AS&F Foundation Donates $5 Million to Braille Institute of America to Advance Free Low Vision Programs

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Braille Institute

The AS&F Foundation awarded $5 million to Braille Institute of America, Inc. (BIA) early last month. The gift represents the largest single donation ever awarded to BIA by a foundation. The $5 million gift will play a substantial role in helping BIA transform and sustain its vital Low Vision Program.

“As a long-time supporter of Braille Institute, we recognize the value of its free services for people with severe vision loss in our communities,” says John Llewellyn, AS&F Foundation Trustee and President. “The Foundation is proud to contribute to an endowment for low vision services as a way to help Braille Institute serve people today and into the future.”

Currently, thousands of people with low vision due to conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration participate in Braille Institute’s Low Vision Program every year. Through free, one-on-one consultations, individuals with vision loss receive recommendations about maximizing their remaining vision as well as advice about accessible mainstream technology tools and other community resources. According to a recent National Health Interview Survey, more than 20 million adult Americans reported vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts.

Thanks to AS&F Foundation’s support, BIA will strengthen its alignment with national best practices for Low Vision Rehabilitation by investing in new skill sets needed to make appropriate recommendations as accessible devices become more sophisticated and needs change within the continuum of care. In addition, these program enhancements will allow BIA to build stronger relationships within the medical community, and thus drive increased referrals for BIA services.

“We’re beyond grateful to the AS&F Foundation for this generous gift. It could not be directed to a more important and strategic program at Braille Institute,” said Peter Mindnich, President, Braille Institute of America. “The Low Vision Program is crucial to our clients’ well-being, and this new funding from AS&F will allow us to increase the quality and impact of this core program.”

ABOUT BRAILLE INSTITUTE OF AMERICA

Braille Institute of America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate barriers to a fulfilling life caused by blindness and severe sight loss. It serves thousands of adults and youth each year through a broad range of educational, social and recreational programs designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Services are provided through six Southern California centers and hundreds of other community locations. Additionally, Braille Institute’s National Programs encourage school age students to pursue braille literacy and orientation and mobility skills. Funded by private donations, all services are free of charge. For more information, visit: BrailleInstitute.org, Facebook.com/BrailleInstitute or on twitter @BrailleInst.

ABOUT AS&F FOUNDATION

The AS&F Foundation was founded by Hubert Eaton in 1951 as the Forest Lawn Foundation, dedicated to “God and Humanity.” Two of Hubert Eaton’s relatives have chaired Braille Institute of America’s Board of Directors: W. W. Eaton, a cousin of Hubert, and Eaton’s grand-nephew, John Llewellyn.

In early 2017, the Foundation’s trustees reviewed the organization’s strategy and decided that making a few, large transformative gifts would have more impact than making many smaller grants to charities over a number of years. Thus, the trustees decided to close the Foundation by distributing all its assets.

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Let’s Get to Work! —Program Employs People with Autism

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Picture of Posted titled Autism Stories

A partnership between Pepco Holdings and The Precisionists, Inc., stole the show at Exelon’s Innovation Expo, beating out more than 250 other entries to win first place in the fast-pitch contest’s Inspiration/Ideation category. Daymond John from the popular TV show Shark Tank was both keynote speaker at the event and one of the judge for the competition. The Precisionist employs dozens of adults with autism, and Pepco Holdings has been using their innovative disability employment model across a number of its business areas.

“When properly assessed, trained and employed, people with autism are extremely high-performing employees in critical and challenging jobs, such as administrative business functions, software testing and data analytics,” said Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists. “When you consider that more than 70 percent of people with autism in the country are either unemployed or underemployed, we are making a true difference in engaging this significant, untapped and high-performing labor force.”

Individuals taking part in the program are identified, assessed, trained and employed by The Precisionists, then carry out project-based work, including managing and updating databases, supporting the processing of solar application invoices and requests, and entering and analyzing data for the company’s customer care organization. Participants also provide support to all of the Pepco Holding’s utilities, which includes Pepco in Maryland and the District of Columbia and Atlantic City Electric in southern New Jersey.

Individuals entering the program go through a comprehensive four-week training program, utilizing the methodology of Specialisterne, a nonprofit launched by Thorkil Sonne that offers programs for talent and career development to autistic individuals. As part of the program, Delmarva Power hopes to identify additional opportunities to expand this employment model to other parts of the business, further supporting The Precisionists’ goal of employing 10,000 people with disabilities in the United States by 2025.

Source: businesswire.com

Dr. Ann Wagner Named National Autism Coordinator

Ann E. Wagner, Ph.D., is the U.S. National Autism Coordinator. It’s a role she holds in addition to her position as chief of the National Institute of Mentalpicture of Ann Wagner smiling in her office Health’s Biomarker and Intervention Development for Childhood-Onset Mental Disorders Branch, which houses the institute’s Autism Research Program. Dr. Wagner plays a vital role in ensuring the implementation of national autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, services, and support activities across federal agencies. This role will complement the activities of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes public and federal members, takes place in a public forum, and focuses on sharing information about ongoing activities and providing advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to ASD.

Source: nimh.nih.gov

Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable

Disability:IN (formerly US Business Leadership Network [USBLN]), along with: DXC Technology, EY, Ford Motor Company, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Microsoft, and SAP, formed the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable to help close the unemployment and underemployment gap for individuals on the autism spectrum.

These cross-industry employers have led hiring initiatives specific to individuals on the autism spectrum for over a year, and recognize the significant benefits to their company cultures as well as those experienced by individuals hired at these companies.

The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable values transparency and the community of employers are sharing best practices and findings for autism hiring initiatives. For example, employers looking to explore how to get started with their own inclusive hiring programs can leverage the deep operational experience of these companies. Those employers in the roundtable are also given resources and guidance on efforts such as program messaging, approach and other recommendations.

“By working together we can further develop our programs, knowledge and share it with other organizations both large and small, allowing us to make impact for the current and future generations of people on the spectrum,” states Michael Fieldhouse, Director – Emerging Businesses and Cyber security, Dandelion Program Executive, DXC Technology.

The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable will engage with autism communities and broader groups in academia and universities to raise awareness of the various hiring initiatives available at these companies. The collective roundtable of companies will collect feedback on these efforts as various initiatives scale, with the end goal of ultimately having an impact on reducing the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Source: Disability:IN

NXT GEN Coders to Increase Employment Readiness

GameStop and Autism Speaks partnered up to help tackle the high unemployment or underemployment rate the vast majority of adults with autism face. The NXT GEN Coders Program powered by GameStop provides financial funding to organizations, schools and universities that teach digital literacy and coding to people with autism, to help prepare them for the competitive job market. With a special focus on teens and college-age students, the NXT GEN Coders Program is also open to children and adults on the autism spectrum, from preschool age through retirement.

In its first year, the NXT GEN Coders Program received 38 proposals from 16 states. Applicants included community-based coding academies, not-for-profit service providers and large universities. All qualified proposals were evaluated by professionals within the coding industry and adults with autism who work in computing and gaming.

Source: GameStop Corp., Autism Speaks

World’s First Water Park to Receive CAC Accreditation

Aquatica sign outside of the park pointing where to goAquatica Orlando, in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), completed a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. The completion designates Aquatica Orlando as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES—the first water park in the world to receive such a distinction. This accreditation follows sister park Sesame Place, which was the world’s first certified autism center theme park.

Source: SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

Autism Stories On-Demand Platform

To address the growing prevalence of autism and the desire to empower the global community affected, co-founders Remi Tetot and Alex Plank launched Autism Stories, a platform that will offer informational resources to subscribers through engaging interviews and documentaries featuring individuals with autism, impacted families, scientists, researchers, professionals in the field, and more. Autism Stories will be the convener of voices that will support and propel the autism community further. The subscription-based service is built on three verticals: living, growing and succeeding with autism. Each section will offer 10- to 60-minute interviews with world-renowned individuals on the spectrum, such as Temple Grandin and Steve Silberman, as well as conversations with parents, kids and prominent leaders in the space.

Source: Autism Stories

Vacation Home Rental Company is Certified Autism Center

VillaKey, a Certified Autism Center, is the first vacation rental company globally to earn the CAC designation. The family-run business caters to families, many with children on the autism spectrum to book vacation home rentals. “We saw an under-served market with a genuine need,” says Alice Horn, the CEO of VillaKey, LLC. “Children on the autism spectrum are uncomfortable with unfamiliar environments, and many families avoid hotels, or may not go on vacation at all. The children require a familiar and safe environment, which can be best provided in a vacation home.”

Source: VillaKey LLC, ibccess.org

Urban School Initiative Backed by Taraji P. Henson

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Taraji P. Henson in pink dress speaks onstage at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Since Taraji P. Henson launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) in honor of her father, the organization has conducted several listening sessions with therapists, social workers, educators and mental health leaders across the nation.

The goal of the tour is to identify trends in education, faith, and family that have perpetuated the stigma around mental health in the black community. One of the key pillars of the foundation is to provide urban schools with additional resources to address the mental health needs of African-American students. “We will increase mental health support in urban schools that demonstrate the highest need based on research and data collected from working groups consisting of Principals, counselors, teachers, social workers, parents and therapists,” said Tracie Jenkins. This work begins in Taraji’s hometown of Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser recently named February 8th as Taraji P. Henson Day in honor of her contributions to the nation’s capital.

BLHF has partnered with PROJECT 375, who will provide Youth Mental First Aid training for teachers and staff in eight public schools in Washington, D.C. BLHF will also support trauma-informed curriculum workshops and classes that educate and engage students, teachers, and families throughout the school year.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation focuses on eradicating the stigma around mental health in the African-American community. According to the BLHF website, “We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inapt, weak, and/or inadequate. African-Americans also have a history of being misdiagnosed, so there is mistrust associated with therapy.”

BLHF is near and dear to Taraji P. Henson’s heart, because, as she says, “Everything I do is for the positive, forward movement of humanity.” On January 28th, Henson received the 2,655th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. She dedicated her star to the next generation of actresses, while paying respect to those who came before her. “I fight for roles that will break through glass ceilings so that with these young women coming behind me, they won’t have the same narrative that we had,” she said.

“That’s how powerful art is. I don’t take anything for granted,” says Henson. “Every role I take on is just as special as the last one.”

Source: The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
Photo credit: TOMMASO BODDI/STRINGER/GETTY IMAGES

National Investors Call for Workplace Disability Inclusion

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Investors representing more than $1 trillion in combined assets, led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, today called on companies they invest in to create inclusive workplaces that can benefit from employing the millions of talented people with disabilities who remain underrepresented in the workforce.

Signatories to the joint statement disability inclusion investor statement. Download PDF File included New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Fortune 500 asset manager Voya Financial.

“Disability inclusion provides businesses with a great opportunity to improve their bottom lines, while boosting diversity and innovation,” said Comptroller DiNapoli, Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We want to know that our investment dollars are being used to maximize a company’s potential and its long-term profitability. Disability inclusion expands the pool of talent companies can hire from and creates welcoming workplaces that foster different perspectives, giving an enterprise a competitive edge.”

“Companies that embrace disability inclusion in the workplace benefit from increased innovation as well as profitability,” said Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read. “We are asking the companies we invest in to adopt policies to improve the representation of people with disabilities in their workforce and continue to identify opportunities for improvement.”

“Today’s announcement on disability equality by the nation’s leading institutional investors and pension funds marks a key turning point in the disability rights movement,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., bone cancer survivor, amputee and Board Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). “This new, concerted focus on corporate and shareholder engagement and accountability catapults the issue of disability inclusion into the forefront of corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance — ESG — investing. Citizens, employees and shareholders will now be watching how companies respond to this new challenge and which corporations authentically support our goal of economic independence and workforce participation of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

When companies adopt best practices for hiring people with disabilities, they outperform their peers among numerous financial metrics, according to “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” a report published in 2018 by Accenture, Disability:IN, and AAPD.

The report concluded that corporate America has failed to capitalize on the talents of more than 10 million people with disabilities.

In their joint statement, the investors called for companies to adopt policies for:

  • Setting goals for hiring people with disabilities and tracking progress in meeting those goals;
  • Public support from a senior executive for creating a disability-focused employee resource group that fosters a supportive network; and
  • Including people with disabilities in their corporate diversity and inclusion statements.

The investors’ statement also encouraged companies to participate in the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The DEI, an initiative of Disability:IN and AAPD, allows companies to self-report and benchmark their disability policies and practices and identify ways to build reputations as inclusive organizations. In January, Comptroller DiNapoli wrote to 49 corporations in the portfolio of New York state’s pension fund, urging them to register for the DEI. A number of companies participated as a result.

“Companies looking to get started on or advance in their disability inclusion journey should attend the Disability:IN Annual Conference on July 16-18 in Chicago and/or register for the 2020 DEI,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN. “These opportunities will allow companies to benchmark and network with their industry peers to advance their inclusion efforts.”

This multi-state investor group is supported by various disability organizations, including members of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, representing some of the leading disability rights organizations throughout the nation. The full list of disability organizations that support this investor initiative are below.

The full text of the investors’ statement is available here . Download PDF File .

Supporting Disability Organizations:

  • American Council of the Blind
  • ADAPT
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • Communication Service for the Deaf
  • Disability:IN
  • Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
  • Little People of America
  • National Association of the Deaf
  • National Coalition of Mental Health Recovery
  • National Council on Independent Living
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
  • Not Dead Yet
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
  • United Spinal Association

 

Maria Town Named AAPD’s President and CEO

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AAPD logo that says american association of people with disabilities

Washington, D.C. (May 22, 2019) – The Board of Directors of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) announced today that Maria Town has been selected as the new President & CEO.

Ms. Town, a well-recognized disability rights advocate, will begin her new position on July 15, 2019. AAPD Board Chair, Ted Kennedy, Jr., said he is excited about the future of AAPD with Maria at the helm. He went on to say that he is “incredibly grateful to our current CEO, Helena Berger, for her leadership and dedication to AAPD. She has created an environment that will allow the new CEO, Maria Town, to have maximum impact at AAPD in 2019 and beyond.”

Ms. Town is currently the Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, where she serves as the primary liaison between the more than half million people with disabilities in the greater Houston area, the Mayor, Houston City Council, and other key city, state, and national leaders. Ms. Town quickly became an expert on emergency response having begun the position shortly before Houston felt the impacts of Hurricane Harvey.

Prior to that, Ms. Town served as the Obama White House Senior Associate Director & Disability Community Liaison in the Office of Public Engagement. While there, Ms. Town increased the White House reach to the disability community by more than 700%. She also engaged with leadership from the nation’s premier disability and civil rights organizations, including AAPD, to provide White House Senior Advisors with daily briefings on key issues related to Americans with disabilities, seniors, cabinet agencies, and the Obama Administration’s place-based initiatives.

Upon being named President & CEO, Ms. Town stated, “I am incredibly honored to be the next CEO of AAPD. I look forward to working alongside our committed board, staff, and stakeholders to ensure that AAPD represents and engages our diverse community in the collective fight for equal access, integration, and full inclusion for Americans with disabilities.”

Ms. Town is the recipient of many awards and honors including the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities Martha Arbuckle Award, Susan Daniels Mentoring Hall of Fame Honoree, and an AAPD Paul J. Hearne Leadership Award Finalist.

Ms. Town began her professional disability rights career as a disability advocate in a policy advisor role at the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University.

AAPD is a convener, connecter, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As one of the leading national cross-disability civil rights organizations, AAPD advocates for the full recognition of rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s programs and initiatives have been effective in mobilizing the disability community through communications advocacy; cultivating and training new and emerging leaders with disabilities through leadership development programs; increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote through the REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign; and advancing disability inclusion in the workplace through the Disability Equality Index (DEI) — the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion. To learn more about AAPD, visit aapd.com.

Online Recruitment Platform to Connect Workers with Disabilities to Rewarding Careers

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The ISABLED Virtual Career Fair platform makes it easier to connect recruiters from leading companies and high-impact professionals with disabilities. They are are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. There are currently more jobs in the U.S than available workers to fill them, and companies are forced to explore more options to find talent to hire to help them grow their business.

Workers with different abilities (often referred to as workers with disabilities) are just one example of highly-skilled, but untapped segments of the population that more and more leading companies are seeking to recruit.

ISABLED, an online recruiting platform connects workers that identify as having a disability, with recruiters from leading companies who value inclusion and diversity in their workforce. The ISABLED platform allows job seekers and recruiters to connect and chat in real-time, from anywhere, and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

” The ISABLED Virtual Career Fairs are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. Instead of asking both sides to attend a job fair at a physical location, we bring the career fair to them. The ISABLED platform allows our employer partners to recruit nationwide in just a few hours, and job seekers have instant access to the very recruiters who are seeking to fill the open positions” Stated Kevin O’Brien, Managing Partner, ISABLED.

The ISABLED website will include content to connect workers with disabilities to job opportunities from a wide range of companies and industries. The website will include a job board and a virtual career fair platform. ISABLED will host 4 virtual career fairs each year, and companies can host standalone virtual career fairs for their company as often as they like.

The first ISABLED virtual career fair is set for July 25, 2019, and open now for registration.

About ISABLED:

ISABLED, a division of Astound Virtual has a laser-focus on connecting industry-leading companies with workers people with disabilities who seek employment. Through the ISABLED Recruitment Center (IRC), job seekers and recruiters meet and interact, in real-time, but from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

Meet the first openly autistic woman elected to political office

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Sarah Hernandez sitting at her desk smiling wearing a flowery green and yellow dress

By Kathleen Wroblewski, Director of Communications, Bay Path University

It’s difficult for many people to approach a stranger’s house and knock on their door. It’s quite another matter if you are knocking on doors and running for public office.

Within minutes, you need to introduce yourself and connect with the person on the other side of the threshold. We call it being face to face—a fundamental form of human communication.

When Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez, ’14 G’15, of the occupational therapy department decided to run for the school board in her local town, the process of canvassing in the community and meeting strangers was absolutely terrifying. “At first, I had to watch how people did it. And, slowly, I learned to pick up certain cues and how to handle myself in different situations. People were very patient with me. It was a big step when I knocked on that first door.”

Sarah’s success is all the more remarkable because she is neurodiverse: she is on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a development condition defined by social and communication difficulties and repetitive, inflexible patterns of behavior.

When you first meet Sarah, a mother of three with a friendly and welcoming smile, she appears to be the opposite of society’s profile of being autistic. But appearances can be deceiving. Sarah, along with many other young girls and women, has mastered what is known as “social camouflaging,” or hiding in plain sight. In many ways, this coping technique has led to women of all ages to be misdiagnosed, or in some cases, not diagnosed with autism at all. And that gets to the heart of Sarah’s story:

“I was diagnosed in my thirties, and that is not unusual for women. I knew that I was different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were times that I just had to shut down and not communicate. I was lucky to learn it was a form of autism because most women fly under the radar and never find out. They live in a world of inner turmoil. It’s only recently that researchers are looking at the gender differences in autism. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ASD are based on data gathered from the studies of boys.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common in boys than girls. As awareness of autism grows, new protocols are being developed that indicate the gap may not be as wide as once thought. In the meantime, there are discernable shifts in society’s perceptions of autism.

Expanding the Definition of a Diverse Workplace

Sarah, like many others on the spectrum, has learned to live with her autism. She is a role model for her occupational therapy students, sharing her experiences to make them more sensitive to the differences and contributions of the members of her “tribe.”

“I let my students know right up front that I am autistic. And I share my knowledge of the strengths of autism—our ability to think in patterns, to visualize, and to be problem solvers,” she says.

In fact, this skill set is prompting companies and organizations to expand their definitions of a diverse workplace. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, by Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, reports that the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool. With a vast number of IT and IT-related positions going unfilled, HR departments are re-examining their recruitment practices and working environments to accommodate neurodiverse employees. In companies with active neurodiverse hiring programs, such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, and others, they have already realized productivity gains and a high number of innovations. They have found that diversity does deliver.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

“I know I am incredibly lucky to be working at Bay Path,” states Sarah. “I am doing what I love, and I can be honest about who I am.”

Sarah’s generosity of spirit does not stop at Bay Path. She and her husband have one biological child, have adopted two children, and are therapeutic foster parents. When one of Sarah’s children experienced difficulties in school because she is darker in complexion, she knew she had to step forward to give voice to her daughter and others. She decided to run for the school board.

“I can hide my disability, but my daughter can’t turn her skin color off. I decided that I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with others on the spectrum, as well as represent all those who need a spokesperson.”

So, Sarah left her comfort zone and began knocking on doors, participating in debates, and attending meetings. She never hid her autism. And she won.

But her victory wasn’t just for the schoolchildren in her town. Through social media, her election gained broad attention. NBC Hartford did a profile on her, and at a national conference on autism, she shared the stage with former Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Senate.

For Sarah, the attention was sometimes hard to believe: “As a person on the spectrum, I believe we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. But we have to keep participating, and we have to work to represent ourselves. I like to say, ‘We have to put our pants on in the morning.’ We just need to show up.”

Sarah certainly has.

Source: baypath.edu

Pizzability is serving up a slice of community right alongside its hand-tossed pizzas and craft beer

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Tiffany Fixter pictured with employees at the brewery in Pizzability Restaurant

Owner Tiffany Fixter’s mission for the restaurant, which opened in December, is not only to create employment opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD); she also wants to give Denver area families with special needs children or adults an inclusive restaurant option that accepts and supports people of all abilities.

After teaching special education for 11 years, Fixter knew she could do more to help an often-overlooked population gain skills training that can lead to meaningful work.

“I realized there’s an employment crisis for adults with developmental disabilities,” she says. “I wanted to try to solve that, so I started the brewery.”

In 2016, she opened Brewability Lab, Denver’s first and only brewery focused on employing and training adults with IDD for job opportunities in the beer business. Then last spring, she heard a local pizzeria was closing, so she jumped at the opportunity to grow the business.

“I just thought, (pizza) goes with beer really well,” she says. “I just see so many job applications. It can be difficult trying to fit everyone in and make sure they’re getting what they need, but the only way to solve that was to expand.”

Pizzability employees have a wide range of differing abilities. Between the brewery and the pizzeria, Fixter says many of her employees have autism spectrum disorders. She also has one who is deaf, one who is blind, and others with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Aside from some funding from the Rocky Mountain Human Services’ mill levy program that was put toward the initial renovation of the space, Pizzability is funded entirely by customers. And at such affordable prices (during happy hour, which runs 2-5pm Tuesday through Saturday, pizza is $2 a slice and a glass of Brewability beer or wine is $5), keeping afloat is a challenge, but one Fixter believes is well worth it.

“So many people (with IDD) need jobs,” she says. “I just have to make sure we have the customer base to support it.”

Five days per week, Chef Bryce Love is in the kitchen giving employees hands-on support, making sure everyone understands everything from how to get ready for work to the importance of following processes to ensure food safety.

“It’s important to me that everyone learns the right way the first time,” Fixter explains. “We got very lucky with Chef Love.”

Recently, ESPN featured the pizzeria in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, recognizing Pizzability as one of 50 “game changers” that is changing the way the world views disability.

To continue her mission to change the game, Fixter is working on setting up delivery and catering services within Cherry Creek. She’s also looking forward to summer, as she plans to open up the restaurant’s garage door to allow guests to enjoy the outdoor seating.

“We’ll also be adding gelato and we’ll be creating a sorbet out of our beer.”

When guests step up to Pizzability’s counter, they are greeted with a visual menu, which is also available in braille. The restaurant offers mostly classic toppings like pepperoni, supreme and Hawaiian, which are also available on gluten-sensitive crust.

Fixter says they’re happy to blend the pizzas for anyone who has trouble swallowing or chewing. She also stocks adaptive utensils, cups and plates—there’s a visual menu board that includes all of these items at the counter, and guests can request whatever they need.

A sensory corner with noise-cancelling headphones, board games, and an interactive light up wall was created with help from PIMA Medical Institute students.

“It’s for anybody that needs to move and fidget,” she explains.

There’s also a quiet room in the back that allows employees to take a break away from the noise, which helps reduce any stress and anxiety that can be overwhelming for people with certain disabilities. Even the bathroom is stocked with personal care items to ensure accidents won’t disrupt a pizza party.

Continue on to Cherry Creek North to read the complete article.

5 Ailments Chinese Medicine Formulas Can Help

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a picture of herbal medicines on a table with a cup of tea and napkins

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – Traditional Chinese medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and is well respected worldwide. Out of that health and wellness field there has emerged the area of Chinese herbal formulas.

According to the National Institutes of Health, herbal medicines are a type of dietary supplement that people take to try and maintain or improve their health. One company, DAO Labs, has taken the art of Chinese herbal medicine and has created a line of safe and effective, easy-to-use formulas that help with a variety of health needs.

“Most people are familiar with the idea of Chinese medicine, but are not sure how to easily incorporate it into their life,” explains John G. McGarvey, co-founder and chief executive officer of DAO Labs, a company that makes Chinese herbal medicine formulas to help with a variety of health needs. “With our line of Chinese herbal medicine formulas, we have made making Chinese herbal medicine a simple part of your life. It’s like thousands of years of knowledge in every glass.”

There has been major growth in the Chinese herbal medicine market in recent years. Over half of all acupuncturists are now offering products. According to Medgadget, a company that reports on medical technology around the world, it’s estimated that the herbal medicine market will reach $111 billion by 2023. They further report that according to the World Health Organization, almost 80 percent of the population of many Asian and African countries depends on traditional medicine for primary health care. DAO Labs is helping to make Chinese herbal remedies easily accessible in America.

Here are 5 health needs where Chinese herbal medicine formulas by DAO Labs can help:

  • Digestive Support. Those who want to strengthen their digestive health may benefit from Digestive Harmony, an herbal medicine that offers soothing, yet powerful, solution for balancing one’s stomach, upgrading digestive health, and generally delivering gut happiness when other western options have fallen short. The formula has been designed to help with a bloating and ballooned belly, digestive harmony, a sideways stomach, and when digestive strength is needed fast.
  • Emotional & Mental Well-Being. Millions of people today are anxious and irritable. Emotional Balance medicine formula has been created to bring calmness and emotional clarity. The formula has been designed to add a subtle boost of energy, while calming irritability, and easing mental tension. Those who use Emotional Balance become happier, calmer, and well adjusted. It’s also an excellent formula for women during the PMS phase of their cycle.
  • Better Sleep. Inconsistent, low quality sleep can lead to a wide variety of health conditions. Millions of people who don’t get enough sleep each night suffer in a variety of ways. DAO Labs offers two sleep solutions for two different sleep needs. Physical Tranquility has been designed to help the restless and overheated sleeper. The herbal medicine formula will help people to fall asleep, as well as continue to sleep all night, and wake up with better mental clarity and acuity the next day. DAO also offers Mental Tranquility, which is for the stressed sleeper whose mind won’t turn off in the middle of the night and lays awake due to stress and anxiousness. Unlike other sleep supplements, DAO’s Sleep Series formulas don’t contain melatonin and are designed to help you stay asleep.
  • Menstrual Health. Women’s health needs are a primary reason women seek support from an acupuncturist or doctor of Chinese medicine. DAO’s Women’s Formula is used for women seeking to strengthen the regularity of the menstrual cycle, while also offering increased energy each month. In addition, DAO offers their Women’s Monthly Kit which combines two different formulas for different phases of their cycle, offering a month-long solution for menstrual support.
  • Boost Immunity. Some people seem more prone to getting sick than others. It’s important for those people to boost their immunity. The Immunity Support herbal powder is one of the strongest forms of immunity defense that has been used for over 750 years and remains of the most popular formulas across Asia still to this day. It’s great for cold and pollen season, interacting with large crowds, for teachers and parents, and when you feel there is something coming on.

“There is support for these important health needs, and we have used traditional Chinese medicine principals to address them,” added McGarvey. “We have made it simple, by creating the healing herbal formula. We have taken the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine and put it in healing powders that are accessible to all.”

All DAO Labs herbal medicine formulas come in single-serve packets with enticing flavors. They are sustainable, have gone through a rigorous testing process, and are manufactured and tested in the US. Each serving is stirred into a glass of water to create a tasty and healthy beverage.

DAO Labs’ motto is that healing begins with nature. Their mission is to help people heal through natural remedies. As such, they are also committed to helping to protect and bring awareness to the environment, in an effort to help stop the illegal wildlife trade. The company is against sourcing materials that harm the environment or endangered species, and has teamed up with the organization WildAid, with 1 percent of all sales going to the organization that is fighting the illegal wildlife trade. To learn more about DAO Labs and their Chinese herbal medicine formulas, visit the site at: https://mydaolabs.com.

About DAO Labs 

DAO Labs has a mission of bringing the many benefits of traditional Chinese herbal medicine to today’s wellness explorer. Founded by a team of Chinese herbal medicine experts, the company offers a variety of formulas that help with a variety of conditions impacting health and wellbeing. Their herbal formulas aim to help balance the mind, body, and spirit. To learn more about DAO Labs, visit the site at: https://mydaolabs.com.

7 Tips to Help Mentally Overcome an Employment Gap

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woking working on her resume attached to a clipboard

Here’s advice on overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create before they sabotage your job search, from those who’ve been there.

William Childs loves his new job. He is Marketing Director at Kitchen Magic, a growing national kitchen remodeling and cabinet refacing company. “This job is a creative person’s dream. The product, the people, the collaborative ideas we are generating, it’s totally amazing,” Childs says. “This is what I spent my 14-month employment gap searching for, and I am so glad I didn’t give up on my career goals.”

Employment gaps do not define you

According to a recent Randstad U.S. study, the average job search today takes about five months. When Childs was laid off late in 2017 from an executive-level marketing job, he did not anticipate a longer-than-average employment gap. He explained: “When my old job was eliminated, it was the first time in many years that I had no specific job to go to next. I had always benefited from people just knowing me and my work, so starting from scratch while unemployed felt pretty weird.” When a few leads at the beginning of his job search didn’t materialize, he felt a bit demoralized.

According to a 2019 Monster survey, 59 percent of Americans have had an unexpected gap in their career. For a lot of people looking for jobs with a gap on their resume, there can be internalized feelings of shame, says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist, CEC-certified executive coach, and author of “The YOU Plan.” “Shame puts on a lot of added pressure to an already stressful time, which can lead to obsession,” Dr. Woody explains. “Don’t victimize yourself over a lost job or a failure in the past. It can be debilitating.” He advises readers to recognize their setback as just that, a setback — then deal with it and move on to better things.

Childs did keep moving forward. He designed an online portfolio and kept adding to it during his hiatus by taking on freelance work. He wrote for an online magazine and volunteered his talents to local non-profit groups. A year into his search, he took an advertising sales job as he continued to apply for positions. “The sales job was what I needed to do financially, and what I needed to do for my own piece of mind,” he reflects. “I was earning income, learning, and connecting with people. It helped me a lot.”

While he did not give up on finding an innovative executive marketing position, Childs needed ways to stay focused and positive on his continued career search. When it comes to overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create, the following advice can help keep you more focused, motivated, and confident.

1. Honesty really is the best policy

Susan is happily employed in Reno, Nevada at The Slumber Yard, a specialty online clearinghouse of reviews, comparisons, and deals for mattresses and bedding products. Prior to taking the job last year, this mattress review specialist (whose name has been changed for this piece) had left the workforce to care for her young son after he was injured in a serious accident. When she was ready to re-enter the workforce, Susan crafted a very targeted resume and cover letter that succinctly addressed her employment gap. Still, the two-year pause in her career had her a little nervous. “I wasn’t exactly sure what the job market would be like for me,” she remembers.

“Her resume had everything we were looking for, and when she told me why she had a gap in her employment history, her honesty really impressed me,” says Matthew Ross, The Slumber Yard’s Co-Founder and COO. Ross immediately called Susan in for an interview. “Her experience and knowledge of our industry are what got her the job. But, the way that she explained her employment gap really showed her character, both as a person and as a professional.”

You can explain your employment gap without oversharing, says Dick Lively, Partner and HR Consulting Director at RAI Resources in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “On a resume or in a cover letter, saying you took time to care for a family member who was ill or that you relocated across the country for your spouse’s job should be enough detail. Keep it professional but not too personal,” he says. It is also OK to exclude a gap explanation from the resume altogether, so long as you are prepared to address it during the interview if you are asked. Just don’t make something up. “At the end of the day, the truth always comes out, explains Lively. “You don’t want to face a potential employer or a new boss and try to explain why you lied.”

2. Don’t stop networking

Your first instinct may be to hide away until you have a new job, but that will not help your efforts. In fact, it might even hurt them. Keeping your name and face out there can help you get an introduction to a hiring manager. Plus, it’s great practice for interviews. “For me, I talked about the creative process and exchanged ideas; it helped me formulate how to best present myself as a job candidate,” says Childs.

Lively suggests that you don’t wait too long after your last job ends to start networking: “It is not only important to get your name out there and to hear about jobs that may be coming up through the grapevine,” he explains. “You also need to talk shop and connect with people. The longer you wait, the less confident you may feel. Interpersonal skills need to be kept sharp, just like any other skill.” That said, it is OK to take a few days or even a couple of weeks after your last job ends to regain your composure before you start networking. The last thing you want to do is get emotional about your job loss in front of your professional connections.

3. Expand your network

As valuable as your tried-and-true network of professional connections is, Dr. Woody cautions that you shouldn’t always drink from the same well when you are trying to find a new job. “Always networking with the same group of people can put blinders on your job search or create an echo chamber where you keep repeating the same steps that aren’t working anymore.”

Expanding his network definitely helped Childs. “Learning about new businesses and how they do things and connecting with new people is very inspiring,” he says. Telling new people a bit about yourself helps remind you about your talents and experience. You don’t know what else is out there if you don’t ever mix things up.

4. Own your truth

“You can, and should, use a positive spin when talking about your experiences,” says Childs. During an interview or a phone screening, don’t try to hide what caused your employment gap. Don’t complain or point fingers either. Tell your story concisely and truthfully, ending with what you learned or what you have gained since. When Childs interviewed with his new employer, he was prepared to lay his cards on the table when the question came up about his resume gap. His honest, three-sentence elevator speech consisted of:

  1. I was laid off when my department was eliminated.
  2. I am now doing advertising sales. It’s not me, but it’s a job, and I am proud of the quality of work I do.
  3. I have learned a lot about customer service through this sales experience, and I can apply that knowledge to my next marketing and creative position.

Dr. Woody believes this kind of planning is invaluable: “Preparation builds confidence. Working on your narrative reminds you that you have talent and have a lot to offer an employer. Taking time to boil it down to a concise summary instills it in your mind. This is who you are.”

5. Keep up a motivating routine

For years, Childs has emailed daily “Thought Bombs” to colleagues and friends. These are quotes he has collected on creativity, inspiration, and business integrity. Throughout his 14-month job search, he committed himself to continuing this morning ritual. “It got me up and thinking, ready for the day,” he says. “On my worst days, I would tell myself, ‘All I gotta do is get out of bed and deliver the Thought Bomb,’ and it really helped me get moving.”

“I really love this,” says Dr. Woody. “He used this routine to get himself into the right mindset each day. He had a purpose that was of value to his mailing list, and the discipline it took to do this daily task set his whole day in positive motion.” For other people, the routine could be mediation, exercise, journaling, or some other daily ritual.

6. Concentrate on the connection

Childs kept himself well-versed in the current ideas and trends in his field. His knowledge and passion for his work inevitably crept into his cover letters and interviews. “People are much more engaged with stories that are filled with excitement, passion, and personality,” says Childs. “Bragging and standard-issue talking points get stale quickly, but if you can connect with someone about what truly motivates and inspires you, they won’t forget you.”

Coming across as arrogant or whiny is a red flag for employers, notes Dr. Woody. But sharing insights and understanding about your field is a way to help them envision working with you. It also helps them put your employment gap into perspective in relation to your qualifications and talent. He explains: “People remember more about how you made them feel than about the specifics of what you said.”

Continue on to Top Resume to read the complete article.

Instagram co-launches a mental health awareness campaign to help people find support

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Poster that says May is Mental Health Awareness Month

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Instagram co-launched a powerful campaign to help raise awareness on social media.

The #RealConvo Campaign — spearheaded by both Instagram and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP,) an organization that helps those affected by suicide — encourages people to use the hashtag to share their own personal mental health experiences and speak more openly about their struggles.

On Thursday, the AFSP Instagram account introduced the campaign with the help of nine people who are challenging the idea that Instagram is exclusively a place for sharing positive moments, filtered photos, and superficial glimpses at seemingly-perfect lifestyles.

Each of the nine leaders, actresses, activists, entrepreneurs, writers, and more created a video in the hopes of inspiring others to use the platform to engage in authentic conversations around mental health.

Among the group of contributors is Sasha Pieterse, a 23-year-old actress best known for her role in the show, Pretty Little Liars. In her #RealConvo video, Pieterse explained how she often compared herself to other people’s Instagram posts, until one day she decided to let her guard down and share a not-so-glamorous glimpse at her reality.

“A while ago I wasn’t sure what was going on with my health so I put out a post that said ‘I’m under construction,'” she said. “I’m so glad I did because it was the first real convo that I had on Instagram and it was basically saying that nobody’s perfect, everybody goes through things in their life.”

Elyse Fox & Kelvin Hamilton — founders of @SadGirlsClub, a non-profit that aims to reduce stigma around mental health and provide mental health services to those who lack access to treatment, and @SadBoysOrg, a resource for men within the mental health community — also created a video. Together, they discussed the importance of being vulnerable and creating healthy dialogues around mental health disorders like depression.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.