The Buying Power of People with Disabilities

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Women Shopping together

The needs of adults with disabilities are frequently overlooked in the marketplace and when businesses are designing and promoting products and services. But a new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR)—A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of People With Disabilities—finds that inclusive hiring practices and involving people with disabilities in product development and advertisement can help businesses access markets worth billions of dollars. AIR researchers Michelle Yin, Dahlia Shaewitz, Cynthia Overton, and Deeza-Mae Smith wrote the report and used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

While some industries—such as technology and fashion—have begun marketing to and developing products for people with disabilities, the potential of these consumers has not been fully realized.

“Our study finds that working-age adults with disabilities are a large and relatively untapped market for businesses in the U.S.,” Yin said. “We hope that this report is a starting point to help businesses better understand and serve this group of consumers with unique needs.”

There are about 64 million people with at least one disability in the United States, and approximately 35 percent of this population is of working age (ages 16–65) and earns income through employment or supplemental support and benefits. While working-age people with disabilities have, on average, a lower annual income than people without disabilities, the report finds they still have significant spending power:

  • The total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is comparable to other significant market segments, such as African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion). (Disposable income is what is left after taxes are paid.); and
  • Discretionary income for working-age people with disabilities is about $21 billion, which is greater than that of the African-American ($3 billion) and Hispanic ($16 billion) market segments, combined. (Discretionary income is the money remaining after deducting taxes, other mandatory charges, and spending on necessities, such as food and housing.)

“Even with a lower overall income, adults with disabilities, as a group, have a lot of spending power,” Shaewitz said. “However, understanding and serving these consumers may require business and industry to make changes to some of their practices.”

Hiring and retaining people with disabilities and involving them in the development and production of products and services will be an important strategy for accessing this market. Several companies, including Starbucks, Northrop Grumman, AT&T, and Ernst & Young, have increased their inclusive hiring practices, recognizing that hiring people with disabilities can improve the bottom line and increase customer loyalty.

The report also suggests including adults with disabilities in advertising and marketing efforts and training employees on working with and meeting the needs of those with disabilities.

Several U.S. companies are already demonstrating how being inclusive not only benefits people with disabilities but also helps the bottom line. For example, the report highlights clothing company Tommy Hilfiger, which developed an accessible clothing line that has design elements that are friendly to those with disabilities, including magnetic closures and adjustable sleeves and pant legs. In response to a request from a customer with cerebral palsy, Nike developed technology for its shoes that offers a wraparound zipper and adjustable top. And online retailer Zappos launched a dedicated website that sells shoes and clothing that are easily used by people with physical disabilities, and sensory-friendly clothing for people on the autism spectrum and those who live with nerve pain and tenderness.

About the American Institutes for Research
AIR is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity.

Source: air.org

From One Goal to the Next

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Parker Thornton about to Go Over the Edge

A crowded room quiets as Parker Thornton approaches the podium. He has been tasked with motivating Special Olympics Athlete Health Messengers to commit to being fit every day by working out more, eating healthy, and cutting down on soda.

He starts his speech by proclaiming the three words he says to himself in the mirror every day, “I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I feel fantastic!” Parker let those familiar words calm his nerves at speaking in front of the large crowd. After the speech has concluded, the audience erupts into applause, motivated and encouraged to take on the challenge of living a healthy life.

Parker’s life didn’t start at peak health. As a newborn, he contracted viral meningitis and was hospitalized at Boston’s Children’s Hospital for five weeks, much of it on life support. He survived his first challenge, but the result of the viral meningitis left Parker with significant learning disabilities, which resulted in an anxiety disorder and depression.

When Parker was eight years old, he was introduced to Special Olympics New Hampshire when local families came together to start a ski team for children with intellectual disabilities. That introduction has led to more than 28 years of involvement with Special Olympics. Parker has won numerous gold medals in sports ranging from basketball, golf, skiing, and pentathlons. “I realized that Special Olympics was more than just sports; it taught me how to be a better man, a proficient communicator, and how to be a mentor to other athletes who have their own challenges. Special Olympics tells you how to speak up, get healthy to be a better athlete, and blossom gifts in yourself and others,” Parker said.

Parker recently had an opportunity to make his own life healthier. “I wasn’t happy with my body, and Parker Thornton smiling to the cameraI was depressed,” Parker said. He signed up for a sprint triathlon, which motivated him to train for seven months. Parker lost 20 pounds and was able to go off prescribed medication. Seeing a positive change in his body and completing the triathlon showed Parker that even if it takes hard work, he can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.

Parker has set his mind to tackling new challenges in the last few years. He speaks frequently on topics related to disabilities, Special Olympics, and the health disparities of people with disabilities. “Inclusive health is such a big issue. No one understands the health differences between people with and without intellectual disabilities. I want to motivate and get people thinking about how they can make changes to better the lives of people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.

Parker is now a consultant for Special Olympics International. He lead an Athlete Health Messenger training for a new cohort of athlete leaders who are tasked with taking the charge for equal access to health for people with disabilities. He co-edits a monthly health newsletter that goes out to thousands of recipients and is continuously tasked with being called upon to give motivational speeches. Speaking fills Parker with a sense of purpose. He wants to motivate others to see people with intellectual disabilities as part of human diversity and should be celebrated as such.

Parker is planning on accomplishing his next goal in 2019: attending professional stunt school in California. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to get trained to do professional stunts like you see in the movies,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Starbucks opens first U.S. sign language store

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The storefronts along Washington’s bustling H Street Northeast are lit up with familiar names and logos: Petco. Whole Foods. CVS.

There is also a Starbucks. Or, more specifically, S-T-A-R-B-U-C-K-S spelled out in the hand symbols of American Sign Language.

That fingerspelling is one way to spot the coffee giant’s first U.S. signing store, where 24 deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing employees run the shop using ASL. The store debuts on Tuesday after being converted from a standard Starbucks location to make the design and technology more accessible. It’s a step, employees and advocates say, toward boosting employment opportunities for the deaf community while also immersing hearing individuals in deaf spaces. And it’s a show of support from one of the world’s largest corporate brands.

“My identity is accepted here,” said Crystal Harris, a barista at the signing store. “Deafness has many faces.”

The store is just blocks from Gallaudet University, a 150-year-old institution and the world’s only university designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The shop mirrors Starbucks’s first signing store, which opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016. Customers from the outside can spot “Starbucks” written out in fingerspelling beneath the main logo and on large table umbrellas. And on the inside, what may appear like any other Starbucks cafe has been specifically laid out and decorated to celebrate deaf culture.

One entire wall, for example, is covered by a multicolored mural commissioned by a deaf artist and Gallaudet faculty member. In fingerspelling, the mural depicts a lowercase “d,” representing deafness, an uppercase “D,” representing deaf identity, an eye to represent visual connections, a hand holding a coffee cup, and other symbols showing merging of deaf and hearing cultures.

Customers can communicate in ASL or write their orders on a tech pad. Rather than wait to hear their names called at the end of the bar, customers look up to a screen showing when their drinks are ready. The store was also remodeled to maximize light and open lines of sight — high top tables or tall stacks of cups, for example, limit visibility for people signing to each other. Non-signing customers are also encouraged to use visual cues. Rather than sign that the store didn’t carry chamomile tea, for example, one employee waved his hand across his neck — signaling “no” — and then pointed to a printed menu with other options.

Camille Hymes, Starbucks’s regional vice president for the Mid-Atlantic, said the company chose D.C. for its proximity to Gallaudet and because of the city’s ties to activism for the deaf community. Using the store as a profitable business model, Hymes said, Starbucks can be an example to other companies of “using our scale for good.”

Continue onto the Washington Post to read the complete article.

On Oahu, people with physical or cognitive disabilities become surfers with an assist from this group

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Accesssurf

Surfing enthusiasts know that Oahu’s waters offer waves for every ability level. Winter vacationers who are veteran surfers flock to the legendary North Shore; beginners hoping to catch their first wave stick to calmer waters in the south.

The disability community claims White Plains Beach, a serene park on leeward Oahu that has become ground zero for adaptive surfing.

At the heart of this surfing clan is AccessSurf, a small nonprofit that’s pioneering barrier-free ocean experiences for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

“This is a program where everyone is accepted, everyone is included and everyone is very integrated,’’ said Cara Short, the executive director.

Vacationers can easily join the action, but be aware that spending one afternoon riding waves with these folks might get you hooked.

“They have become my ohana [family] from the moment I first met them, and they welcome me back every year with open arms,” Jeremy Levy of Parker, Colo., said in an email.

Levy, who is blind, said he couldn’t find anyone to teach him to surf until he connected with AccessSurf. Now his family schedules annual vacations around the organization’s Day on the Beach, a monthly event open to all. It’s usually the first Saturday of the month; check the organization’s event calendar as part of your trip planning.

If you go, you’ll be greeted with aloha spirit by a team of staff and volunteers — about 200 of them — whose passion and expertise have earned the program international acclaim. Serious competitors also travel to Oahu from all over the world to practice with this group.

Spike Kane, who has paralysis from the armpits down, regularly travels from Vista, Calif., to work out with AccessSurf.

“I already knew the mechanics of adaptive surfing, but I was only doing prone at the time,” he said, describing how he used to surf with a lot of assistance. “I didn’t know there was another way to adapt my board.”

Working with Short, he settled on a board modified with a chest riser to keep his head up and out of the water. With this adaptation, he was able to paddle out and push himself and his board up on a wave.

“I thought, ‘This is something I can do without a big load of people in the water panicking over me,’ ” he said. “From that moment on, I was, like, ‘This is the real deal. This is going to change my life.’ ”

Continue on to latimes.com to read the complete article

6 things Deaf activist Nyle DiMarco wants you to know about sign language

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Nyle DiMarco signing on stage

You may know Nyle DiMarco from America’s Next Top Model, where he was crowned the victor of the show’s 22nd season, in 2015. You may have seen DiMarco demonstrate perfect rhythm on Dancing With the Stars, where he went home with yet another grand prize. DiMarco, in short, is a winner.

But DiMarco, who is deaf, believes he owes his good fortune in life to a childhood experience: learning language — both spoken and signed — at an early age. Language acquisition, he says, helped him understand and engage with the world, which led to life-changing educational opportunities.

Now DiMarco is using his fame to try to help millions of deaf children around the world also gain access to language through his eponymous foundation. As part of that work, he appeared at the 2018 Social Good Summit in New York City to recognize International Day of Sign Languages and will appear at International Week of the Deaf, annual events that highlight the importance of access to sign language as part of achieving full human rights for deaf people.

Here are six things DiMarco wants you to understand about sign language and the importance of language acquisition for Deaf people:

1. You are a fierce advocate for early language acquisition among Deaf children. How did learning sign language at an early age change your life?

I was born into a large, multigenerational Deaf family — my great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and my two brothers are all Deaf. I am the fourth generation and have been exposed to American Sign Language and English since birth.

Knowing sign language saved my life. I was never alone. My entire family used sign language, so I never missed dinner table conversations. Growing up, I attended Deaf schools including Gallaudet University, the only Deaf university in the world. You could say it was a utopia for me.

With sign language, I was able to embrace my own identity as Deaf. I did not let being Deaf define me. Instead, I defined it.

2. Why is it often difficult for Deaf children to access sign language education?

Audism. Audism is a set of beliefs that include: hearing people are superior to Deaf people; Deaf people should be pitied for having futile and miserable lives; Deaf people should become like hearing people as much as possible; and that sign languages should be shunned. The stigma that notion has created positions sign language as a “lesser option” and pushes people consciously, or unconsciously, to prioritize hearing and speech therapies over sign language education. Materials and information become less available to the less popular option, and when you’re a new parent to a Deaf baby or child you look to the most available materials.

That is something my foundation, The Nyle DiMarco Foundation, is looking to change.

3. What myths about sign language and language acquisition are most harmful to the human rights of Deaf people?

In this bizarre world we live in, there are doctors, early interventionists, and audiologists that tell hearing parents not to expose their Deaf child to sign language because it will hinder their ability to learn English. That is a myth. A foundation in sign language helps your Deaf child learn how to read and write.

People believe that sign language is not a language. That is false. Sign language is a full language with its own grammar, syntax, and structure.

4. If you could immediately change anything about the representation of Deaf people and sign language in popular culture, what would it be?

Representation behind and in front of the camera. Empowering Deaf people as actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. There is no true representation if we’re not part of the stories being told — nothing about us without us. Sign language is being exploited and that only adds irreparable errors.

5. What does the International Week of the Deaf principle “nothing about us without us” mean to you?

It means that society needs to empower Deaf people as decision makers. This is true for every minority group. In order to improve our society as a whole, every marginalized group needs to be included in the conversation whether it’s political, social, or within the entertainment industry. I know that is easier said than done, but I feel like people are taking charge of their cultural and personal narratives more and more and it’s inspiring to see that.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article

MTA New York City Transit Hires First-Ever Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility

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For the first time ever, New York City Transit will have a dedicated accessibility chief. 

On Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford announced the appointment of Alex Elegudin as Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility. He’ll be tasked with overseeing and implementing the Fast Forward Plan initiative to expand accessibility to subway and bus customers, as well as improve Access-A-Ride service.

Elegudin, a longtime accessibility advocate, will serve as MTA NYC Transit’s innaugural Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, an executive-level position reporting directly to President Byford.  His first day on the job is Monday, June 25.

“Advancing the cause of accessibility is one of my top priorities and Alex’s new role will pull together all of our accessibility-related work streams, touching all Fast Forward projects and all NYC Transit departments,” President Byford said.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining President Byford’s executive team,” Elegudin said.  “The vision set forth in the ‘Fast Forward’ plan will make NYC Transit work better for New Yorkers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility quickly.  I look forward to being a part of making the plan a reality and helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.”

“Expanding accessibility is a priority for all MTA agencies, with the subway serving millions of people a day having particular urgency,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who has convened a special working group of MTA Board members to advise on improving accessibility.  “President Byford’s creation of this new position and Alex’s appointment are a victory for all of our customers who need more accessible subway, bus and paratransit service.”

Continue onto the MTA Newsroom to read the complete article.

 

Rising Leader: Cody Bowman

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Cody Bowman graduated from State College of Florida with her Associate of Arts degree in 2014. Currently, she is a junior at the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee. She is studying for her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science in Social Work and Sociology.

Cody’s passion lies in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. She is a member of the Sarasota County Developmental Disabilities Committee, which serves to advocate with one voice for the needs of Sarasota County citizens with developmental disabilities. As a student at USF, she was chosen to be a student representative for the Physical Access Workshop (PAW) Committee which is comprised of campus-wide representatives. PAW assists in identifying barriers to equal access and recommends action steps and priorities for removal of the barriers that have been identified in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA). This includes physical barriers on campus as well as website and instructional access.

Cody is a 2015 graduate of Florida Partners in Policy-Making which is a leadership and advocacy training program that teaches individuals with developmental disabilities and parents to become community leaders and catalysts for systems change.

Cody has also participated in “Ms. Wheelchair Florida”, which serves as a platform for women in all 67 counties in Florida while advocating for the 54 million Americans who are living with disabilities. MWFL Inc. strives to bring awareness to all people with disabilities and the importance of them being included in the communities in which they live and can have a choice when it comes to employment, education, and housing. In addition, Cody is a 2015 alumni participant of the Mentorship Exchange Program (formerly the USBLN Rising Leaders Mentoring Program.)

When not attending school, Cody works 2 part-time jobs. She is an adaptive yoga instructor/executive assistant for a small company specializing in yoga for people with special needs, and also a receptionist at Easter Seals of Southwest Florida.

During her free time, which is scarce…Cody enjoys traveling, volunteering at Instride Therapy which is an equine therapy center for people with disabilities, as well as being a proud member of the Sarasota Adaptive Rowing Program.

Rice Krispies Treats Just Took A Real Step Toward Inclusivity

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Kids with visual impairments can get loving messages with their snacks through Braille stickers and audio boxes.

Kellogg’s is increasing accessibility to the full joys of Rice Krispies Treats for children with visual impairments.

Last year, the packaged food giant rolled out writable wrappers on individual Rice Krispies Treats so that parents and others could pen encouraging messages for kids to read at school. But those notes wouldn’t reach some 62,000 American schoolchildren who are blind or low-vision, as the company said on its website.

So Rice Krispies announced Tuesday that it has partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to create “Love Notes” in the form of Braille stickers and recordable audio boxes, allowing kids with visual impairments to get a verbal boost with their snacks too.

The Braille stickers come in sheets of eight with preprinted uplifting phrases such as “You’ve Got This” and “Love You Lots.” They’re shaped like a heart, which matches the spot for writing notes on the Rice Krispies wrapper.

Because some children don’t read Braille or respond better to the spoken word, Kellogg’s is also offering a recordable audio box in which to tuck one Rice Krispies Treat. When the box is opened, it plays a 10-second message recorded by mom or dad.

According to Kellogg’s, the audio message can be re-recorded more than 1,000 times. That amounts to several school years’ worth of support ― assuming kids bring the boxes home each day.

The stickers and the audio boxes can be ordered through the Rice Krispies Treats website at no cost while supplies last.

The Love Notes also honor Will Keith Kellogg, the founder of the Kellogg Company, who lost his sight for the last decade of his life, according to Jessica Waller, vice president of sales and co-chair of the Kapable Business/Employee Resource Group at Kellogg’s.

“Inclusion is in our DNA, and is now shared through Rice Krispies Treats’ ‘Love Notes,’” Waller said in Tuesday’s press release. “Everyone is important, and we want each child to be able to feel loved, supported and acknowledged.”

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Doctors With Disabilities Push For Culture Change In Medicine

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Lisa Iezzoni was in medical school at Harvard in the early 1980s when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She started experiencing some of the symptoms, including fatigue, but she wasn’t letting that get in the way of her goal. Then came the moment she scrubbed in on a surgery and the surgeon told her what he thought of her chances in the field.

“He opined that I had no right to go into medicine because I lacked the most important quality in medicine,” Iezzoni recalls “And that was 24/7 availability.”

Iezzoni didn’t end up becoming a doctor. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, and she says she just didn’t have the support.

In the decades since, court rulings and amendments have clarified rights and protections. But culture change has been slow to take hold in the profession.

Doctors are often portrayed as pinnacles of health, superhumans responding to emergencies around the clock, performing miracles of all kinds. They’re seen as the fixers, not the ones ever in need of accommodations or care.

“This profession historically has viewed themselves as able-bodied in the extreme,” Iezzoni says.

Now, a growing movement of current and aspiring doctors with disabilities is starting to challenge that narrative, saying it is a disservice both to the medical profession and to patients.

It’s important to acknowledge and accommodate medical professionals with disabilities, says Lisa Meeks, a psychologist and researcher at Michigan Medicine specializing in disabilities in medicine and medical education. “It deserves attention and its own problem-solving,” she says.

Meeks co-founded the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education, a group focused on improving access to medical education for students with disabilities.

She also co-authored a report released this year on disabilities and medicine, which found that many doctors still conceal their disabilities out of fear of stigma or bias.

Earlier this year, Meeks had a thought: If doctors with disabilities saw more people like themselves, would they talk more openly about the challenges and opportunities? She started a social media campaign with the hashtag #DocsWithDisabilities.

The goal was to find 20 doctors willing to share their stories online. She has been flooded with interest from doctors with disabilities.

“There’s no end in sight,” Meeks says.

And now #NursesWithDisabilities have joined in, too.

“I felt this was a really unique opportunity to introduce all of these docs with disabilities to the medical field,” she says. “To let people know there are not unique one or two physicians with disabilities, but that there are a number of physicians with disabilities throughout the United States.”

Continue onto NPR to read the complete article.

9 things you need to know about how to behave around assistance dogs

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By Soraya Ferdman

Recently, I noticed a person about to cross the street — right into the path of an oncoming car. Before I could lunge forward to pull her back, her guide dog yanked its owner to safety. I felt the strong urge to pet the dog, which in addition to being a very good dog was also an Australian Shepherd, the same breed as my own. 

Then I noticed the words “DO NOT PET” across the dog’s harness.

The term “assistance dog” includes guide dogs, who help the blind; hearing dogs, who help the Deaf; and service dogs, who help people with a broader range of disabilities including but not limited to autism, epilepsy, life-threatening allergies, diabetes, mobility issues, neuromuscular diseases, and psychological trauma.

Thousands of people rely on these animals for independence. Assistance dogs perform services such as opening and closing doors, helping people into an upright position, and detecting allergens, low and high blood sugar levels, and more. But for those used to thinking of dogs purely as pets, it can be hard to know the proper etiquette.

Here’s what you need to know about how to behave when you spot a pooch with a harness:

1. Minimize distractions

Most assistance dogs are trained to pay little attention to people other than their handler. That doesn’t mean handlers aren’t bothered by people’s tendencies to pet, make cutesy noises, or otherwise distract their dogs.

“I’ve had people making noises, desperate to get my dog’s attention, while I’m crossing the street,” Laurel Hilbert, who lives in San Francisco and is blind, explained in an interview with Mashable. “My dog is very well-behaved, but he’s still just a dog. Those kinds of noises distract him.”

Petting an assistance dog may seem like a harmless transgression, but it can lead to the handler falling or otherwise injuring themselves.

Such was the case with Hayley Ashmore. Flynn, her seizure-alert dog, was being pet by a stranger when Hayley fell to the ground and injured her forehead and cheek. In an Instagram post reflecting on the events, Ashmore wrote, “My dog is my lifeline. I don’t say that to be cute… If he gets distracted this happens. If he gets distracted I can die.”

2. Talk to the handler

Remember: The handler and assistance dog are a team. If you feel you need to approach the dog for any reason, asking the handler for permission first is the best way to be aware of what the duo feels comfortable with, and to behave accordingly.

3. Keep your own dog at distance

Though dogs are social creatures, assistance dogs aren’t supposed to engage with other dogs while on duty. Pet owners can help handlers keep assistance dogs focused by holding their companion dogs a safe distance away.

4. No treats

According to Canine Companions for Independence, “Food is the ultimate distraction to the working dog and can jeopardize the working assistance dog team.”

Think of it like this: Beyond breaking their focus, some service dogs have special diets, and certain foods may trigger allergies. If an assistance dog is given something that triggers even a subtle allergic reaction, they’re not paying 100 percent attention to their handler. Less than 100 percent attention = bad news.

5. Therapy and emotional support dogs are not assistance dogs

While therapy and emotional support dogs are there to provide comfort, they do not receive the same training and are not granted legal access to the same degree as assistance dogs.

What distinguishes an assistance dog from what expert Chris Diefenthaler calls companion dogs, or regular pets, is the length and rigor of training. Before acquiring official status, assistance dogs undergo up to two years of training. Diefenthaler, an administrator at Assistance Dogs International, repeatedly emphasized this distinction to Mashable, explaining, “Assistance dogs have received extensive training and are uniquely equipped to help their handlers in ways neither therapy nor emotional support animals are trained to do.”

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

Starbucks to Open First U.S. Signing Store

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Starbucks will open its first Signing Store in the U.S. in Washington, D.C. this October, building upon ongoing efforts to connect with the diverse communities it serves. A team of Deaf Starbucks partners (employees) and allies led the effort to launch this unique store model in the U.S., which will be located at 6th & H Street near Gallaudet University, a bustling hub that is Deaf-friendly. The store will create a distinctive retail experience for all customers, while offering a unique store format that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people.

“The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a Signing Store that employs Deaf and hard of hearing people,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. “Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating Deaf Culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society.”

Creating Opportunities with the Deaf Community

Starbucks will hire 20-25 Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners from across the country to work at the Signing Store with a requirement that all be proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). This team of partners with a shared language of ASL and diverse experiences with the Deaf and hard of hearing community will help to attract and develop talent, as well as raise awareness and understanding of the Deaf experience in the workforce, including career opportunities at Starbucks and beyond.

“This is a historic moment in Starbucks ongoing journey to connect with the Deaf and hard of hearing community, hire and engage Deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. Retail. “This store is truly from partners, for partners, and we couldn’t have gotten here without the team of Deaf partners and allies from our Accessibility office and the Access Alliance partner network who came together to bring this vision to life. I look forward to the team welcoming the community to this store in October.”

Designing the First U.S. Signing Store

The idea to open a Signing Store in the U.S. was inspired by a similar Starbucks Signing Store which opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016 with nine Deaf partners. Starbucks partners in the U.S. voiced the opportunity to create a similar third-place experience for the Deaf and hard of hearing community in the U.S., and traveled to Malaysia last July for the first-year anniversary to understand design modifications and gain knowledge to create the best possible store experience for Deaf and hard of hearing customers in the U.S. An internal team made up of Starbucks Deaf Leadership, Accessibility office and Access Alliance is playing a critical role to support this historic store opening.

Continue onto Starbucks’ Newsroom to read the complete article.