A California high school football coach who was born without arms and legs due to a rare disorder gave a heart-wrenching speech at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night.
Rob Mendez received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the Los Angeles awards ceremony. He told the crowd it was an “honor” for him to be at the event and he thanked the game of football for “allowing me to be a part of a team.”
“The reality is, I am here and if there’s any message I want to give you guys tonight, is to look at me … when you dedicate yourself to something … and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world,” Mendez said.
The 30-year-old coach then vowed that he wasn’t finished with his journey yet.
Mendez is the junior varsity coach at Prospect High School in Saratoga. He served as the team’s manager as a freshman and then was named quarterbacks coach before becoming JV coach.
Continue on to Fox News to read the complete article.
By Hiliary Innerbichler
Mama Cax, born Cacsmy Brutus, was given only three weeks to live when she was diagnosed with bone (osteosarcoma) and lung cancer at 14 years old.
Now in her late 20s—and after having her right leg amputated due to an unsuccessful hip replacement following chemotherapy—the Haitian-American is an advocate who utilizes social media as a platform to talk about body positivity and to dismantle the image of what people with disabilities should look like.
“When I first started blogging, a lot of women amputees were messaging me about how they’d never seen an amputee on social media or anywhere showing their prosthetics,” she said in an interview with Teen Vogue. “I think it’s so important to show people who have physical disabilities because there are people out there who buy products and never see themselves represented in any way, shape, or form.”
In 2016, the blogger, advocate, motivational speaker and model was invited to the White House to walk in the first ever White House Fashion Show to celebrate inclusive design, assistive technology, and prosthetics.
Soon after, Cax was made one of the faces of Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive line, and since then has made her debut walking the runway at New York Fashion week in designer Becca McCharen-Tran’s Spring 2019 show.
Mama Cax has now partnered with Olay in their new campaign #FaceAnything to encourage women to live fearlessly and to have the confidence to be unapologetically bold and true to themselves, according to health.com.
The Student of Vision Abie Award honors young women dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Georgia Tech student Jhillika Kumar.
When Jhillika’s parents brought home an iPad for the first time, they could not have predicted how much it would improve their family’s lives. Accessible technology, for the first time ever, allowed her autistic and nonverbal brother to enjoy his passion for music. It distracted his mind from the physical world of disability. She watched her brother instantly swipe and tap swiftly across the interface. The smile that it brought him is the smile she wants to bring to millions of others with disabilities.
Jhillika’s family experience ignited her passion to advocate for disability rights and a career driven by a mission to create an inclusive world. She is a UX/UI designer, aspiring entrepreneur, and a third-year Georgia Tech student with a desire to improve the lives of the differently abled. She advocates to lift the barriers that exist within technology, design, and even policy, and empowers the largest underserved group by bringing attention to the importance of empathy and mutuality in design.
Knowing the impact that UX Design could make on someone who once couldn’t communicate, Jhillika decided to pursue a focus in computer science and interaction design through Georgia Tech’s undergraduate Computational Media program and Digital Media master’s program. Over the summer of her sophomore year of college, she interned at Disney where she created a short film to raise awareness to the product teams on the capacity that their technology had to empower entire communities of untapped potential, purely through improved accessibility. Expanding on this, Jhillika presented a talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech last fall, where she spoke about the importance of accessibility in the industry.
All of Jhillika’s efforts in this space have come together in her current initiative: an on-campus organization she founded called AxisAbility. In order to augment the capabilities of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, AxisAbility is creating a virtual platform to understand family needs and match them with the technology engineered to directly generate physiological changes in the brain to improve cognitive function.
At the School of Interactive Computing, Jhillika currently works in academia, collaborating with Dr. Gregory Abowd and Ivan Riobo to study how non-speaking autistic individuals could use technology-led therapies and assistive technologies to communicate. The study looks at evaluating cognitive competency through eye-gaze tracking software (retinal movement). This could provide vast insight into their cognitive abilities. Jhillika returned to school to her junior year of college engulfed with the spirit of empathy for the differently abled, and was invited as a speaker at World Information Architecture Day and FutureX Live, as well as Women in XR. Her initiatives won her the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award for 2019 awarded by Georgia Tech.
Continue on to “How Our College Startup’s Autism App Is Flowering Into Fruition – Enlighten Mentors to read Jhillika’s personal story and how you can help her mission.
By Andy Sohn
If you are a graduate student with a disability or if you know such a student, check out some advice that can assist students on their academic and employment paths.
What is a Disability?
“I am not disabled!” Far too many people who rely on lay opinion about what is or is not a disability do not avail themselves of supportive disability-related campus services. If a medical condition or health symptom creates barriers to your achievement of academic work-product, you may have a qualifying disability that makes you eligible for a disability-related accommodation. For instance, if you sprain your ankle or have surgery and need to walk on crutches to reach your class or a class you are teaching, check with your local Campus Access Coordinator to see if your school offers travel assistance internal to the campus, such as University of California Berkeley’s Loop golf cart service. Your ankle sprain or mobility pain may be a “qualifying” disability that makes you eligible for disability services. Better to ask and find out than suffer in silence.
What Does It Mean to be Disabled in Graduate School?
You were not admitted to graduate school because you have a disability; you were admitted because you successfully competed against other students who were not required to manage the negative impact of their disability in the performance of academic tasks on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Whether you have been disabled all of your life or became adventitiously disabled, you are far from alone. Seek out the available resources on your campus to support you in achieving your academic goals.
Access Academic Accommodations
Not all students with disabilities need academic accommodations but, if you do, do not wait to register online with the Disabled Students Program (DSP). Google and check out the “Capitol Crawl” every time your mind tells you that accommodations provide an unfair advantage. Countless activists have struggled and sacrificed so that you could have the right to compete on a level playing field. Better to have accommodations and not need them than need them and not have them.
Access Workplace Accommodations
So, you will be a GSI or GSR this upcoming semester? You are entering the job market? The workplace accommodations process is different from the academic accommodations process. Learn about how to request employment accommodations by contacting Mary Kelly (510-642-1914) at Disability Management Services (DMS). Whether you are a student employee or about to enter the job market, visit the Department of Labor’s Job Accommodations website, the most authoritative informational and consultative resource for employment accommodations.
As students at one of the most important stages in your academic careers, take the opportunity to know what to do if you become disabled or already have a disability. Learn everything you can about how your disability impacts you—and decide to grow, achieve your life goals, continue to be academically successful, and live abundantly. Your disability may impact your ability to perform academic or work tasks required of you; do not wait and let pride tell you that you can do it if you just try harder. This lie is the source of many academic failures; be wiser than that. Work smarter, not harder. Reach out for support from Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), the Disabled Students Program (DSP), and/or Disability Management Services (DMS). You are not alone, and you are here because your school believed you would be academically successful. Let’s succeed together!!
While you’re in town for the 2019 Disability:IN 22nd Annual National Conference & Expo July 15–18, 2019, check out some of the fine food that Chicago is so well known for. We’ve assembled a list of several accessible restaurants, as well as shopping, other necessities, and the transportation to get you there.
All these businesses are within easy reach of the Disability:IN host hotel, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, located on downtown Michigan Avenue. This popular area of Michigan Avenue offers much to see and do, with fine hotels, restaurants, shopping, art, music, architecture, museums and parks.
136 N. La Salle St
Elevator use, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
980 North Michigan Ave
No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
300 N LaSalle
Elevator use, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
668 N Wells St
No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
Coco Pazzo Café
636 N Saint Clair St
WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
112 West Hubbard Street
Private dining not accessible, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
Frankie’s Pizzeria & Scaloppine
900 N Michigan Ave
No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible bar area, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
60 E Ohio St
WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible
Centralized dispatch service for all Chicago wheelchair-accessible vehicles
(855) 928-1010 or (773) 657-3006 (direct line for pickup)
Special Needs Chicago
Wheelchair-accessible nonemergency transportation provider
Shopping, Pharmacy & Dry Cleaning
The Shops at North Bridge
520 N Michigan Ave
757 N Michigan Ave
100 W Randolph St #209
Register for the 2019 Disability:IN Conference at Disability:IN.org
A program, headed by Lego and pitched by two non-profit visually-impaired advocacy groups, seeks to create a fun, interactive way to teach the braille writing system.
When Carlton Cook Walker’s young daughter developed health problems that led to near-total blindness, she knew she wanted her to learn Braille. But the family’s school, in rural central Pennsylvania, was resistant. A teacher pointed out that the girl, then in preschool, could still read print — as long as it was in 72-point type and held inches from her face.
“I said, ‘What about when she is in high school? How will she read Dickens like this?’” recalled Ms. Cook Walker, whose daughter, Anna, is now 18. “The teacher’s response was chilling: ‘Oh, she’ll just use audio.’”
So Ms. Cook Walker took matters into her own hands. In addition to successfully advocating Braille in her daughter’s school, she bought used children’s books, embossed Braille dots alongside the text and rebound them, teaching Anna to read through the stories of “The Berenstain Bears” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
Now, a new effort is underway to ease challenges like these and help blind and visually impaired children more naturally learn to read Braille, a system based on different configurations of six small, raised dots that blind people read with their fingertips. And it is coming in the form of a favorite childhood toy: Lego bricks.
Recently, the Lego Foundation, which is funded by the Lego Group, the Danish toy company that makes the blocks, announced a new project that will repurpose the usual knobs atop the bricks as Braille dots. And because the blocks will also be stamped with the corresponding written letter, number or punctuation symbol, they can be played with by blind and sighted children alike. The project, called Lego Braille Bricks, is in a pilot phase and is expected to be released in partnership with schools and associations for the blind in 2020.
“When they get Lego in their hands, it’s intuitive for them,” said Diana Ringe Krogh, who is overseeing the project for the Lego Foundation. “They learn Braille almost without noticing that they are learning. It is really a learning-through-play approach.”
Continue on to The New York Times to read the complete article.
By Annika Ariel, AAPD intern
Picking up my laundry was only supposed to take three minutes and twenty-three seconds. I had made frantically grabbing my clothes from the dryer and taking them back up to my dorm a science, one that I had mastered in the never-ending pursuit of finishing my readings at a reasonable hour. So when I realized that the laundry room was full of people, my first thought was, Damn, this is going to take five minutes.
Smiling at the upperclassmen who had apparently taken over the laundry room for the night, I walked out. My only mistake was pausing and checking my phone just as I was out of their view.
“So is she, like, blind?”
“Yeah, think so. I have no idea how she does it. I think I’d kill myself if I were blind.”
“She’s apparently an orientation leader for next year. I wish I knew how she could do that. Can’t exactly ask, though.”
I had upstairs on my Braille notetaker a copy of Emerson’s essay “Experience,” and the first line kept running through my head—“where do we find ourselves?” At that point, I had been at Amherst College a semester and a half. While many accessibility barriers existed and continue to exist at Amherst, this was my first direct experience dealing with the misconceptions of other students. I watched awkwardly as the men, apparently having realized I was standing nearby, walked out another door.
I found myself thrust out of the comfortable disability bubble I had put myself into. Up until that point, I had believed that ignoring my disability was, somewhat ironically, the best way to educate people. If people just saw that I was a “normal” person who “happened” to be blind, they would eventually be able to look past my blindness. However, I was being forced to realize that this approach was inadequate—if I ignored my blindness as much as possible, people ended up being even more confused and misinformed. Sometimes, this manifested itself as me being told I didn’t “seem” blind or people have lingering questions they were too scared to voice. Simply put, shoving my disability to the side resulted in misconceptions remaining unaddressed.
Coincidentally, that same semester I was enrolled in Amherst’s one class on disability. For the first time in my life, I was reading about the social model of disability. I began viewing my blindness not as a flaw, not as something to be ashamed of, but just as another part of the human experience. By being open about who I was, not only was I more comfortable in my own body but others around me became more comfortable and knowledgeable about disability. My disability isn’t a tragedy; it’s simply a different way of living.
Annika Ariel was a 2017 summer intern for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Source: AAPD and the AAPD Power Grid blog
PHOTO CREDIT: LAWRENCE ROFFEE PHOTOGRAPHY
Google is pleased to announce the addition of 6 new media literacy activities to the 2019 edition of Be Internet Awesome. Designed to help kids analyze and evaluate media as they navigate the Internet, the new lessons address educators’ growing interest in teaching media literacy.
They were developed in collaboration with Anne Collier, executive director of The Net Safety Collaborative, and Faith Rogow, PhD, co-author of The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy and a co-founder of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Because media literacy is essential to safety and citizenship in the digital age, the news lessons complement Be Internet Awesome ’s digital safety and citizenship topics.
Overview of new activities:
1. Share with Care: That’s not what I meant!
● Overview: Students will learn the importance of asking the question: “How might others interpret what I share?” They’ll learn to read visual cues people use to communicate information about themselves and to draw conclusions about others.
2. Share with Care: Frame it
● Overview: Students will learn to see themselves as media creators. They’ll understand that media makers make choices about what to show and what to keep outside the frame. They’ll apply the concept of framing to understand the difference between what to make visible and public online and what to keep “invisible.”
3. Don’t Fall for Fake: Is that really true?
● Overview: Students will learn how to apply critical thinking to discern between what’s credible and non-credible in the many kinds of media they run into online.
4. Don’t Fall for Fake: Spotting disinformation online
● Overview: Students will learn how to look for and analyze clues to what is and isn’t reliable information online.
5. It’s Cool to Be Kind: How words can change a picture
● Overview: Students will learn to make meaning from the combination of pictures and words and will understand how a caption can change what we think a picture is communicating. They will gain an appreciation for the power of their own words, especially when combined with pictures they post.
6. When in Doubt, Talk It Out: What does it mean to be brave?
● Overview: Students will think about what it means to be brave online and IRL, where they got their ideas about “brave” and how media affect their thinking about it.
Expanding resources to families
We teamed up with the YMCA across six cities to host bilingual workshops for parents to help teach families about online safety and digital citizenship with Be Internet Awesome and help families create healthy digital habits with the Family Link app. The workshops, designed for parents, coincide with June’s National Internet Safety Month and come at the start of the school summer holidays.
Living with an invisible chronic condition can sometimes make you feel alone, and it can often make the workplace seem like a complicated environment. But you don’t need to feel alone or powerless—and you certainly don’t have to feel guilty.
You have rights and, just as important, resources available to you that will help you get the accommodations you need at work. The first is probably the most important, and it’s so simple that we sometimes don’t even think of it. Talk to your employer about what you need. When there is a mutual understanding between the employer and employee, the process will inevitably be smoother.
You may wonder, “How do I tell my employer that I’m having a flare-up?” You might even start to think, “Is this too much to ask for? Should I just suck it up?” The answers are no, it’s not, and no, you shouldn’t. Being forthright with your needs while also understanding your employer’s viewpoint is important when requesting accommodations. Take the time to educate your employer about your condition—for example, flare-ups can be common with many chronic conditions, such as Celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and many more. If you can inform your employer when you have early signs of a flare-up, it may give her time to help make appropriate accommodations for you.
If you need accommodations, don’t be afraid to ask. Your employer ultimately wants you to be productive, so ask for whatever you may need. This could be frequent breaks or even asking to work one day from home per week to maximize your productivity.
You could also request a noise-free office space or one near a bathroom. Asking for accommodations is a most practical first step, and describing in appropriate detail may go even further in creating an empathetic relationship between you and your boss. A good place to start is to visit the human resources department.
Another potential resource may be vocational rehabilitation (VR). These state-run, federally funded programs offer a way for people with mental and physical disabilities to get the help they need to become more independent and to go back to work. They can also be a good resource to learn more about your rights and how to navigate your specific desired workplace. Vocational rehabilitation eligibility varies by state, so check with your state’s program to see if you qualify.
Look into an ABLE account. Employment laws are changing, and many states introduced the ABLE Act, which you may be eligible for if you were diagnosed with your disability before 26 years old. ABLE Accounts will help you keep a larger amount of savings and not affect your other public benefits. Learn more about the ABLE Accounts at ablenrc.org.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need to consider Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the federal income supplement program designed to help people with disabilities who have little or no income. Workplace disclosure is ultimately a personal decision. Unfortunately, not all employers will be responsive, but doing your part to communicate is key to building a long-term relationship.
Ultimately, have confidence in dealing with your condition and know that it can bring a greater understanding and inclusivity to the workplace. Having a chronic disease certainly can be an extra barrier, but it can also empower your colleagues to understand the effects of a chronic disease—and that’s something that adds value to the workplace.
If you are looking for disability-friendly workplaces, check out the Disability Equality Index. The DEI has a list of best places to work for people with disabilities. If you are looking for employment that meets your needs, keep searching! With patience, you can find the place that is best for you and your own needs.
By Jaeson Parsons
Sunday Parker’s experiences with a mobility-based disability since birth has given her unique insight into the struggles that those with disabilities face. We wanted to get a better understanding of Sunday’s career journey as well as her insight into the creation and success of Abilityforce at Salesforce.
Sunday, pictured far left, has succeeded, and now she is the Global President of Abilityforce, the Employee Resource Group at Salesforce.
DiversityComm asked Sunday to give us some background into her experiences growing up with her disability.
“I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma that didn’t have a stop light, let alone many accessibility considerations,” she stated. “As a wheelchair user since age 9, I was often lifted into shops and restaurants that didn’t have ramp access. Overcoming challenges was my ‘normal’—I faced barriers going to school, spending time with friends, and even lived in a house that had multiple steps getting in the front door.”
After graduating high school in 2009 and moving to San Francisco to attend university, her experiences were eye-opening.
“For the first time, I could take buses and trains, easily go along sidewalks, and the majority of businesses were accessible. This shift from living in a small town that had barriers at every turn to one of the most accessible cities in America was life-changing.”
Sunday graduated in 2013 with a degree in interior architecture and design; however, she felt more suited to the tech industry.
“After graduation, I wasn’t sure where my career journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to be part of an organization where I felt valued and could explore my interests,” she said.
It was Salesforces’ philanthropic method that attracted her to apply.
“[Their] commitment to donate 1 percent of earnings, 1 percent of products, and 1 percent of employee time to charitable causes is an organization I was excited to be a part of, and felt I could bring value to.”
Before accepting the position, Sunday requested to speak with an accommodations manager to discuss her disability needs for the position. She was encouraged by their reaction.
“My initial conversation started with them assuring me, ‘My job is to make sure your first day is the best first day you’ve ever had, so let’s talk about how we’re going to do that.’” A company switch is tough for anyone, but there is added complexity as a disabled person like myself who requires accommodations. But I left that conversation not just excited, but confident to start my journey at a company that was mutually invested in my success.”
Once at Salesforce, Sunday became involved in a grassroots group called Abilityforce. Founded in 2016, this was Salesforce’s first resource group for employees with disabilities.
Through her career development, Sunday has experienced many challenges and missed opportunities related to accessibility in the workplace, as well as the lack of resources, and this was something she wanted to see improved drastically for future generations. Sunday has seen firsthand the benefits of employee resource groups as it relates to the team environment at the company.
“Having employee resource groups helps to build a culture where everyone, regardless of their identity, can feel empowered to bring their full and authentic selves to work. People want to work at companies that reflect the communities they live in.”
We asked Sunday to outline the future for Abilityforce.
“We have a long-range plan to become a best place to work for people with disabilities. We continue to strive to have our physical and technological environments accessible and designed with everyone in mind by developing innovative best practices.”
Companies like Sunday’s that create employee resource groups allow for a deeper connection within the company and across the globe, as colleagues around the world provide their unique insight for development. Sunday said something that was very powerful—that we are stronger together. Finding ways to connect and break down the chains of isolation through human connection is a powerful tool. In her final remarks, Sunday stated that business can be a powerful platform for social change. Creating employee resource groups can increase solidarity and become a driving force for equal opportunity and accessibility within the workplace.