What It’s Like To Be A Blind Software Engineer At Amazon

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blind person working on computer

By Lydia Dishman

Michael Forzano has worked at Seattle’s e-commerce giant for nearly six years, using a regular laptop with a screen he’s never seen.

Everyone’s dream job is different. For some, it may be working with a bold leader, while want to have a hand in world-changing innovation. But Michael Forzano’s a dream job was rooted in a more the practical concern: making shopping more accessible.

Forzano isn’t some shopaholic racking up credit-card debt from his couch, though. He’s a 26-year-old engineer who’s been blind since birth due to a genetic condition called Norrie disease. When it comes to buying basic necessities, Amazon has been a huge help. “Instead of having someone walk me around a store and help me find what I’m searching for, I can just order it from Amazon,” Forzano explains. “I have access to all of the information about the product. It enables me to be much more independent.”

Forzano has always been comfortable around computers, playing audio-based games as a kid and later teaching himself to code in high school. While earning an engineering degree at Binghamton University, he interned for the summer at Amazon in Seattle. It turned into a job offer after Forzano graduated, in 2013, and he’s been working with the e-commerce giant ever since.

Forzano is among a small population of fully blind people to be employed, much less as software engineers. According to disability statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS) for working-age adults reporting significant vision loss, only 42% were employed in 2015 (the most recent year with data). And of the 64,000 software developers Stack Overflow polled last year, 1% are blind. Amazon doesn’t require its employees to disclose that information, so there’s no hard data on how many of the company’s staffers are blind or visually impaired. Still, Forzano says he’s the only person on his immediate team with Norrie disease and full blindness.

At a time when most of us–software developers or not–spend hours each day staring at screens, it’s hard to imagine not using our eyes to work. In a recent email exchange with Fast Company (lightly condensed and edited for clarity), Forzano shared how he’s handled the traditional whiteboard coding challenge during his job interview and many of the other obstacles he’s confronted since as an engineer at a highly competitive tech company.

LANDING THE JOB

At the time [I applied to work there], Amazon recruited directly from Binghamton. They posted the position on our school job-board and a friend encouraged me to apply. I thought, “Why not?” Being a shopper at Amazon, I thought it was really awesome that I could be a part of the technology that creates the experience for so many customers.

[Even so,] I thought I had no chance to work at one of the big companies like Amazon. Being blind, people may be focused on how you’re going to do the job–without even seeing the results you produce. I view blindness as just another characteristic, it’s not something that defines me. My process may be different, but I deliver results.

I walked into the room [on campus where Amazon recruiters were meeting students], and they saw that I was blind. I asked them if I could use my computer (instead of a whiteboard). They said sure and I did my interview [on a standard laptop with screen-reader software, which translates every aspect of using a computer into audio cues.] In software engineering you can see someone doing their job; there was no doubt I was writing the code. I just answered their coding questions in two 45-minute interviews. Ultimately, they must have been impressed because I got the job and have been here ever since. I’m pretty glad I took the chance now!

“DIFFICULT BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE”

When I first started my internship [in summer 2012], I was assigned to a project I wasn’t super interested in, and there was a lot of UI development involved. It would be difficult but not impossible for a blind person to do front-end development. You’re dealing with the visual layout of the web page–colors, styles, how the elements are positioned on the page. So my manager switched me to a back-end project for the summer that didn’t require me asking my coworkers about what the user experience looked like. I didn’t even have to ask; he wanted me to be successful and enjoy my project. So instead I helped develop a service that would send out email reminders for the people who rented out textbooks. It was really exciting working on a launch for something that hadn’t been provided to customers before.

When I came back as a full-time employee, I came to work on the trade-in team. That’s a team that works on when you have an old product, you trade it in and Amazon gives you a gift card. In July 2016, I came to my current team where we build tools that enable other teams to ensure that the retail site features are accessible.

I faced a lot of the same challenges as any new hire out of college: new technology at work, transitioning to a working schedule, moving across the country, living on my own, making new friends. Any time you have a 22-year-old straight out of college, people probably have doubts [about how that new hire will perform]. As for my blindness, I can’t read their minds. It seems like people are pretty open-minded here. When I interact with people over email, they have no idea I’m blind. Let’s say I’m at a meeting with someone I’ve never met in person, my blindness has yet to come up in conversation.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Willing and Able—Why you should hire people with disabilities

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Willing and Able

By Sarah Ryther Francom

Temple Grandin, renowned autism spokesperson, is known for saying, “The world needs all kinds of minds.” This is also true for the business world. Hiring individuals with disabilities not only benefits the individual hired, but also benefits your business, employees, customers, and the community at large.

Leah Lobato, director of the Governor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities, part of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, has seen countless lives changed when companies recruit and hire workers with disabilities. She says that one in five Americans has a disability, and 30 percent of families have a family member with a disability, with numbers anticipated to increase.

A win-win hire
Hiring individuals with disabilities isn’t just a feel-good idea—it can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Individuals with disabilities often bring a diverse range of skills and attributes to the workplace and can enhance the team dynamic.

“Individuals with disabilities have had to problem-solve a lot of different situations in their life due to their condition, so they bring a unique perspective,” Lobato said. “The diversity of people with disabilities and what they bring to a company is really broad.”

Beyond bringing diverse skills to the workplace, individuals with disabilities often have a strong sense of loyalty to their employers, Lobato has found.

Kristy Chambers, CEO of Columbus Community Center, a nonprofit organization serving adults and teens with disabilities, says individuals with disabilities often fit seamlessly into a company. “When you find that right fit, they become a part of the work culture, and they truly can be an inspiration to their coworkers, customers, and stakeholders,” she says.

Lobato and Chambers agree that having a diverse workforce that includes individuals with disabilities is an attribute that resonates with customers.

“When a customer sees a diverse workforce, it raises their comfort in your business,” Lobato says.

Overcoming common fears
Lobato says it’s normal for a business owner or manager to fear the potential consequences of hiring an individual with disabilities but that misinformation is often the real culprit. “One of the most common issues I run into with businesses I talk to is fear. Fear of disability. Fear of how to communicate with people who have disabilities. Fear of the legal things that might come up when hiring them.”

Lobato acknowledges that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be overwhelming. She advises companies to seek guidance from her office or a nonprofit, like Columbus Community Center, when beginning to actively recruit individuals with disabilities.

“The ADA provides a clear definition of what a disability is and provides a clear understanding of what the hiring guidelines are,” she says. “It provides support and protections for a person with disabilities, but it also clearly outlines what a business can and cannot do.”

How to provide reasonable accommodations is one of the most common questions employers have asked ADA compliance, says Kevin Keyes, chief program officer at Columbus.

“There’s greater fear than what should be there about providing reasonable accommodations,” he says. “Studies have shown that the cost of providing accommodations is overestimated.”

“A lot of the folks that come into employment with disabilities already have supports in place,” Keyes adds. “That’s what [organizations like Columbus] do. We’re not only there to support the individual, but also the employer.”

Companies with questions about how to create reasonable accommodations can seek guidance from the state, Lobato says. She points to a woodshop created for the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired as an example of what the state can help with.

Beyond state assistance, businesses that actively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities can receive financial aid to help cover associated costs, including work opportunity tax credits, small business tax credits, and grants to establish workplace accommodations and vocational training.

The biggest piece of advice Lobato offers all employers is to treat individuals with disabilities just as you would any other employee.

Everyone benefits
Stephanie Mackay, chief innovation officer at Columbus, says employers should view hiring individuals with disabilities as an opportunity to strengthen their workforce.

Chambers points out that communities are the greatest beneficiaries when individuals with disabilities land and keep good jobs. “Employers who get it and understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities realize that they are contributing to the community by hiring somebody who may be more challenged on gaining that employment. This allows individuals to not be a burden on the community, because without employment they become an individual who relies on entitlements. Those who participate on the employer end realize that there’s an economic benefit to everyone—the employee, company and the community at large.”

Source: utahbusiness.com

ADA Guidelines for Employers:
Employers covered by the ADA have to make sure that people with disabilities:

  • have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs and to work in jobs for which they are qualified
  • have an equal opportunity to be promoted once they are working
  • have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are offered to other employees, such as employer-provided health insurance or training
  • are not harassed because of their disability

Source: EEOC

Basic ADA hiring rules:
•The ADA does not allow you to ask questions about disability or use medical examinations until after you make someone a conditional job offer.

  • The ADA strictly limits the circumstances under which you may ask questions about disability or require medical examinations of employees.
  • The ADA requires you to consider whether any reasonable accommodation(s) would enable the individual to perform the job’s essential functions and/or would reduce any safety risk the individual might pose.
  • Once a person with a disability has started working, actual performance, and not the employee’s disability, is the best indication of the employee’s ability to do the job.
  • With limited exceptions, you must keep confidential any medical information you learn about an applicant or employee.

Source: EEOC

The Power of Neurodiversity

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Strategic integration of people with neurological disabilities can produce exceptional results

By Susanne M. Bruyère

Neurodiversity. It’s a term that’s increasingly familiar to those in the workforce diversity and inclusion sphere, and for good reason. It’s about the strategic integration of people with neurological disabilities into all workplaces, and its practice can yield exceptional results for both employers and employees, including those on the autism spectrum.

As someone who’s spent most of my career researching effective workplace practices for people with disabilities, I find embracing neurodiversity to be an exciting paradigm shift. Years ago, employers often hired people with disabilities for altruistic, charitable reasons, believing it was “the right thing to do.” Later, when the D&I movement emerged, employers began to appreciate bottom line benefits from embracing disability as diversity. Today’s increased focus on neurodiversity indicates even further progress on the part of employers—and refreshingly, it’s all about skills.

That’s right. Numerous businesses that already have a good foundation in disability inclusion are beginning to plan recruiting and onboarding activities that target people in similar professional networks to meet their business needs. These companies are recognizing and proactively recruiting the skills and talents that people with unique neurological characteristics, including those on the autism spectrum, can offer. It’s a concept that’s gaining steam in many industry sectors, such as manufacturing, telecommunications, finance and information technology. In fact, an article on neurodiversity in the current issue of Harvard Business Review takes an in-depth look at this alignment of skills to workforce needs. One of the companies featured in the article, enterprise software developer SAP, emphasizes hiring people on the autism spectrum for their skills and abilities—and the results speak for themselves.

Launched in 2013, SAP’s groundbreaking Autism at Work program set a corporate goal of employing 650 employees on the autism spectrum by 2020 across a wide range of job categories. One of the first steps has been changing the way the company interviews people with autism, offering something more akin to a trial work period rather than just structured interviews.

“Out of a hundred resumes I would send, I would only get one response back. And when I did apply, because I was a bit monotone or stiff during the interview, they overlooked me,” says Patrick, a current SAP employee on the autism spectrum whose life was changed by the Autism at Work program. Today, Patrick works as an IT project associate, having joined SAP through the successful program that has employed nearly 120 colleagues in nine countries.

SAP is not alone. Earlier this month, the company jointly hosted an event with the support of the Olitsky Family Foundation, the Stanford University Autism Research Center and my organization, Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The Autism at Work Summit showcased how companies have implemented programs to harness the power of the untapped talent pool of adults on the autism spectrum, such as through initiatives at Microsoft, EY and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. In fact, the ILR School’s K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability has proudly partnered with HPE to facilitate the distribution of materials to help interested employers globally develop initiatives to provide skilled employment opportunities for job seekers on the autism spectrum.

We were also very pleased to be joined at the summit by colleagues from the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, because these companies’ experiences have broader implications, providing meaningful insight into workplace policies and practices that facilitate success for all employees, including those with disabilities. One clear example was a reaffirmation that matching job candidates’ skillsets to open jobs leads to better business outcomes.

But of course, facilitating employment success for people on the autism spectrum extends beyond hiring, just as it does for all workers, to career advancement and skill enhancement up the full corporate ladder. Summit participants with whom I spoke emphasized the importance of workplace supports to help employees thrive and integrate successfully into workplace cultures, such as job coaches, mentors, and social and recreational events.

After all, the long-term success of talent acquisition requires not just hiring—but keeping—the best employees. More and more employers are discovering this means advancing a broad range of employment opportunities for people who come from neurodiverse backgrounds, including those on the autism spectrum.

About the Author
Dr. Susanne M. Bruyère is Professor of Disability Studies and the Director of the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University’s ILR School.

Source: blog.dol.gov

What you can expect from this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is led every October by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and it’s not too early to start thinking ahead to NDEAM 2018! From simple displays of support, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive initiatives, such as implementing a disability education program, there are many ways to take part.

The Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) encourages organizations of all sizes and in all industries to participate in NDEAM, because all efforts play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities—every day of every month.

What can you expect for the 2018 celebration?
Individuals and organizations hosting events and activities to celebrate the important contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

Ideas include:

  • Review policies — NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company’s policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture. For assistance in doing so, read Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (see in particular the first section, “Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture”).
  • Establish an ERG — NDEAM is a perfect time to launch a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sometimes referred to as Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. For more information, see A Toolkit for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Employee Resource Groups. If your company already has a disability ERG, consider using NDEAM to remind employees about it through displays, information tables or other communication channels.
  • Create a display — NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about your company’s commitment to a disability inclusive workforce. Start by putting up this year’s NDEAM poster, which is available in both English and Spanish. Additional display materials include the “What Can YOU Do?” poster series.
  • Train supervisors — Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization’s workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Such training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations. One easy way to provide such training is to make use of available “turn-key” training modules and available materials, such as the Building an Inclusive Workforce tabletop desk guide.
  • Educate employees — It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brownbag lunch discussions. Several ready-to-use resources can assist in facilitating such activities, such as disability etiquette materials and the “I Can” public service announcement and accompanying workplace discussion guide. Another option is to contact local disability organizations to see if they offer workplace training programs.
  • Publish articles — NDEAM offers timely and fresh content for an employee newsletter or internal website. Articles could address a range of topics, such as general information about the company’s commitment to an inclusive workplace, the process for requesting reasonable accommodations, or perhaps recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities — either in general or on an individual level. Alternatively, or in addition, your company’s top executive could issue a message to all employees recognizing NDEAM.
  • Feature NDEAM in social media activities — Likewise, NDEAM provides an interesting hook for social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. For the latter, organizations are encouraged to include the hashtag #NDEAM. Sample postings and tweets are available to assist in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities.
  • Issue an NDEAM press release — Employers can also issue a press release to local media to announce their involvement in NDEAM. To assist, a “fill-in-the-blank” template is available that organizations can quickly customize and pitch to their local media.
  • Participate in Disability Mentoring Day — Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month (or year for that matter). The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.

For more NDEAM ideas, visit dol.gov/ndeam.

8 Best Work-from-Home Jobs

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Work-From-Home Jobs

If you’re on disability and in need of some supplementary income, you should feel at ease knowing that they are plenty of work-from-home jobs available, perfect for people with disabilities. Each of the jobs listed in this article can supply you with the side income you’re looking for.

1. Freelance Writer

Upwork.com/Freelancer.com

If you enjoy writing, you might try your hand at freelancing with companies like Upwork and Freelancer.

Most likely, it’ll take a while to get the ball rolling on these sites, but once you get a few gigs under your belt and start to build a reputation, you’ll have an easier time landing gigs and charging higher rates. Here are a few pointers to get started.

First, you’ll need a portfolio to catch the eye of prospective clients. If you don’t have one already, offer to write a few articles for free until you do. Your portfolio should also cover a variety of subjects to show you’re versatile.

Second, make sure to personalize each application letter just like you would with a resume. Cookie-cutter, cut/paste applications won’t get noticed.

Third, request that the client leave you a good review when completing a gig (super important!)

Fourth, apply to recently posted jobs before others do!

Hubpages.com/eHow.com

Hubpages and eHow are websites made up of user-generated content wherein you get paid by the number of views your article gets. As you might suspect, you need a LOT of traffic to get a nice payout!

Textbroker.com/iWriter.com

You can also write for content writing services like Textbroker, iWriter, and HireWriters. While pay rates aren’t great, you’ll probably have an easier time making consistent money than freelancing on Upwork (at least initially).

2. Customer Service Representative

Are you outgoing and energetic? Are you a good listener and problem-solver? Can you multi-task and think on your feet? If you exhibit these qualities, customer service may be right for you. As a customer service representative, you’ll help answer customers’ products and billing-related questions, take reservations, supply technical support and other services over the phone or via internet chat. And if you’re bilingual, even more opportunities will be available to you.

They are several companies that offer customer service jobs for people with disabilities including Convergys, Arise Virtual Solutions, LiveOps, and government-sponsored My Employment Options, and NTI (National Telecommuting Institute).

3. Medical Transcriber

Medical transcription is a popular home-based job that involves converting a doctor’s voice recordings into text format. But unlike other jobs mentioned in this article, medical transcription requires extensive training, sometimes up to two years depending on the country. But at this point, it’s debatable whether it’s worth your time and money as the profession is slowly being phased out as more doctors now use voice-recognition software instead.

Still, there are plenty of non-medical transcription jobs available which you could pursue (without needing much training), such as becoming a law transcriber for an online service like SpeakWrite.

4. Translator

Can you speak AND write fluently in at least one other language besides English? If so, you might try your hand at translation. And if you have expertise in a field like law, you’ll likely find even more jobs. The more specialized the subject matter, the more work opportunities. Check out Proz and Translators Cafe to get started.

5. Online Tutor

If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and good communication skills, online tutoring may be a good fit for you. Depending on the company, you’ll probably be asked to take a screening exam to test your writing ability and knowledge of the subject you’d like to teach. Keep in mind, some subjects are in more demand than others, especially math, finance and science. Here are few companies to look into: Tutor, e-Tutor, and eduboard.

6. Etsy/eBay Seller

Do you like making crafts with your hands? Things like jewelry, pottery, or teddy bears? Why not try selling your work online through platforms like Etsy or eBay? Once you buy supplies and create your products, you can make them available for sale online! But be forewarned—it can take a fair amount of work to build up residual income from your efforts.

Whatever you do, don’t get involved with work-from-home craft “assembly” jobs, where companies require you to buy materials through them to assemble and send back in exchange for payment. Often, these companies reject the work you submit. Why? Because they set unrealistic quotas and deadlines that no one could possibly meet, and you’ll likely wait forever for a check that doesn’t arrive. If you still want to make money assembling items, stick with a reputable company like TaskRabbit instead.

7. Survey Taker

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on market research to understand consumers in every area of life, from food and travel to cars and gadgets. One way these companies gather data is by conducting surveys and that’s where you company. You get paid for simply completing surveys online!

But here’s the truth … while it may be fun in the beginning, the monotony of survey-taking may test your patience after a while. And you’ll need to complete a TON to make anything more than pocket change. Still, it’s a viable option; just make sure not to fall for the dozens of survey scams out there. A few trustworthy ones worth checking out include Cash Crate, Global Test Market, Panda Research, and Toluna.

8. Affiliate Marketer

As an affiliate marketer, you get paid commission for selling a company’s product through a website. In time and with enough effort, you can build a business that even pays you while you’re sleeping!

You won’t have the stress of dealing with unfriendly customers like you might in a customer service job.

You won’t have to look for the next gig as soon as one has ended like you would as a freelance writer, transcriber or translator.

You won’t have to contend with inventory, packaging, and customer returns like you would as an Etsy/eBay seller.

You won’t have to suffer from boredom after completing the umpteenth survey as a professional survey taker.

Instead, you can build a side business around something you actually enjoy.

Of course, they’re other work-from-home jobs for the disabled but the ones listed in this article provide more opportunities than most for homebound individuals. So why not give one or more of these jobs a try!

Source: confinedtosuccess.com

About the Author
Stephan Zev
Stephan Zev is the owner of ConfinedToSuccess.com. He created confinedtosuccess.com to help people with disabilities and chronically ill individuals take better control of their lives physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even financially.

People Are Wearing Blue for Autism Awareness Day

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April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and people are wearing the color blue to raise awareness for the developmental disorder.

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognized event when the United Nations reaffirms its “commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to be able to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 1% of the world’s population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This year’s World Autism Awareness Day is focused on supporting women and girls who have been diagnosed with the condition.

“The 2018 World Autism Awareness Day observance at United Nations Headquarters New York will focus on the importance of empowering women and girls with autism and involving them and their representative organizations in policy and decision making to address these challenges,” according to the U.N.’s website.

Various buildings and landmarks around the world will light up in the color blue Monday to raise autism awareness as well. The White House, the Empire State Building and Niagara Falls have all been lit in blue on Autism Awareness Day in years past.

If you want to show your support for autism awareness on social media, you can use these pre-written tweets and posts, or even turn your Facebook profile picture blue for the day. You can also use the hashtag #LightItUpBlue.

Continue onto TIME to read the complete article.

What I Learned About Succeeding in My Career From Battling Illness as a Kid

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Bishoy Tadros

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). The odds were against me, and as a result of my diagnosis, my parents had to leave their life in Egypt in order to immigrate to the US and ensure my recovery.

I went through years of chemotherapy and radiation, and on my 13th birthday had to undergo brain surgery. The obstacles I faced as a child were not only medical, but physical, cultural, social, and mental.

At a young age, I developed a mantra of “breaking barriers” (which is not concidentally the name of a fundrasier campaign I ran recently) and little did I know that those barriers would lay the groundwork for how I navigated through my career.

As I look back on my life journey to date—and it is certainly far from over—I can attribute a lot of small victories to the consistent application of three lessons that were instilled in me as a child.

You Have to Have Patience

As a young immigrant child growing up in Long Island and undergoing treatment, there was no hiding that I was different.

I used sports as a way to connect with my peers, but it quickly became clear that although I was able to play, due to the side effects from my treatment, I didn’t have the speed or stamina as some of the other kids.

So as a child, I had to learn in the most painful fashion that you don’t always get the results you want when you want them. You’ll be disappointed, you’ll have to change course, and you’ll have to adjust your timeline.

As an adult, patience guided me under even the most difficult circumstances. I graduated college (in the heart of the financial crisis) without a job. Patience taught me to focus on small wins, and to build up from there.

Instead of focusing on finding my “dream job” right away, my focus was on landing a position that would get me closer to where I wanted to go. I spent three years—which could’ve easily felt like an eternity—taking small steps to position myself for my ideal career—including taking an analytical role on a trading desk at an investment bank, which brought me one step closer to working in sales today.

You Have to Have Perspective to Keep You Grounded

Given the conditions of my childhood, I had to grow up fast and accept my cards as they were dealt. My parents had their hands full with critical decisions around my health as well as our livelihood as a family in a new country.

As a result, I wasn’t completely sheltered from a lot of the realities they faced. If my parents were late to pick me up from school, for example, I knew it was for a good reason.

I learned early on that sacrifices are necessary sometimes to achieve what you really want. Before I landed my current role in finance, I was working at a CPA firm while pursuing my MBA simultaneously. I was taking five classes at a time and juggling 70-hour weeks at the office.

I had to bail on friends frequently and rarely managed a full night’s sleep. I was fully focused on positioning myself for the moment a bank would come ringing; a moment that signified a major step in my career and toward the right job “fit” for me.

You Have to Know What Success Means for You

A defining moment in my life was when I received a positive prognosis after my brain surgery. After 10 years of fighting off side effects and setbacks, I was free to start over; cancer was officially in the past.

I was tried over and over in my childhood, yet I was determined as ever to be successful in what I set out to do. With that said, my vision of success as a child was more concrete; to have a good job and be secure enough financially.

As an adult, I took on a whole new approach when it came to defining success and understanding what it means to me. I’ve learned that it’s not an end game, it’s a journey, one I anticipate will last a lifetime.

In order to continue on the path to “success,” you have to exit your comfort zone, take risks, and prepare yourself for setbacks that’ll require you to get back up and try again.

When I look back at my life in this way, it’s clear that the setbacks I faced as a child certainly didn’t define me, but rather dared me to be a stronger, more driven individual.

At times, you may feel the odds are against you, but you must acknowledge that barriers are meant to be broken. Channeling this mindset will facilitate a comeback that is greater than any setback—and it’ll be one step further on the journey to success.

Author:
Bishoy Tadros

Read the complete article and more from The Muse here

Challenges Are Inevitable, Defeat Is Optional

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Carrie Davis

Since she was a little girl, Carrie Davis knew she was unique. Born without her left arm, she often wondered, “Why me?” She longed to be known for her contributions, not for what she was missing.

Her Love for Teaching and Service
Carrie was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, the perfect place for an outdoor enthusiast. As a child, Carrie enjoyed a number of outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, skiing, boating, and track and field. In high school, she was involved in numerous clubs and activities and volunteered with students with developmental disabilities daily. It was with those students where she developed a passion for teaching and service.

She went on to Washington State University and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Speech Communications. She also earned her Secondary Teaching Certificate, and upon graduation, returned to Spokane to teach high school English and to coach a national qualifying debate team. After her first year, she was one of three teachers in School District 81 to receive the Sallie Mae Best New Teacher Award. Two years later, she moved to California and continued her teaching career. Then she went on to Texas, where she left her teaching job to take on another job: motherhood.

In Texas, Carrie started working part time for Hanger Clinic, setting appointments for upper extremity clinics and offering assistance to patients who were making decisions about prosthetics. Over the last nine years, the position has evolved, and now she functions as the National Upper Extremity Patient Advocate, combining her love of teaching and service with her passion to help others like her, and as the AMPOWER National Coordinator, a group of more than 650 trained volunteers who assist others transitioning into life after limb loss.

Empowering Others
Carrie was born with a below-elbow congenital limb deficiency and has worn a prosthesis since she was nine months old. She has tried every option available from the cable-operated prosthesis, to the passive prosthesis, to the technologically advanced myoelectric prosthesis, including the most recent addition to the UE market, the iLIMB. Additionally, she uses a variety of specialized terminal devices, like a guitar adapter, weight lifting adapters, and biking and swimming devices to assist her in attaining her goals. She has participated in numerous sporting events like the CAF San Diego Triathlon Challenge and the NYC Nautica National PC Championship Triathlon and has been awarded First Place National Female Upper Limb Amputee Finisher twice.

As part of her position with Hanger Clinic, she travels across the country offering her experience and perspective to patients, therapists, prosthetists, and doctors in her committed effort toward improving patient care and is the recipient of the esteemed JE Hanger Excellence Award for customer service. She acts as a peer mentor and serves as the support group leader and assistant for Camp No Limits, a national foundation dedicated to helping young amputees realize their potential. She also works with families of children born with congenital anomalies and advocates for all amputees, assisting those in need to find resources for funding, as well as through her participation in the ACA Peer Mentor Program and the ACA’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.

Carrie lives by the motto, “Life is not about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself” and strives to create the best life for herself, her family, and for the people and patients she serves by taking an active role in life, regardless of limitations. She believes that the only limitations we have for ourselves are the ones that we create in our own minds, and therefore, she chooses “no limits.” She is grateful every day that she is able to assist in the lives of others through her participation in patient care in the prosthetics industry.

Today, Carrie is the AMPOWER National Coordinator and an Upper Extremity Patient Advocate. She provides peer training for other AMPOWER members, writes articles about limb loss and the power of peer support for local and national publications, and personally meets and greets all new Empowering Amputees members.

Join empoweringamputees.org. Challenges are inevitable. Defeat is optional.

Source: hangerclinic.com

Google Debuts Wheelchair Accessible Routes in Google Maps

LinkedIn
wheelchair accessible routes

Google Maps will now show wheelchair accessible routes in cities like Boston, New York, and London.

The search giant said Thursday that people can now use Google Maps to get directions that are catered specifically to people with mobility problems.

Although people can use Google Maps to get around using public transit, those routes may not be best suited for people with wheelchairs or who have other disabilities.

Google (GOOG, -3.63%) said that it teamed with transit agencies to help it catalogue the best wheelchair-accessible routes. To find those routes, Google Maps users enter where they want to go, tap on the “Directions” tab, and then choose “wheelchair accessible” as one of the options under the “Routes” section.

The company is debuting the new feature in major metropolitan areas worldwide. In addition to Boston, New York, and London, the option is available for Tokyo, Mexico City, and Sydney.

“We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps,” Google product manager Rio Akasaka said in a blog post.

Continue onto Fortune to read the complete article.

Resources for Women with Disabilities Who Own Businesses

LinkedIn
Women with disabilities

By Michelle Herrera Mulligan

For women with disabilities, entrepreneurship offers a dynamic opportunity to break through barriers. In the corporate world, women with disabilities face a high unemployment rate and other challenges with employers who can be less than accommodating. But, as the Disability Network reports, the good news is that for the 27 million women with disabilities in the United States, being SELF MADE helps create a promising future. For SELF MADE women, flexible schedules and custom careers are par for the course. And in the past few years, more programs have launched that offer loans, mentorship, and support.

Check out our list of business resources for women with disabilities below.

Resources for Funding
What’s a great business idea without funding? Just another great idea! Don’t let your business dreams fall by the wayside for lack of funding. Below you’ll find information on funding specifically for disabled entrepreneurs. For more funding leads, please visit our “ALL WOMEN” section.

Accion
Provides small business loans to businesses that have a hard time gaining capital, such as small businesses owned by disabled persons. http://bit.ly/1Qx9k50

Abilities Fund
Offers business development training, referrals to funding and other financial assistance options, and more support designed to help people with disabilities succeed. abilitiesfund.org

Kaleidoscope Investments
This financial institution pledges a commitment to helping entrepreneurs with disabilities gain capital for their businesses. kaleidoscopeinvestments.com

American Association of People with Disabilities
The largest nonprofit for all people with disabilities, this organization fights for economic and political empowerment for people with disabilities. aapd.com

State Assistive Technology Loan Programs
Services vary state by state, but this organization offers a range of financial assistance including low-interest loans to buy assistive technology that helps provide access to educational, employment and independent-living opportunities. http://bit.ly/1Suwc7m

CouponChief.com
While this isn’t a fund-raising resource per se, it is a great way for women with disabilities to save funds. couponchief.com/guides/savings_guide_for_those_with_disability

Resources For Training
Women with disabilities face unique challenges in entrepreneurship but these challenges do not have to keep you from your startup dream. Below are more business resources for women with disabilities that specialize in training and development to help entrepreneurs with disabilities achieve their dreams of owning a business.

Community Options
Operating in 10 states, this organization helps people with disabilities find housing, employment opportunities, and other support services. comop.org

Disabled Businesspersons Associations
These groups offer entrepreneur education courses specifically for people with disabilities. disabledbusiness.org

Disability.Gov
An online database of resources and links to assistance for entrepreneurs-in-training with disabilities. disability.gov

Job Accommodation Network (Jan Network)
This network connects entrepreneurs with disabilities to other people in their field and provides technical assistance and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs with disabilities. careersbeyonddisability.com

Hadley Forsythe Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Offers free online training courses that prepare its blind and visually impaired students to become entrepreneurs. hadley.edu

Disability.biz
This group offers business plan consulting and coaching for disabled entrepreneurs. disabilitybiz.org

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CREED)
Chicago-based training and development center for entrepreneurs with disabilities. ceedproject.org

WSU Online MBA
This online resource is loaded with all varieties of tools and tips for entrepreneurs with disabilities, from writing a business plan to marketing and pretty much everything in between. onlinemba.wsu.edu/business-programs-and-resources-for-entrepreneurs-with-a-disability-2/

Resources For Networking

When it comes to business resources for women with disabilities, finding like-minded business owners and a close network of friends is a great way to get jump-started on your journey to success. Here are business resources for women with disabilities that focus on networking.

American Association for People With Disabilities
The largest nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, this organization helps people with disabilities find independence and political power in the United States. aapd.com

Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
A networking and public advocacy group offering real life stories, resources and networking opportunities for people with disabilities. entrepreneurswithdisabilities.org

International Network of Women With Disabilities
A blog that catalogs women’s groups around the world and offers links to different organizations. inwwd.wordpress.com/network

The Mighty
A moving blog that shares inspirational stories of people with disabilities overcoming obstacles and creating new opportunities for their lives. themighty.com

National Organization on Disability
An organization that raises awareness and creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the community. nod.org

Source: becomingselfmade.com

For online: becomingselfmade.com/business-resources-for-women-with-disabilities/

Hawking: Did he change views on disability?

LinkedIn

Stephen Hawking was both one of the world’s most famous scientists and most famous disabled people.

His life was a juxtaposition of sparkling intellect and failing body.

Prof Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease when he was 22.

The nerves that controlled his muscles were failing and he became trapped in his body, but his mind was still free.

He reached the height of his field while being wheelchair-bound and communicating through a synthetic voice.

So did he change society’s perceptions of disability?

“I think he’s done more than anyone else,” said Prof Paul Shellard, who was a student of Prof Hawking.

He told the BBC: “He’s been an incredible exemplar of there being no boundary to human endeavour.

“He identified what he could do well, exceptionally well, and focussed on that, not what he couldn’t do.”

That made him a role-model and inspiration for many.

Prof Hawking certainly raised awareness of motor neurone diseases.

One of his major contributions to disability in general was simply being visible – often at a time when disabled voices were missing from popular culture.

He made small-screen appearances on The Simpsons, Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory. His life was dramatised by the BBC and in the film The Theory of Everything.

Steve Bell, from the MND association, said: “He was probably the most famous person with a physical disability and it almost normalises it to see his absolute genius.

“I think it affected a lot of people, seeing he’s more than a trapped body.

Continue onto BCC to read the complete article.