Willing and Able—Why you should hire people with disabilities

LinkedIn
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

10 Reasons to Work for the Federal Government

LinkedIn
Government Employee
  • Make a difference
    The work of government employees impacts the lives of every American and the lives of people around the world. Federal employees can play a vital role in addressing pressing issues, from homelessness to homeland security. Students interested in working in government can engage in high-impact work, such as helping disrupt the laundering of billions of dollars derived from illicit U.S. drug deals.
  • Great benefits/competitive pay
    Average government salaries are competitive with the private and nonprofit sectors. Recent graduates can expect a starting salary from $32,415 to $42,631 a year. Pay can also increase fairly quickly for top candidates with experience and a strong education. Federal benefits, including health insurance, retirement and vacation, are extremely competitive with, if not superior to, other sectors.
  • The government is hiring
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected an employment increase of ten percent through 2018 in federal employment.
  • Location, location, location
    Federal opportunities are not only found in the D.C area. Eighty-four percent of federal government jobs are outside of Washington, D.C. If students are interested in international job opportunities, more than 50,000 federal employees work abroad.
  • Jobs for every major
    Working in the federal government is not just for political science majors. In fact, 28.4 percent of federal employees work in STEM fields. There are federal jobs for every interest and skill, from art history to zoology.
  • Opportunities for advancement and professional development
    Federal employees have many opportunities for career advancement in government. An internal Merit Promotion Program helps ensure that new employees succeeding in their job have easy access to information about job openings within government. The government also offers excellent training and development opportunities and has human resources personnel to help connect current employees with these opportunities.
  • Interesting and challenging work
    Today’s government workers are leading and innovating on issues, such as developing vaccines for deadly diseases, fighting sexual and racial discrimination, and keeping our massive systems of transportation safe.
  • Work-life balance
    Flexible work schedules, including telework, are a major plus for those with busy schedules or long commute. Competitive benefits also include generous vacation time combined with federal holidays and sick leave. All of these packaged together make government an attractive employer for students looking to successfully balance their work and personal lives.
  • Job security
    Government work is steady and secure, an attractive selling point, especially during difficult economic times.
  • The federal government can help pay for school loans
    Some federal agencies can help pay back up to $10,000 per year in student loans, up to a total of $60,000.

Source: ourpublicservice.org

The Top 25 Highest Paid Federal Jobs

Did you know that the 25 highest paying government jobs all pay over $50,000 per year?

Below is a list of 25 of the most sought after federal jobs, ranked by the Office of Personnel Management as the highest paid jobs currently offered by the U.S. Government.

1) Astronomer – $116,072

2) Attorney – $114,240

3) Financial Manager – $101,022

4) General Engineer – $100,051

5) Economist – $94,098

6) Computer Scientist – $90,929

7) Chemist – $89,954

8) Criminal Investigator – $88,174

9) Microbiologist – $87,206

10) Architect – $85,690

11) Statistician – $81,524

12) Librarian – $78,665

13) Accountant – $78,030

14) Chaplain – $76,511

15) Ecologist – $76,511

16) Human Resources Manager – $76,503

17) Health and Safety Specialist – $73,003

18) Air Traffic Controller – $72,049

19) Budget Analyst – $71,267

20) Correctional Officer – $67,140

21) Nurse – $65,345

22) Technical Engineer – $63,951

23) Border Patrol Agent – $63,550

24) Medical Technician- $59,840

25) Customs Inspector – $59,248

Source: Office of Personnel Management

 

Runner becomes first pro athlete with cerebral palsy to sign with Nike

LinkedIn

Justin Gallegos, a runner at University of Oregon, has made history by becoming the first professional athlete with cerebral palsy to sign with Nike. Gallegos, a junior with the school’s running club, made the announcement in an emotional video on his Instagram page.

Gallegos was finishing a race on Saturday when he was met by a camera crew, a bunch of his teammates and Nike’s Insights director, John Douglass, who told him of the deal. In the video posted to his social media account, Gallegos collapses out of pure joy as his peers applaud him.

“I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other!” he wrote on Instagram. “Now I have signed a three year contract with Nike Running!”

A spokesperson with Nike confirmed to CBS News the signing of Gallegos. It was even more special because it landed on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. The condition is a neurological disorder that affects movement, motor skills and muscle tone.

Gallegos used a walker as a toddler and pre-schooler, and did physical therapy in order to improve his gait, according to Running Magazine. He began competing in long-distance running in high school and caught the attention of Nike, then helped the company develop a shoe designed for runners with disabilities.

Gallegos, who is aiming to run a half-marathon under two hours, calls this one of the most emotional moments in his seven years of running.

“Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is, as I have said before, like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest!”

“Thank you everyone for helping show the world that there is No Such Thing As A Disability!” he said.

Continue onto CBS to read the complete article.

7 Essentials for Decorating Your ASD Child’s Bedroom

LinkedIn
Children with ASD bedromm decorations

Children on the autism spectrum have unique needs. As parents, we might not always understand the reason behind a child’s preferences. Nonetheless, we do our best to accommodate them and create an environment where our child feels safe and comfortable.

When it comes to designing the home, the bedroom of a child with autism calls for particular attention. Children on the autism spectrum frequently have trouble sleeping. That lack of quality sleep, in turn, exacerbates some of autism’s most distressing behavioral problems, such as physical aggression and irritability. Designing a soothing, sensory-friendly bedroom helps children with autism sleep better and provides a safe space they can turn to when feeling overwhelmed.

These are some of the things that make an ideal bedroom environment for children on the autism spectrum:

Soft Lighting

Lighting can trigger mood changes in children with autism. This is especially noticeable with fluorescent lighting, which generate a flickering and humming that many children find distressing. Natural light is best for children on the autism spectrum; not only is it more calming than artificial light, but natural light helps regulate the circadian rhythms that control sleep. In dimly-lit rooms and after dark, LED lighting is the best choice.

Curtains

While natural light is great, unfiltered light streaming through a window casts glares and shadows that may disturb a child with ASD. Dress windows with light-filtering curtains to achieve softer illumination in your child’s bedroom. You can also use curtains in more creative ways, like to designate private spaces in a shared bedroom or to carve out a quiet sensory-deprivation nook for your child.

Soothing Paint Colors

Red, orange, and yellow paint colors are known to boost energy, but for a child on the autism spectrum, these bright colors can be overstimulating. In general, muted greens, blues, purples, pinks, and browns are preferred by children with autism. Every child is different, however, so pay attention to how your child responds to different colors before selecting a bedroom paint color.

Soundproofing

Children tend to go to bed earlier than adults, but if there’s still noise in the home, your child may focus on the sound rather than falling asleep. Soundproofing keeps outside noise out so kids can rest peacefully. Learn how to do it yourself at Soundproofable. A white noise machine can also be used to mask noise.

A Comfortable Bed

We don’t tend to start waking up with aches and pains until we’re older, but that doesn’t mean an uncomfortable bed isn’t affecting your child’s sleep. In addition to beds that are showing their age, certain mattress materials trap heat and contribute to night sweating. If you’re concerned about budget, buy a bed large enough that your child can continue using it through their adolescent years. Most mattresses last 7-10 years with proper care.

Soft Bedding and Pajamas

Many children with autism are irritated by rough fabrics, seams and tags in clothing. Keep your child’s fabric preferences and dislikes in mind when shopping for bedding and pajamas for his room. In general, soft, silky fabrics are best. You can also find seamless and tagless clothing designed specifically for kids on the spectrum. Friendship Circle names the best places to find such products.

Sensory Toys

A child’s bedroom isn’t only a place to sleep, it’s also a safe and private space where kids can relax and escape sensory overload. Sensory toys are excellent for calming children with autism by providing a positive sensory experience. Individual children are drawn to different sensory toys, but you can learn about some of the most popular ones here.

Sleep is central to physical, mental, and emotional wellness. For children with autism, the effects of poor sleep are especially pronounced. However, parents aren’t helpless to improve their child’s sleep. While redecorating may not completely solve the sleep problems of a child on the autism spectrum, the right bedroom environment goes a long way to making your child feel safe and secure in his room.

Source: specialhomeeducator.com

30 Brilliant Networking Conversation Starters

LinkedIn
Diverse group of people networking at event

When it comes to conversation, you’re a natural. You can chat up a storm with just about anyone, you’re a pro at listening, and you love meeting and connecting with new people.

But when it comes to starting that networking conversation? That’s a different story.

This is one of the most common concerns we hear about networking: How do you just walk up to someone you don’t know at an event—and start talking?

Well, it’s a tad easier than it sounds. Fact is, no one’s going to turn you away if you walk up, smile, and say, “I’m so-and-so. Nice to meet you.” In fact, others will probably be relieved that someone else started the conversation!

But, the process is definitely a lot easier when you have a few go-to icebreakers in your back pocket. So, we’ve put together a handy list to refer to before your next event—some of our own lines, a few favorites from our career expert friends, and icebreakers our Twitter and Facebook followers have used, too!

The Classics

When in doubt, just try the basics: asking what someone does, inquiring why he or she is at the event, or even just reaching out your hand and saying hi.

  • 1. “What’s your favorite conversation starter at a networking event?” – Connie B.
  • 2. “So, what do you do?” It gets them talking first and you can think about how to approach the conversation or how you could possibly work together. – @GrowSouthwest
  • 4. “Hi there! I’m Michelle. What are you passionate about?” – Michelle E.
  • 5. “What’s your story?” It always sparks a fascinating and non-generic conversation. – @leslieforman

Location, Location, Location

No matter what, you’ve got at least a couple things in common with every person in the room: the event you’re attending, the place it’s being held at, and the food and drink you’re consuming. Use that to your advantage by striking up conversation about what’s going on around you.

  • 6. If I’m at an event with food, I’ll often use that as a conversation starter, à la “I can’t stop eating these meatballs. Have you tried them?” – @erinaceously
  • 7. “How did you hear about this event?” – @myuliyam
  • 8. “It’s so hot (or cold) in here.” Hey, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but the person will either agree or disagree, and pretty soon you’re talking about weather patterns, your best umbrella, and then your career goals. – Jessica Gordon for The Muse
  • 9. “I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the deluge of info that’s being firehosed at us today. Is there one nugget of brilliance that’s really resonating with you?” – Alexandra Franzen
  • 10. “What a beautiful venue. Have you been here before?”

The Newsworthy

Another thing you have in common with, well, everyone? What happened in your city or the world today. While you don’t want to start up any hot political debates, some light-hearted headline sharing is a great way to break the ice.

  • 11.“What do you think about [insert topic germane to the event or person here]?” I’m biased: News is a great engagement tool. – @thatsportsgirl
  • 12. “Wow, I just can’t believe all the crazy news headlines today. What a week!”
  • 13. “Any chance you read the news today? I missed it, and I’m dying to know what’s happening with [insert news topic here].”
  • 14. “So, was it a pain for you to get here?” The mode of transportation and location in the city are always on peoples’ minds. There’s bound to be a story about it. – Jessica Gordon for The Muse
  • 15. “Did you catch the game last night?” It’s a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason

Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.

Wonder Women in Accessibility

LinkedIn

The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated its 27th anniversary this year, and while it has changed countless lives, it clear that much work still needs to be done. The ADA was designed to ensure that people with disabilities become viable and authentic citizens within the United States, but access to resources are often still denied and the disability community continues to fight for basic civil rights.

About the importance of making employment opportunities inclusive, Shirley Davis, director of global diversity and inclusion at the Society for Human Resource Management, said: “People with disabilities represent a critical talent pool that is underserved and underutilized”.

Meet some of the women on the front lines of this continuing effort, either by rejecting any barriers or by lobbying for formal change.

Click on source  links to read
more about these women.

Minda Dentler

Earlier this year Minda Dentler became the first female wheelchair athlete to complete Ironman. Ironman is a long distance triathlon race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.22 mile run without a break.

Source: justrunlah.com

Tammy Duckworth

War Veteran Tammy Duckworth made history as the first disabled female veteran to earn election to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, she is also only the second female Asian-American Senator.

Source: biography.com

Claudia Gordon


Better known as one of former President Barack Obama’s key advisors for disability issues, Claudia Gordon made history as the first deaf African-American attorney in the United States. Now, she’s the Director of Government and Compliance with Sprint Accessibility.

Sources: tedxuniversityofrochester.com, autostraddle.com

Cerrie Burnell

Entertainer Cerrie Burnell was born with no right forearm and is severely dyslexic. She regularly speaks out in favor of diversity and inclusion for people with disabilities in the media, and supports a body-confidence organization called “Body Gossip”.

Source: disabilityhorizons.com

Alice Wong 

Disability activist, media maker, and consultant Alice Wong is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project (DVP)—a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Wong, who had envisioned DVP to last only one year, continued DVP due to the demand and enthusiasm by people with disabilities, she mentioned in an interview with HelloFlo. You can find her on Twitter: @SFdirewolf

Sources: disabilityvisibilityproject.com, helloflo.com

Challenges are Inevitable, Defeat is Optional

LinkedIn

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.

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 that 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 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—she 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.” She 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

Resources for Women with Disabilities Who Own Businesses

LinkedIn

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.

Abilities Fund

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

Kaleidoscope Investments

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

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.

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.

CouponChief.com<

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

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. =

Disabled Businesspersons Associations

These groups offer entrepreneur education courses specifically for people with disabilities.

Disability.Gov

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

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.

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.

Disability.biz

This group offers business plan consulting and coaching for disabled entrepreneurs.

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CREED)

Chicago-based training and development center for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

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.

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.

Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

A networking and public advocacy group offering real life stories, resources and networking opportunities for people with disabilities.

International Network of Women With Disabilities

A blog that catalogs women’s groups around the world and offers links to different organizations.

The Mighty

A moving blog that shares inspirational stories of people with disabilities overcoming obstacles and creating new opportunities for their lives.
National Organization on Disability

An organization that raises awareness and creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the community.

Author-Michelle Herrera Mulligan at becomingselfmade.com

Chris Lawrence: From Brain Injury to Boxing

LinkedIn
Chris Lawrence-Boxing

After Marine veteran Chris Lawrence sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an improvised explosive device (IED) detonation while on tour in Iraq, he was told he probably wouldn’t walk again. Now he’s running and boxing and has graduated from the police academy. In fact, Lawrence relies on being active to cope with his TBI symptoms.

“We are highlighting this veteran’s compelling story to show others that treatment is available and recovery from TBI is possible,” said Scott Livingston, director of education at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. “Our hope is that our nation’s heroes can connect with Lawrence—or others who have shared stories with A Head for the Future—and begin their own path to recovery.”

Following the incident in 2007, Lawrence lost part of his leg due to medical complications. He also found himself struggling with memory, sleep and irritability issues—common symptoms of TBI. Since his diagnosis, he has taken up boxing as an adaptive sports therapy. He says it’s helped improve his balance, concentration and memory, all of which are essential to his recovery.

“Boxing has been the best thing for me, because it didn’t allow me to use my disabilities as a reason to hold back,” said Lawrence. “I could say that I’m better now than I was 10 years ago. I’ve been humbled, and I’ve been strengthened at the same time.”

As a police officer, Lawrence said, “I figured I can’t go back to the Marine Corps. I am missing pieces now, but I can still serve the community, just the same.”

Lawrence also attributes the power of family to helping him continue to recover and cope with TBI.

“My daughter, Dahlia, when I’m having a bad day, she makes it better, no matter what,” Lawrence Chris Lawrence and familysaid. “My girlfriend, Michelle, she helps me identify a lot of issues that I still have. She’s helped me do things I don’t want to do that have made me better.”

Department of Defense data shows that since 2000, more than 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with a TBI—most sustained in noncombat settings. Falls, motor vehicle collisions, sports-related incidents and training accidents are the most common causes of noncombat-related brain injury among service members.

To learn more about TBI and the A Head for the Future initiative, and to find additional videos and educational resources on preventing brain injury, visit dvbic.dcoe.mil/aheadforthefuture and follow A Head for the Future on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: dvbic.dcoe.mil

Disability Includes Diversity

LinkedIn
Sara Xayarath Hernández

It’s not obvious, but Sara Xayarath Hernández, associate dean for inclusion and student engagement in the Graduate School at Cornell University, has a disability. In 2008, three years after joining the staff of Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE), she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.

She recently began speaking about her experiences in managing a mostly nonobvious disability and is featured in Cornell’s “Diversity includes Disability” poster campaign for the month of March. “The more we can normalize things – what disability looks like and how it is experienced – the better,” she said.

For Hernández, not only does diversity include disability, disability includes diversity. “Not everyone realizes that chronic health conditions are included under the definition of disability,” she said. “How that impacts people who have chronic conditions and the way those conditions affect them may be highly variable, depending on their treatment or how progressive the condition may be.”

Having a chronic health condition has not negatively affected Hernández’s career trajectory. While dealing with the challenges of her condition in 2009, Hernández became director of Diversity Programs in Engineering. In 2011, under her leadership, DPE was recognized by former President Barack Obama with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. She has been associate dean at the Graduate School since 2015.

At times, especially when she was first diagnosed and during relapses, Hernandez’s condition has been challenging. At present it is controlled, doesn’t limit her physical abilities and doesn’t require ongoing accommodation. She sometimes experiences complications related to the side effects of treatment, altering how she feels and what she is able to do.

Hernández finds it frustrating when people who learn of her disability say, “but you look fine.” Most days she is fine, but a nonobvious disability is, by definition, not obvious. “Just because you look fine does not mean you’re not experiencing very real challenges in other ways,” she said.

Hernández said the College of Engineering and the Graduate School have been tremendously supportive as she has worked through those challenges. Diversity Programs in Engineering “has always been a professional organization with high achievers trying to do a lot of work, but it has also been very familial in nature. It was an environment in which I felt comfortable sharing with my colleagues what was going on. I was never treated differently; no one questioned whether I’d be able to maintain the level of work required.” Hernández credited the college with providing flexible accommodations and appreciated her staff, who carried forward in her absence so that the students would not feel a gap in services.

Shortly after Hernández accepted her current position at the Graduate School, she learned she was pregnant. She worked through the majority of her pregnancy before taking time off for the birth of her daughter and a relapse of leukemia that followed. “My colleagues and Dean (Barbara) Knuth have been tremendously supportive,” she said.

Hernández said her nonobvious disability has made it easier for students to talk with her about their disabilities. “Not all students that I work with know the various challenges I’ve navigated, but it occasionally comes up in different conversations. There is dramatic diversity in the types of physical and mental health-related challenges that our students are managing, and a moment of empathy can help,” she said.

Hernández advises students to use the network of support available on and off campus to request an accommodation or health care leave if necessary. “One of the most important things I will tell them – or anyone – is that having a disability does not necessarily create limitations on what one is able to achieve. And that’s regardless if it’s a nonobvious disability or one that may be visible,” she said.

Author
Nancy Doolittle
news.cornell.edu

Filmmaker with Quadriplegia is Changing the Face of STEM

LinkedIn
Woman with Quadriplegia

Crystal R. Emery, a dynamic producer, author, and filmmaker known for producing socially conscious works and stories that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, is the founder and CEO of URU The Right To Be, Inc., a nonprofit content production company that tackles social issues via film, theater, publishing, and other arts-based initiatives.

Triumphing over two chronic diseases as a quadriplegic, Emery continues to shape a successful personal and professional life. She attributes her breakthrough as a producer and writer and growth as a human being to her participation in the classes taught by Guru Madeleine at The New School of Learning in New Rochelle, New York.

The previous issue of Black EOE Journal featured an article on her documentary Changing the Face of Medicine, which aired nationally on PBS and the WORLD channel. Now, Emery isn’t only changing the face of medicine, but also Changing the Face of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with her national education and engagement program that inspires Americans to rethink their perceived limitations.

URU The Right To Be, Inc. presented the Changing the Face of STEM initiative last year at the National Academy of Sciences, in Washington, D.C., which included conversations with well-known leaders in STEM disciplines and an awards event. The forum was a significant component of the educational initiative, which will go global this year with the American Film Showcase’s international tour of U.S. embassies in several countries around the world. This effort is part of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Black woman working with studentsEmery also published Master Builders of the Modern World: Reimaging the Face of STEM, a book that tells the stories of women and the members of under-represented populations and their contributions to the past, present, and future of STEM.

By showing what black, brown, female, and people with disabilities have already accomplished, Emery and the URU The Right To Be, Inc. are hoping to inspire the next generation of scientific minds to reach for the stars.

Source: URU The Right To Be, Inc.