This Latina Is Using Her Own Experience With Blindness To Bring About Change In The Workforce

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minorities in business

Over the course of her career, Kathy Martinez has worked with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, served under two administrations, and led Wells Fargo’s Disability and Accessibility strategy — when she was just starting her career, her counselor at the California Department of Rehabilitation believed that her career aspirations would not extend past working at a lock factory, all because she was blind.

“My counselor at the California Department of Rehabilitation had minimal expectations for people with disabilities and tended to offer low-levels jobs with no hope for growth,” explains Martinez. “Although his expectations for me were low, I had people in my life who knew I could do more, and were behind me every step of the way while I pursued my degree.”

While it took Martinez 13 years to graduate from college, the later start in her career has not prevented her from making an impact where it matters most to her — ensuring that those living with disabilities are not discounted.

“My passion is to help create a society and work environment where people with all abilities are able to obtain an education, secure a good job, buy a house, and be successful,” shares Martinez. “This includes building a society that is physically and digitally accessible, and help change attitudes about the capabilities of people with disabilities and our desire to contribute to our communities and corporations.”

Martinez’s own career has helped moved the needle forward in how those with disabilities are both treated and see themselves in the workforce. She has made it a point to both champion inclusivity within companies, while not erasing that humanity and dignity should be prevalent values in a company culture, regardless of the employee.

“My focus is on delivering an experience that recognizes disability as a natural part of the human condition and helping people with disabilities fully engage with the company to succeed financially,” shares Martinez. “With a more accessible workplace, more people with disabilities will be on the payroll rather than rely on benefits and, ultimately, increase their capacity to be productive members of their communities.”

Below Martinez shares further thoughts on how companies should be expanding their cultures to champion those with disabilities, what advice she has for Latinas, and her biggest lesson learned.

Vivian Nunez: What are your goals in changing how those with disabilities are able to access career opportunities?

Kathy Martinez: When I was growing up I never saw people with disabilities who worked at banks unless they were in entry-level jobs. Today financial institutions, like Wells Fargo, are hiring people with disabilities at all levels. I never imagined I would have the job title of senior vice president at Wells Forgo or Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. And now that I have attained those titles, I want other people, such as Latinos and people with disabilities, to know that they can achieve their professional goals, including the position of CEO.

One of my key goals is to ensure that more people with disabilities are at all levels of the career ladder. That is why was passionate in helping develop and roll out Wells Fargo’s Diverse Leaders Program for People with Diverse Abilities. This unique three-day program enables team members, who identify as individuals with a disability, understand, and embrace their strengths, overcome challenges, and learn how their differences help them add value as leaders on the Wells Fargo team.

Another goal is to get more people to serve as a mentor and mentee to others with disabilities. I serve as a mentor for people of all abilities inside and outside of the company, and continue to learn what it means to be a team member of choice so that I can share that information with the Latino and disabilities communities.

Nunez: What role did you play in the Obama administration?

Martinez: I consider disability an issue that is important to both political parties. From 2009 – 2015 I served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy.

I also worked for President George W. Bush’s administration for seven years,    serving as a member of the National Council on Disability and as a member of the U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on Disability and Foreign Policy.

Nunez: What advice do you have for Latinas who are navigating both a disability and building lasting careers?

Martinez: Find a mentor and set high expectations and goals for yourself. I have had mentors with and without disabilities, men, women, and people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and have learned something from every one of them.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

ESPN to Present the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to High School Football Coach Rob Mendez at The 2019 ESPYS

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Rob Mendez poses with group of high school football team

High school football coach Rob Mendez will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2019 ESPYS.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro shared the news with Mendez on this video. The award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. Mendez was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder that caused him to be born without arms or legs.

“I am incredibly honored, excited and humbled to receive this honor,” says Coach Mendez. “I still remember one of my favorite all-time ESPN anchors Stuart Scott delivering his Jimmy V Award acceptance speech. Thank you to ESPN and all of my family, friends and of course players for believing in me! Who Says I Can’t!”

Though Mendez himself was not able to play football, he did develop a passion for it at an early age and has channeled his passion for the sport into a standout coaching career. He taught himself the fundamentals of the sport using the Madden video games, became manager of the football team as a freshman in high school, and eventually quarterback coach in his senior year. After graduating, he spent 12 years as an assistant coach for various programs, where he was regularly overlooked for the head coaching position he knew he was ready for.

Finally, in 2018, he was hired as a head coach for the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in Saratoga, CA. In his first season, he led his team to an incredible 8-2 record and narrowly lost the league championship game 3-0. His football acumen, positive outlook, and genuine love for his team have made him a revered coach, and those around him are endlessly inspired by the adversity he overcomes in his day-to-day life. Mendez will be presented with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2019 ESPYS presented by Capital One, hosted by Tracy Morgan, live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on July 10.

“Rob’s entire life embodies the word perseverance,” says Pitaro. “From the time he was born, Rob has had to overcome all the assumptions others had about what he couldn’t do. Yet his confidence and fierce dedication to following his dream of coaching have inspired so many people – both on and off the field. He has made such a positive impact on his players, other coaches, parents and many across the community – and we are incredibly proud to be presenting Rob with this award at The ESPYS.”

In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, Craig Sager, Jarrius Robertson and Jim Kelly.

The ESPYS helps to raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS back in 1993. ESPN has helped raise close to $97 million for the V Foundation over the past 26 years. Tickets are available for public purchase at AXS.com. The ESPYS are executive produced by Maura Mandt and co-produced by Maggievision Productions.

About The ESPYS

The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2019 ESPYS will recognize achievements in categories such as “Best MLB Player,” “Best Team,” “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Upset.” Inspiring human stories are showcased through three pillar awards – the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and the Pat Tillman Award for Service. The ESPYS support ESPN’s ongoing commitment to the V Foundation for Cancer Research, launched by ESPN with the late Jim Valvano in 1993.

Kohl’s Rolls Out Clothing For Kids With Special Needs

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kohl's adaptive clothes

By Shaun Heasley

Kohl’s is introducing sensory-friendly and adaptive clothing for kids, becoming the latest retailer to offer up apparel designed to meet the needs of people with various disabilities.

The department store said this month that it’s rolling out a range of adaptive clothing options as part of its three largest house brands for children, Jumping Beans, SO and Urban Pipeline.

In doing so, Kohl’s joins a handful of retailers including Target and Zappos that have launched clothing lines aimed at kids with special needs in recent years.

Pieces that are part of the new Kohl’s lineup include features like flat seams, wider neck and hem lines, longer lengths, abdominal access, two-way zippers, reinforced belt loops and hook and loop closures. The collection also includes clothing that is diaper-friendly and wheelchair-friendly, the company said.

Items are designed to be easy for the user or caregiver to take on and off, Kohl’s said, while mirroring styles in the retailer’s regular lineup.

“Just because we are creating clothing for unique needs doesn’t mean that it needs to be basic,” said Kara Smoltich, associate product manager for Jumping Beans. “We have made every effort to ensure that the product looks as close to our core line as possible. Everything from graphic artwork to pocket detail is reflective of the brand.”

Continue on to Disability Scoop to read the complete article.

Actress with disability wins Tony Award

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Ali Stoker is sitting in a wheelchair in a yellow evening dress holding her award atatue in the air with her right hand with a huge smile

Ali Stroker make history Sunday as the first actress using a wheelchair to win a Tony Award. As an actress with dwarfism, Tekki Lomnicki knows what it’s like to have directors look right past you at an audition. As a former theater camp instructor, she knows how fiercely some kids with disabilities want to act and sing and command the stage. So seeing Ali Stroker make history Sunday as the first actress using a wheelchair to win a Tony Award brought Lomnicki to tears.

“I was thrilled,” she said. “I’ve been in acting for 25 years, and I have a disability. And just seeing her up there made me realize that anything is possible.” Chicagoans with disabilities, including members of the theater community, reflected Monday on Stroker’s big win, calling it an inspiration and a major sign of progress. But they also pointed to remaining obstacles and barriers, such as Chicago theaters with backstages that are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, and outdated attitudes that could cast Stroker as an exception, rather than yet another example of what disabled people can accomplish.

“People with disabilities are able to do many, many different things that people think they would not be able to do,” said Thea Flaum, founder of Facingdisability.com, a Chicago-based website for people with spinal cord injuries and their families.

“I know people with spinal cord injuries who are in wheelchairs who are lawyers and doctors and doing all kinds of things — including people who do wheelchair dancing. People with disabilities are often tremendously abled.”

Lomnicki, the artistic director of Chicago’s Tellin’ Tales Theatre, is 3 feet, 5 inches tall and walks with crutches. She said that the Chicago theater world has come a long way since the start of her career; now there are big casting calls for people with disabilities. But challenges remain, including an issue that Stroker highlighted in her remarks after the Tony Awards ceremony.

“I would ask theater owners and producers to really look into how they can begin to make the backstage accessible, so that performers with disabilities can get around,” said Stroker, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a childhood car accident.

Disability access is a problem in Chicago theaters, too, said Lomnicki: “We rent spaces that are accessible, and there are not many that we can work in.” Often, Lomnicki said, the issue is stairs; even one stair can be a problem for a person using a wheelchair. And often backstage bathrooms are too small to accommodate a wheelchair.

Kevin D’Ambrosio, a Chicago actor who recently appeared in the play “Utility,” produced by the Interrobang Theatre Project, posted a quote from Stroker’s acceptance speech on his Facebook page.

D’Ambrosio, who has cerebral palsy that affects mobility on the left side of his body, said he played a role in “Utility” that wasn’t specifically intended for a disabled person, and that’s great. But many performers with disabilities aren’t getting that kind of opportunity.

“There’s such a small percent of us that are getting on stages,” he said. “There’s a wealth of great performers who identify with having a disability that deserve stage time and aren’t getting it at the level they could be.”

Stroker played flirtatious Ado Annie in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” Resplendent in a shimmering yellow gown at the Tony Awards ceremony, she told the audience:

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are!”

That line got a strong response on social media, with some parents sharing images of delighted children with disabilities. Lomnicki was among those who thought Stroker hit just the right note.

“She spoke to the kids out there with disabilities, that if they want to act, if they want to go to Broadway, they can do it,” Lomnicki said. “And that’s what I’ve been working on my whole career, leveling the playing field for people with disabilities, and integrating them.”

Continue on to the Chicago Tribune to read the complete article.

Ryan Niemiller From ‘America’s Got Talent’ Is Spreading Disability Awareness With His Comedy

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Ryan Niemiller standing on stage in front of audience at America's Got Talent

Instead of allowing his disability to inhibit him, Ryan Niemiller from America’s Got Talent capitalized on it. The comedian — who, according to his website, was born with a disability in both arms — calls himself the “Cripple Threat of Comedy” and uses his stand-up to share his unique perspective in hilarious ways.

He tours the country year-round “covering topics such as dating, trying to find employment, and attempting to find acceptance in a world not designed for him,” his website reads. He’s spreading crucial awareness for people with disabilities — but he’s also making a lot of people laugh.

Much of Niemiller’s material recounts actual experiences he’s had while navigating life with his disability — and how others tend to react to it. The bits are funny, but they also bring awareness to how people with disabilities should and shouldn’t be treated.

In a comedy world that has long been dominated by non-disabled people, Niemiller is providing much-needed representation and perspective.

His YouTube channel, although thin in inventory, features a few of his acts ranging from 2014 to 2018, and upon clicking play on any of them, his tone and purpose are clear. In his most recent upload, a set from December, he tells the story of the time a new job required him to document his fingerprints as part of a background check.

Due to his disability, Niemiller doesn’t have all five fingers on either hand, which, he said, sent the fingerprint specialist at the police station into a panic. “I should’ve called ahead,” he told the crowd. He went on to explain how he followed a woman to the backroom to take his prints, and upon taking one of his fingers, she asked, “So, which one is that?” Fingerprint cards are usually separated by index, middle, ring, pinky and thumb boxes. “I don’t know,” he told the woman. “I was hoping you could tell me.”

Niemiller said the woman then enlisted a more experienced employee who completed the job, and he left the station with a picture of his print card. “It looks like the saddest bingo card there ever was,” he joked. Everyone laughed.

Continue on to Bustle.com to read the complete article.

A Fractured Ankle Turned Me Into My Father

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man walking outside using a walker

I have become my father. I don’t mean I’m short-tempered, overly particular about petty things or obsessed with finding cheap gasoline, although these are all traits he passed on to me. I mean I can’t walk.

Unlike my father, my condition is temporary — I fractured my ankle on an ill-advised descent down an icy hill on cross-country skis, landing me with a space-age boot and crutches. My father, on the other hand, begrudgingly used a walker for the last years of his life, as his balance became more and more tenuous and his legs progressively weakened from normal pressure hydrocephalus and spinal stenosis. In other words, he was old. And, like 12 million adults in the United States age 65 or older, he lived alone.

It pained me to watch my father struggle. I tried hard to understand his frustrations, even when he was at his most belligerent, and did my best to alleviate them. I moved across the country to care for him after my mother died and, while we lived more than two hours apart, I regularly spent weekends with him, drove him to and from Florida each winter, and spent countless nights on the phone with his medical alert company or with paramedics each time he was unable to lift himself out of his chair late at night or, worse, took a fall.

I saw firsthand how difficult everyday life was for him — how heavy the door was at his local Olive Garden (not to mention the door to every public bathroom), how unwieldy it was for him to pick up the morning newspaper delivery, how precarious it was to go grocery shopping, to the gym, bathing, putting on socks.

A light bulb needed changing? The basement flooded during a record-breaking rain? The dog had an accident on the patio? Well, let’s just say, when push came to shove, he was not too proud to call on friends.

Neither of us was happy when he finally accepted the inevitable and moved into an assisted living facility. Yet I was optimistic life would become easier for him — he could still read (a retired political science professor, his beach reads tended toward topics like the Koch brothers and voter fraud), watch baseball with his best friend, even exercise — just with grab bars, meal service and aides on call.

But my dad’s independent streak was strong, and he simultaneously impressed and confounded the assisted living staff by calling the town’s dial-a-ride service nearly every night to take him to the local martini bar, where he talked sports and politics with the bartenders and other regulars.

“Had to escape the prison,” he’d tell them before ordering crab rangoon or steak skewers and a glass (or two) of Malbec.

I took him there myself when I was in town. On one of our last visits, he cut short our enjoyment of a televised basketball game with a sudden trip to the bathroom, an arduous journey that required navigating around closely packed tables and the bustling wait staff.

After he shuffled back, he stood next to my bar stool, tightly gripping his walker and stated, quite matter-of-factly, “We need to go home. I pooped my pants.”

In the car, I told him about disposable underwear that looks like real briefs. “Do you think you’d like to try those?” I asked him. “I’d rather kill myself,” I expected him to say, as he had when I suggested the medical alert device, a power-lift recliner and assisted living. But this time he simply responded, “Yeah, I think I should.” I ordered an economy-size pack for him online. They were too small, but he wouldn’t let me order a different size.

I, too, live by myself. And, at present, I am not nearly as determined to leave the house as my father was — perhaps because I know I will eventually be able to do so on two steady feet. Also, I’ve already fallen on my face on the wet tile of a tire store. Not that staying in is much easier. I also fell on the wet tile of my own kitchen.

I cannot independently procure food, nor cook it. The dog I inherited when my father could no longer care for him has protested my lack of attention by eating household objects, a fact I learned when he vomited on the stairs in the middle of the night.

So I simply accept rides to and from work, where the bathroom door is heavy but the handicap stall and non-slip floors a relief — and then come home to elevate my foot and eat meals friends have prepared for me. My wardrobe is built around socks with treads and sweaters with patch pockets, much as my father’s depended on pre-tied tennis shoes and cargo pants.

To wash my small cadre of functional outfits, I toss the clothes in a knotted plastic bag down to the basement, where the washing machine is, then follow on one foot, my weight on the dual railings I had installed for my father. I hoist myself back up the stairs on my knees and ask the next visitor to retrieve the clothes for me — another trick my dad passed on.

On a weekend morning, I woke up relieved to put on sweatpants and spend the day at home. I had boarded the dog, freeing me from the challenges of lifting his food bowl off the floor or opening the sliding back door to let him out.

I’d left my computer strategically placed on the couch and set up a breakfast station in the kitchen, next to the refrigerator, which I could roll to in an office chair. I strapped on my backpack filled with water, books, ice pack, phone and prescriptions. I hobbled over to the hall closet and grabbed a pill splitter I’d found in a cupboard at my father’s house.

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

5 tips for starting a conversation about your mental health

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two friends taking about mental health

By Rebecca Ruiz

It wasn’t long ago that the stigma of talking about one’s mental health forced many people to stay silent. Now though, messages encouraging people to share their struggles and seek help are widespread, including on Instagram, in public service announcements, and in celebrity interviews. Even Burger King launched a campaign to raise awareness and mark last May’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

Yet it’s one thing to notice and appreciate this newfound acceptance and another to acknowledge to someone else that you’re experiencing a mental health condition or illness. People typically avoid disclosing that information for several reasons, including internalized stigma and shame, fear of rejection, worry about discrimination at work, and uncertainty about whether they need treatment.

Indeed, mental health experts say it’s critical for people to weigh their concerns and disclose their experiences with others if and when it feels necessary and right.

“It’s really on a need-to-know basis,” says Quinn Anderson, manager for the HelpLine operated by for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Run by staff and volunteers, the HelpLine is designed to answer callers’ questions about symptoms of mental health conditions, how to help family members get treatment, where to find local support groups and services, and more.

If you’ve decided it’s important to tell someone about your mental health, try following these tips so that you’re prepared to have the conversation — and have a plan for handling what may come next:

1. Weigh the pros and cons. 

Patrick Corrigan, a distinguished professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, helped develop a program called Honest, Open, Proud that provides guidance for those who want to disclose a mental health condition. The first step in this process is considering the potential risks and benefits.

In Corrigan’s research on the positive aspects of “coming out,” he’s found that people who are fed up with having to keep a secret feel freer once they’ve shared what they’re experiencing. But that sense of liberation may be elusive if the other person in the conversation responds with shame or judgment.

For those who take the risk of telling a supervisor, the pay-off can be certain workplace accommodations, which employers are required to offer per the Americans with Disabilities Act. An employee with a psychiatric disability may receive a flexible schedule, sick leave, and a tailored break schedule, in addition to accommodations like work space with reduced exposure to noise, various types of equipment and technology, and modified job duties. Even though employers are not permitted to discriminate against workers based on a psychiatric disability, an employee may worry that disclosing a condition puts their job prospects or security at risk.

“We do not have an agenda to talk people into coming out,” says Corrigan, noting the potential downsides. “Once you’re out, it’s not easy to go back in.”

2. Arm yourself with information about your experiences or condition. 

When discussing a sensitive topic, you’re likely to have done some research in advance in order to feel confident. Talking about your mental health is no different. If you’ve been diagnosed by a medical professional, or simply noticed worrisome symptoms that seem associated with a mental health condition, familiarize yourself with the relevant language that can help you communicate what you’re experiencing to others.

Such education can inform your understanding of what you’re going through — as can learning about others’ experiences — and thereby reduce your own sense of shame or stigma.

3. Decide who needs to know and what you want from them. 

If you’re already seeing a mental health provider, that person may be able to help determine who — if anyone — you should tell. Anderson says a provider can help you develop a plan, and in some cases, offer to invite a loved one to a joint appointment so you’ll have backup and the therapist can explain your treatment.

When deciding on your own whether to disclose, consider if it’s important, or even critical, for certain people to know. While you might hope to explain recent behavior to a loved one, ask for support, or perhaps seek acceptance, telling someone who isn’t capable of recognizing your needs and reacting with compassion or empathy could be devastating.

Anderson says it’s also helpful to prepare responses if someone asks how they can help. Answering that question can be as simple as describing what it looks like when you’re really struggling, along with guidance about how they can best support you.

The Honest, Open, Proud programs sometimes recommends against telling people who are generally bigoted, people who use disrespectful language (think “crazies” or “wackos”), people who attribute social problems to mental illness, and people who oppose giving fair or new chances to those who’ve experienced a mental illness.

Before opening up about your mental health, be clear about why you’ve chosen to tell a certain person, what you hope to gain, and how you’ll proceed if they can’t emotionally handle the information.

4. Choose an ideal time to talk, and keep it simple. 

Dawn Brown, director of community engagement for NAMI, recommends choosing a time where you’re alone, relaxed, and have enough time to explore the subject.

“I wouldn’t wait ’till you have a fight with your spouse to bring it up,” she says.

Similarly, sticking to the basic facts of what you’ve experienced and why you’re sharing that information can provide necessary guardrails for the conversation. If you feel ready to delve deeper, consider how that might affect the discussion if the person you’re talking to isn’t prepared to do the same.

5. Seek additional support and resources. 

No matter how your conversation goes, it can be essential to seek additional support from groups and likeminded peers who will help you feel more empowered. Disclosing, whether to a medical professional or loved one, may be one step in a long recovery journey. NAMI provides resources like contact information for local support groups to those who call the HelpLine, and Honest, Open, Proud provides similar referrals at the program’s end.

Feeling connected to the right support can be particularly important for people who can’t find culturally competent mental health providers, or those whose family members and friends have vastly different views of mental health as a result of cultural attitudes or beliefs.

Anderson says it’s important to stay hopeful and remember that help is out there.

“There will be individuals who don’t get it, who will always have a discriminatory perspective, and individuals who don’t know but want to help, and then those who really get it,” she says.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.

Baltimore’s nightclub for disabled adults fosters love, friendship and inclusion

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Two women smiling and dancing on the nightclub dancefloor

BALTIMORE — By the time the doors open 15 minutes early this Saturday night, dozens are lined up to get inside. Women wear wedges and bodysuits that hug their curves. Men sport collared shirts and their favorite sneakers.

Some have caregivers guiding them; others need wheelchairs. Many wear the signature T-shirts stamped with the logo, Club 1111. It’s the long-awaited evening when the League for People with Disabilities transforms into a glittering nightclub for disabled adults. The classrooms become dance floors, with DJs playing pounding club music. Merchandise, such as sunglasses and blinking rings, is stacked up and ready to be sold, and volunteers wait in a makeshift spa to do fingernails and apply temporary tattoos. A lounge with dim lights is set up for chilling.

The only one of its kind in Maryland and possibly the country, Club 1111 is where hundreds come to dance and make friends. Some want to find love. All are drawn because of the sense of safety, the feeling that no one is judging them, that they can be like anyone else out for the night. “It is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world,” says Stephen Jones, 29, one of 503 people who packed the club this night.

Much has happened in the past 30 years to try to give people with disabilities a life that looks the same as for anyone without special needs. People who would have at one time been institutionalized are living in group homes. Sheltered workshops are closing as people are moving into integrated workplaces that embrace what’s called the “neurodiversity” movement. And social opportunities are growing to include specific dating sites, cruises and proms.

But adults with disabilities, like Jones, yearn for more opportunities to socialize. Club 1111 is unique for how often it is held — once a month — and for how many people it draws. Local, state and national advocates are not aware of another event like it anywhere in the country.

“Whatever you come looking for, you can find it here,” says Janice Jackson, 59, of Northeast Baltimore, who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed in 1984 when she was hit by a car. “We see a lot of relationships blossom. Some fail. Love is always in the air here at Club 1111.

“Everybody feels free here.”

Organizers said most clubgoers have intellectual and developmental disabilities, about a quarter use a wheelchair and roughly one in 10 have visual impairment.

Continue on to The Washington Post to read the complete article.

Public Resources for PTSD Awareness Month

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PTSD Awareness logo with sea green text on a white background

Most adults have been affected by trauma in some way whether they experience it directly, see someone they know go through it or hear about it happening to someone else. During PTSD Awareness Month, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) urges everyone gain a better understanding of how traumatic stress can affect those who suffer from it.

ISTSS offers educational resources for both the public and professionals to learn about trauma and its effects.

“Many people experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes, but reactions to these events vary considerably,” said ISTSS President Julian D. Ford, PhD, ABPP. “For some people, natural coping allows their reactions to gradually diminish. But if symptoms persist or attempts to cope lead to unhealthy outcomes, it may be useful to seek professional help.”

ISTSS has recently updated its guidelines for the prevention and treatment of PTSD, releasing its methodology and recommendations in advance of the third edition of Effective Treatments for PTSD. ISTSS has also released two position papers on complex PTSD in children/adolescents and adults, which highlight important considerations for interpreting the recommendations and translating them into practice. ISTSS briefing papers address the traumatic impact of global issues such as forcible displacement; sexual assault, sexual abuse and harassment; and public health approaches to trauma.

For anyone who has been affected by trauma, ISTSS offers numerous public resources. ePamphlets in multiple languages discuss what to expect after a traumatic event, risk factors and how to recognize when professional help is needed for different types of trauma. The ISTSS Clinician Directory can help people find a clinician, counselor or mental health professional in their local area by discipline or specialty, special interests, populations served and languages spoken.

“ISTSS supports the health and resilience of people affected by trauma,” said Ford. “We’re looking not only to treat PTSD but also to understand and prevent it.”

About the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS)

ISTSS is an international interdisciplinary professional organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress. Learn more at www.istss.org.

Special Olympics New York Seeks Record Fan Turnout For 2019 Summer Games

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participants in special olympics swim in the water with a crowd cheering them on

With less than two weeks to go before the largest statewide competition of the year, Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman today renewed the call for volunteers at the 2019 Summer Games.

“Volunteers are the reason Special Olympics New York can offer this statewide competition to our athletes at no cost,” said Hengsterman. “They are our organizers, judges, athlete escorts and so much more. Most importantly, we count on volunteers to show up and be our fans. We invite everyone from the community to cheer on our athletes at Summer Games, a fan experience that is truly like no other in sports!” Nearly 1,700 athletes and coaches from nine regions across New York State will gather in Dutchess County on June 14-15 to compete in eight sports: Swimming, Volleyball, Basketball, Track & Field, Bowling, Gymnastics, Powerlifting and Tennis.

There is still a need for volunteers in all areas, but especially track and field, the largest event of the weekend. There is volunteer training onsite so no prior experience is needed. No running or jumping required, you can leave that to the athletes.

Fan involvement is also a key element of each competition.

“Our fans are the best,” said Jude Killar, a Special Olympics New York athlete competing in basketball. “Their cheering and encouragement help me play harder. I always do my best when I know people are rooting for me.”
Fan attendance is not only an incredible experience for the athletes; it’s also an amazing experience for the fans themselves. “Being a fan at last year’s Summer Games was the highlight of 2018 for me,” said Christopher Eder, a volunteer at last year’s Summer Games in Albany. “I still remember the moment when an athlete hit a buzzer-beater as time expired and the Siena basketball players stormed the court. It was like something out of a movie.”

If you want to help break records at the 2019 Special Olympics New York Summer Games, join us at www.specialolympicsny.org/SummerGames.

About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with nearly 150 schools statewide to offer unified sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. Learn more at specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.

Honoring the Dedication of Renae Templeton—This communications specialist is irreplaceable

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Renae Templeton is sitting at work desk talking on the phone and on the computer

By 1st Lt. Tracci Dorgan

Many Soldiers have come back from their deployments and come by the Adjutant General’s headquarters building to meet her, shake her hand and thank her. The South Carolina National Guard has an employee who is the welcoming voice and face of visitors to the Adjutant General’s building in Columbia, South Carolina. Many aren’t even aware as she works behind her large desk answering calls and providing direction to guests, that she arrives to work each morning in her pink wheelchair.

“I was born with spina bifida, but that does not stop me,” said Renae Templeton, a communications specialist employee in the South Carolina Military Department. In addition to working with the security personnel and visitors, she also answers the main line to the headquarters building of the South Carolina National Guard.

“I love helping my Soldiers and Airmen,” said Templeton, who has served in this role since 2009. “I love getting the morale calls from overseas and enjoy helping to connect service members from thousands of miles away to a family member who is awaiting a phone call.”

As she travels around the three-story building, she stops to help whoever she can.

“Renae caters to everyone and never thinks twice about helping,” said Jack Kotchish, an executive assistant in the command group who has known her since she was first hired. “Everybody who comes through the front doors enjoys getting her daily greeting, witty discussions and laughter.”

“On my first day working here, I was introduced to Jack, who told me to never hesitate to call if I needed any help. Here is it eight years later, and I’m still calling for help,” she said jokingly.

Each October, the Department of Defense celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates the public about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of everyone’s skills.

Templeton shared that during her years there, many Soldiers have come back from their deployments and come by the Adjutant General’s headquarters building to meet her, shake her hand and thank her.

“I don’t know what we’d do without Renae,” added Kotchish. “On the occasions when she is out, it takes three or four of us to fill in and handle all the incoming calls. I don’t know how she does it by herself.”

Source: army.mil