn about the company as an employer of choice. And CVS Health refocused its training programs to capitalize on characteristics — creativity, problem-solving ability and loyalty — that people with disabilities often demonstrate.

The new research identifies five common denominators among such organizations. First, they hire people with disabilities, ensuring that they’re represented in the workplace. Second, they carry out practices that encourage and advance those employees. Third, they provide accessible tools and technologies, paired with a formal accommodations program. Fourth, they generate awareness through recruitment efforts, disability education programs and grass-roots-led initiatives. Fifth, they create empowering environments through mentoring and coaching initiatives.

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

Easterseals serves 20,000 vets and their families in 2018

LinkedIn
Angela Williams of Easterseals poses in red dress for camera

In 2018, nearly 20,000 veterans and military family members received support through Easterseals through an extensive list of programs, including; advocacy and education and employment programs and job training.

Other programs include; military and veterans’ caregiver services, veteran community services and support and health and wellness programs. The organization is led by President and CEO Angela Williams, a retired United States Air Force officer, serving in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The iconic nonprofit kicks off its 100th anniversary celebration, furthering its mission of supporting the disabled and their families. Over the past century, Easterseals has provided a multitude of disability services to more than 1.5 million people, helping to meet individual and family needs.

Easterseals Military & Veterans Services
Our mission is to ensure that it’s possible for veterans and military families to live their lives to the fullest in every community. We work to break down barriers, engage organizations and communities, and connect veterans and military families with what they need for meaningful employment, education and overall wellness. Our grassroots outreach – through 71 local affiliates in communities nationwide– provide unmatched, accessible, and indispensable resources and support for veterans and military families.

Grassroots Solutions through Easterseals
The needs of veterans and military families are evolving, not disappearing. That’s why Easterseals specializes in identifying the needs of veterans and military families, particularly with employment, job training and support like family respite opportunities. We work to make solutions easily accessible in communities.

Learn More about Easterseals Military and Veterans Services

Discover how we’ve been successful so far in our mission.

Our work in action

  • Advocacy & Education
    Veterans and military families deserve services delivered in an appropriate, timely, and accessible manner. Our Washington, DC-based government relations team works to influence federal and state legislation affecting veterans and military families and actively engages with Congressional staff in pursuit of these goals.
  • Employment Programs and Job Training
    Our employment programs provide the necessary tools to achieve and maintain meaningful employment and a steady income. We offer skills training, job search assistance, employment preparation and guidance. For example, we partner with the Direct Employers Association, which has a membership of about 800 employers who want to hire veterans and people with disabilities. Through this partnership, Easterseals is offering a job search portal at easterseals.jobs, which features job postings from these employers.
  • Military and Veterans Caregiver Services
    We strive to ensure military caregivers can access what they need to take on the enormous responsibility of caregiving—often, while still needing to work, navigate family life and take care of themselves. We embrace and support military caregivers, particularly as they transition into this new experience, life-long trajectory and unfamiliar — yet vital role — within their families and communities.
  • Veteran Community Services & Support
    Veterans come home to their families and communities, so serving them must be a community undertaking. That’s why, across the country, we are delivering services that veterans and military families need to live productive, successful lives.
  • Health and Wellness Programs
    We aim to reach as many veterans and military families as possible to provide health resources and programs, including adult dayand medical rehabilitation services.

Additional resources

What are many veterans asking themselves these days? “What to wear?!” As military members return to civilian life and face the job search, figuring out the right suit to wear to an interview can be the biggest challenge, while the job responsibilities are a breeze. Watch the video below to see why, and help spread the message that veterans are highly skilled and valuable employees. See all three of our military themed public service videos.

In November 2015, Easterseals hosted Heroes Work Here, an event to educate corporate leaders on hiring and retaining veterans. With friends and partners, we gathered important advice about how to hire America’s best and brightest. Find tips on why and how to hire veterans here!
Watch Travis Mills explain how you can hire veterans with Easterseals’ help right now.

Veteran and Dancing with the Stars winner JR Martinez and veteran and author Travis Mills play word association with Easterseals, our veteran edition!

Pegi Young, 66, Musician Who Started a School for Disabled, Dies

LinkedIn

Pegi Young, a late-blossoming folk-rock musician who was a founder of a school for children with severe physical and speech impairments, like her son from her marriage to the singer-songwriter Neil Young, a performer at its many star-studded benefit concerts, died on Tuesday in Mountain View, Calif. She was 66.

Her brother Paul Morton said the cause was cancer.

By the early 1980s, Ms. Young had grown frustrated with the special education programs available for her son, Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy in 1978. She began thinking about starting a school to better address his needs and those of other children who had largely lost the ability to speak.

That inspiration led in 1987 to the Bridge School, an innovative institution in Hillsborough, Calif., that has since achieved global reach. Ms. Young founded it with the speech and language pathologist Marilyn Buzolich and Jim Forderer, who had adopted many special-needs children.

At the school, about 17 miles south of San Francisco, children from ages 3 to 12 use augmentative and alternative communication techniques, including speech generators and manual communication boards, to help them articulate their thoughts and prepare to complete their educations in their local school districts.

Vicki R. Casella, the executive director, said in a telephone interview that Ms. Young had a “determination to ensure that children like Ben have the opportunity to become active participants in their communities.”

Dr. Buzolich added that Ms. Young’s experience as the parent of a child with special needs had been critical to the school.

“Professionals often diss parental input, but the parent sees the whole child,” Dr. Buzolich said by telephone. “You can imagine the parents at the Bridge School saying to themselves, ‘She understands me, she knows what it’s like, she’s been there.’ ”

The school runs an international teacher training program; implements its curriculum in developing countries; organizes conferences; and conducts research to measure the effectiveness of its educational strategies.

“I take a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the knowledge that we’re changing lives for the better,” Ms. Young said in 2017 in an interview with AXS, a ticketing website. “It’s truly having a global impact.”

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

4 Ways To Respect The Needs Of Employees With Disabilities

LinkedIn
man in wheelchair with woman sitting next to him looking at laptop

Employers are hiring more employees with disabilities — and for good reason. These workers are crucial to winning the war on talent since they can be highly skilled — and too often overlooked. Adding people with different experiences to a team can also have a positive impact on a company’s culture, and thus ultimately on its bottom line.

Some companies may already employ a number of workers with disabilities and not realize it. Joe Nuzzo, vice president-counsel of worldwide sales and marketing at ADP, believes organizations should understand that the concept of disabilities, as recognized by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), comprises a wide range of conditions. These include physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, invisible disabilities, mental illnesses, cognitive disabilities, blindness and deafness.

The ADA covers an estimated 54 million Americans, Nuzzo said, citing the latest industry statistics.

“Almost any American at some point in their life may experience a condition that qualifies as a disability,” he said.

Yet disabled employees are often afraid to disclose their conditions. They can struggle to get proper accommodations and can face discrimination from colleagues. That in turn can lead to problems integrating into the workplace and lead to higher turnover.

How can organizations recruit and retain disabled employees and ensure that their workplaces are welcoming and safe environments? Here are four ways to become a top choice for workers with disabilities:

  1. Know and follow the ADA and other disability rights legislation

The ADA protects employees with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, so it’s crucial that organizations understand their obligations under the act.

But the ADA is not the only law your organization might need to follow.

“Most states have similar anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals with disabilities,” Nuzzo said. “Some have tighter requirements.”

When it comes to accessibility, it’s important to think broadly about what it means for your organization. Not having a wheelchair-access ramp is an obvious barrier, Nuzzo said, but an organization might be excluding or disadvantaging disabled people in unintended ways.

“Is your hiring process accessible to everybody, even to those applicants who might have hearing or vision impairments?” Nuzzo said.

Whenever an employee indicates a health need or discloses a disability, the ADA triggers obligations.

“Once an employee identifies that they have a disability and might need an accommodation, the employer needs to have that individualized discussion with them,” Nuzzo said. “You have to make sure that you fully understand their needs and fully explore possible solutions.”

There can be significant consequences for discriminating against employees with disabilities, who may sue organizations that violate the law.

  1. Proactively recruit employees with disabilities

Given the sheer number of workers with disabilities and the current low unemployment rate, organizations not actively recruiting this group are more likely to struggle when it comes to hiring qualified people.

“If you’re not reaching out and connecting with that portion of the population,” Nuzzo said, “then you’re really limiting your reach.”

He suggests sending employment listings to job listservs that target the disability community and ensuring the descriptions are written in a way that appeals to people with disabilities. Offering flexible hours or the ability to telecommute can be particularly attractive.

“I think the companies that do a great job of employing individuals with disabilities find an employee population that is incredibly determined, has much higher employee retention than their peers, and has an innate ability to innovate and problem solve,” Nuzzo said.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2019

LinkedIn

Resumes get a bad rap. We write them begrudgingly, usually during periods of transition, or tumult. We fiddle with phrasing and format, agonizing over how to craft our qualifications into the best resume possible. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

For smart job seekers, resumes are an opportunity — to make a case for their candidacy, to get the salary they’ve earned, and to convince any hiring manager she would be crazy not to hire them.

Yahoo MONEY teamed up with Dana Leavy-Detrick, founder of Brooklyn Resume Studio, to help you become one of those job seekers. Here’s how to write the perfect resume — and a free resume template that you can download and use for your next job interview.

Resume sample-Yahoo MONEY

(Resume design courtesy of Dana Leavy-Detrick; click here for a free downloadable template)

[1] The Best Resume Format

When it comes to resume format and design, opt for a clean layout. A recent study from the job site Ladders found that resumes with so-called F-pattern and E-pattern layouts, which mimic how our eyes tend to scan web pages, hold a recruiter’s attention for longer than those aligned down the center, or from right to left.

There is no one specific “best” font for resumes. You should use the same font style throughout, Leavy-Detrick says, but play with different weights and sizes to draw a recruiter’s eye to key parts of your resume. Sans serif fonts usually work best — Franklin Gothic, Calibri, and Avenir (the last of which we used for the attached template) are three of Leavy-Detrick’s favorites.

[2] Make Your Resume Stand Out

If you’re applying for an investment banking job, a hot-pink resume probably won’t do you any favors. But subtle pops of color, like the orange used here, will work for just about everyone.

“It’s very minimal, and gives a bit of a design element,” Leavy-Detrick says.

If you do use color, “Use it sparingly,” she warns. “Stick to one color, and one color that’s going to print well.”

[3] Add a Skills Section in Your Resume

Lead with the good stuff. The top of your resume should include “critical keywords and a quick snapshot of your core strengths,” Leavy-Detrick says.

Hard skills, tangible attributes that can easily be measured, take precedence here, so highlight them accordingly. If you’re in a tech-driven field, software and programming expertise is what employers want to see on your resume. If you’re in a creative industry, design and communication skills might be your best bet.

[4] Make a Resume That Shows Impact

To prove you’re worth a hiring manager’s time, highlight recent examples of what you bring to the table. Statistics that build upon your skills section are most impactful — bonus points if they show a track record of growth, revenue, and profitability, Leavy-Detrick says.

If you’re drawing a blank, she suggests adding resume skills that can help solve a “problem area” for the company you’re applying to.

“Impact doesn’t always have to be measured by metrics,” she says. “Cultural improvements, special projects, customer growth … anything that showed success can work.”

[5] What to Leave Off a Resume

Be discerning with the content—don’t list salary requirements, use tables or columns, or tick off every job you’ve ever had. The same goes for social media profiles. Unless your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds are relevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s probably best to leave those off your resume.

“Only include them if they add value in some way,” Leavy-Detrick says. “If you have zero followers, you may not want to advertise that.”

Continue on to Yahoo MONEY to read the complete article.

One woman on coping with blindness and arthritis: ‘Joy is a choice’

LinkedIn
Joy Ross

Although many assume that arthritis is synonymous with old age, Joy Ross, who is a speaker and has a YouTube channel with 88,000 followers, wants people to know that there’s more than one type of arthritis — and the condition can affect younger people as well.

The mother of two was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at just 3 years old. She also has uveitis, a form of eye inflammation, which left her with limited vision and, eventually, left her blind.“Many assume arthritis is an old person’s disease that affects the joints, but arthritis can also cause a loss of eyesight,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

For Ross, coping with arthritis has come with its fair share of depression, but she manages to use social media platforms like YouTube to help inspire and uplift others. And although vlogging is something she never intended to do, the response to her channel has been overwhelmingly positive.Videos on the channel offer a glimpse into Ross’s life as a blind woman living with arthritis, as she has posted videos about her family and her guide dog, Antonia, and how she navigates daily life.

“I make videos about my life and how to live through joy,” she says. “I think people are drawn to the realness of it, as I am not sugarcoating any of my experiences.” Simple day-to-day tasks can be very challenging for Ross. She shares that the fatigue from arthritis can be both debilitating and overwhelming. Choosing outfits and styling her hair are equally taxing, but she explains that clothing that is easy to put on, such as leggings, boots, and slip-on shoes, and a flat-iron brush for her hair can be lifesavers when her hands are aching.

Sadly, Ross’s two daughters, Giorgianna and Isabella, whom she shares with her husband, George, have inherited juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Ross has tried to stay strong for her family, saying that her faith and positive attitude is what makes her a walking example for her own children.

Continue on to Yahoo lifestyle news to read the complete article.

STEM Professor Receives Award to Study Technologies for Disability Community

LinkedIn
Ashley Shew standing on porch with arm around pillar smiling

By Leslie King

The trichotillomania bracelet looks unassuming, just like any other smart technology worn around the wrist. But rather than counting steps or heartbeats, it serves another purpose.

The wristlet vibrates an alarm when it tracks the user subconsciously beginning to pull out strands of hair. For those with trichotillomania, instead of following the compulsion to yank out their hair, the wireless device helps them notice the gestures and change their behavior.

This tool, along with other technologies for the disability community, intrigues Ashley Shew, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Science, Technology, and Society. In July 2018, she received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award that will allow her to investigate the personal accounts of people with disabilities, as well as their opinions of the technologies designed for them.

The prestigious honor, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education, is better known as the CAREER award.

“I’m interested in the storylines that disabled people tell about their bodies and how their relationships with technology differ from popular and dominant narratives we have in our society,” said Shew, who herself identifies as disabled.

Her research focuses on discrepancies between how scientists and engineers understand and explain their work related to disability and the actual needs and wants of people with disabilities. Shew said there is a disconnect between media-based depictions and reality within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and technology design.

“This means people aren’t always designing with real users in mind, but with ideas about what users want based on the entertainment media,” she said. “This is problematic because nondisabled people create and depict disabled people. There is little authentic disability representation in the media, so all these media-driven narratives about technology get fed into engineering.”

Shew cites several misleading media-supported tropes. Negative stereotypes encourage the public to view disabled people with pity, as sinners or fakers, or as resource burdens. And while the trichotillomania bracelet is small and unobtrusive, many technologies, such as wheelchairs or exoskeletons, are not. Some people who could benefit from viable supportive devices might shy away from them to avoid public skepticism or castigation.

And the reverse depictions are just as misrepresentative.

“There are also tropes about inspiration and courage,” Shew said. “The one people lean on, which I’ll be assessing through this grant, involves a focus on inspiration and courage, along the lines of, ‘You’re such an inspiration because you’re disabled in public.’ If you’re not inspiring, you’re courageous to overcome what you’re overcoming. If we believe you’re truly disabled, then if you’re out having a regular life, you’re considered heroic in ways that don’t map onto real life at all.”

Designers often create technologies with this trope in mind. An example of this is a surge of 3D-printed hands for young amputees. Marketed with terms such as “superhero” hands or arms, the branding presents these children as different from people without disabilities. Shew describes this phenomenon as techno-ableism, when technology makers try to empower others with helpful tools but use rhetoric that has the opposite effect. As part of her CAREER award, Shew will publish a book about this phenomenon.

Shew will also seek to counter unrealistic portrayals of people with disabilities by educating creators of disability technologies. Her research will incorporate interviews, memoirs, and the compilation of existing materials into classroom public outreach, an open-access website, and a textbook to complement existing STEM educational resources.

Shew is collaborating with Alexander Leonessa and Raffaella De Vita, associate professors in the College of Engineering, who have also received CAREER awards. In 2019, she will work with them through Virginia Tech’s STEMABILTY, a summer camp for students with disabilities.

A Virginia Tech faculty member since 2011, Shew received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2017 and a Diversity Award in 2016, both from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Also in 2016, she received the Sally Bohland Award for Excellence in Access and Inclusion from the Virginia Tech office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Shew co-edited Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology with Joseph Pitt, a Virginia Tech professor of philosophy. She is also the author of Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge, published by Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

Shew is the fourth faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award in the past several years.

Source: vtnews.vt.edu