Easterseals serves 20,000 vets and their families in 2018

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Angela Williams of Easterseals poses in red dress for camera

In 2018, nearly 20,000 veterans and military family members received support through Easterseals through an extensive list of programs, including; advocacy and education and employment programs and job training.

Other programs include; military and veterans’ caregiver services, veteran community services and support and health and wellness programs. The organization is led by President and CEO Angela Williams, a retired United States Air Force officer, serving in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The iconic nonprofit kicks off its 100th anniversary celebration, furthering its mission of supporting the disabled and their families. Over the past century, Easterseals has provided a multitude of disability services to more than 1.5 million people, helping to meet individual and family needs.

Easterseals Military & Veterans Services
Our mission is to ensure that it’s possible for veterans and military families to live their lives to the fullest in every community. We work to break down barriers, engage organizations and communities, and connect veterans and military families with what they need for meaningful employment, education and overall wellness. Our grassroots outreach – through 71 local affiliates in communities nationwide– provide unmatched, accessible, and indispensable resources and support for veterans and military families.

Grassroots Solutions through Easterseals
The needs of veterans and military families are evolving, not disappearing. That’s why Easterseals specializes in identifying the needs of veterans and military families, particularly with employment, job training and support like family respite opportunities. We work to make solutions easily accessible in communities.

Learn More about Easterseals Military and Veterans Services

Discover how we’ve been successful so far in our mission.

Our work in action

  • Advocacy & Education
    Veterans and military families deserve services delivered in an appropriate, timely, and accessible manner. Our Washington, DC-based government relations team works to influence federal and state legislation affecting veterans and military families and actively engages with Congressional staff in pursuit of these goals.
  • Employment Programs and Job Training
    Our employment programs provide the necessary tools to achieve and maintain meaningful employment and a steady income. We offer skills training, job search assistance, employment preparation and guidance. For example, we partner with the Direct Employers Association, which has a membership of about 800 employers who want to hire veterans and people with disabilities. Through this partnership, Easterseals is offering a job search portal at easterseals.jobs, which features job postings from these employers.
  • Military and Veterans Caregiver Services
    We strive to ensure military caregivers can access what they need to take on the enormous responsibility of caregiving—often, while still needing to work, navigate family life and take care of themselves. We embrace and support military caregivers, particularly as they transition into this new experience, life-long trajectory and unfamiliar — yet vital role — within their families and communities.
  • Veteran Community Services & Support
    Veterans come home to their families and communities, so serving them must be a community undertaking. That’s why, across the country, we are delivering services that veterans and military families need to live productive, successful lives.
  • Health and Wellness Programs
    We aim to reach as many veterans and military families as possible to provide health resources and programs, including adult dayand medical rehabilitation services.

Additional resources

What are many veterans asking themselves these days? “What to wear?!” As military members return to civilian life and face the job search, figuring out the right suit to wear to an interview can be the biggest challenge, while the job responsibilities are a breeze. Watch the video below to see why, and help spread the message that veterans are highly skilled and valuable employees. See all three of our military themed public service videos.

In November 2015, Easterseals hosted Heroes Work Here, an event to educate corporate leaders on hiring and retaining veterans. With friends and partners, we gathered important advice about how to hire America’s best and brightest. Find tips on why and how to hire veterans here!
Watch Travis Mills explain how you can hire veterans with Easterseals’ help right now.

Veteran and Dancing with the Stars winner JR Martinez and veteran and author Travis Mills play word association with Easterseals, our veteran edition!

Best and Worst States on Jobs for People with Disabilities

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disability friendly states

By Philip Kahn-Pauli

Floridians with disabilities experience the biggest jobs gains of any state, with more than 23,000 people with disabilities entering the workforce. Of the 50 states, 29 states saw job gains for Americans with disabilities.

Vermont, under Gov. Phil Scott, becomes one of the top 10 states with the best employment rates and Rhode Island, under Gov. Gina Raimondo, jumps from 47th in the nation to 19th. New statistics recently released show that Americans with disabilities saw a slowdown in job gains compared to those of the previous year. The Disability Statistics Compendium, released by Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, shows that the employment rate for people with disabilities has risen to 37 percent. The Compendium also shows that geography has an impact on employment outcomes for Americans with disabilities. People with disabilities in North Dakota are twice as likely to have jobs as West Virginians with disabilities.

The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium compiles data collected by the Census Bureau. The Compendium is intended to equip policy-makers, self-advocates and others with clear statistics on disability in America today. Out of over 20 million working-age people with disabilities, 7.5 million have jobs. This data also shows the serious gaps that remain between disabled and non-disabled Americans. 37 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community had a job, compared to 77.2 percent for people without disabilities.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Hon. Steve Bartlett, current Chairman of RespectAbility, who co-authored the Americans with Disabilities Act when he was in Congress. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that 111,804 people with disabilities entered the workforce in 2017. That number is down from the previous year’s increase of over 343,000 new jobs for people with disabilities. Different factors explain the slower pace of job growth. A slowing economy is one factor, as is changing patterns of growth in different sectors of the economy. One lesson is clear to Andrew Houtenville, PhD of UNH’s Institute on Disability: “there is still a long way to go toward closing the gap between people with and without disabilities.”

“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” added Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director at RespectAbility. “When you look across the intersection of disability and race, you find serious gaps in outcomes.” Only 28.6 percent of African Americans with disabilities have jobs compared to the 38.6 percent of Hispanics with disabilities and 41.2 percent of Asian Americans with disabilities who have jobs.

Some states have higher employment rates for people with disabilities than others. North Dakota leads the nation with 56.3 percent of its citizens with disabilities employed and is closely followed by South Dakota with a 51.3 percent disability employment rate. One of the biggest surprises in this year’s data is Vermont. Under Gov. Phil Scott, Vermonters with disabilities have seen a 5.7 percent increase in jobs, bumping their employment rate to 47.2 percent. For a full break down of the top 10 states, please see the table below.
 

State Ranking State Total # of Working-Age PWDs # of PWDs Employed Total Job Gains and Losses Disability Employment Rate 
1 ND 37,320 21,019 -2267 56.3
2 SD 49,546 25,419 -904 51.3
3 UT 150,964 74,754 -13 49.5
4 NE 112,418 55,391 2068 49.3
5 MN 305,082 145,697 617 47.8
6 VT 47,113 22,234 1728 47.2
7 KS 191,769 89,069 4807 46.4
8 MT 69,553 31,935 -1484 45.9
9 IA 170,186 77,746 -2670 45.7
10 WY 41,825 19,063 578 45.6

 
Of the 50 states, 29 states saw job gains among the disability community, while people with disabilities lost economic ground in 21 states. Census Bureau data shows an astounding 23,953 Floridians with disabilities gained new jobs. Illinois saw the second biggest job gains for people with disabilities with over 20,000 new jobs even as 50,000 people without disabilities left Illinois’ workforce.

Rhode Island deserves credit for seeing a major turnaround. As reported by RespectAbility, Rhode Island under Gov. Gina Raimondo ranked 47th in the nation last year with an abysmal 30 percent disability employment rate. As a result of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, Rhode Island began to close shelter workshops where people with disabilities had been paid subminimum wages. Through sustained efforts to promote competitive, integrated employment Rhode Islanders with disabilities are now experiencing new success. Over 7,000 people with disabilities entered the workforce in 2017, pushing Rhode Island to stand 19th in the nation. As bipartisan consensus grows around ending subminimum wages, Rhode Island shows that transformative success is possible.

Continue on to RespectAbility.org to read the complete article.

How little person Leah Smith is teaching her average-sized daughter, 2, to love her body

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Leah Smith

Disability rights activist, Leah Smith, learned a lot about her body while growing up as the only little person in a family of average-sized people. Now, as a parent to two average-sized children herself, Smith is doing her part to teach her little girl and boy about loving their bodies no matter what, and using her own experiences to do so.

“I grew up in an average-sized family and I was the only little person, so I do understand that aspect of being different,” Smith shared at the 2019 MAKERS conference on Thursday. “But I think when I first had Hazel [her daughter], I wasn’t sure how it was gonna play out. I didn’t know if well, maybe we don’t understand each other or whatever.”

She and her husband, Joe, faced challenges being first time parents after their daughter was born two and a half years ago. But raising a child who would need to understand both of her parents’ disabilities came with additional pressure — and ultimately led to Smith’s decision that Hazel needed to learn about the importance of body positivity from a very early age in order to embrace difference.

“I have this radical notion that I need to teach her how to completely love her body. And I’ve been amazed that even at 2 how many times she overhears other women talking about how they don’t like their bodies,” she shared, “‘Oh I don’t like my legs, I don’t like my whatever.’ And really trying to send a different message to her.”

That message is one that Smith had to learn the hard way, after coming face-to-face with what made her different. During her first job in retail as a 16-year-old, Smith explained that she encountered blatant discrimination for the first time, and decided that she needed to do something about it.

She and her husband, Joe, faced challenges being first time parents after their daughter was born two and a half years ago. But raising a child who would need to understand both of her parents’ disabilities came with additional pressure — and ultimately led to Smith’s decision that Hazel needed to learn about the importance of body positivity from a very early age in order to embrace difference.

“I have this radical notion that I need to teach her how to completely love her body. And I’ve been amazed that even at 2 how many times she overhears other women talking about how they don’t like their bodies,” she shared, “‘Oh I don’t like my legs, I don’t like my whatever.’ And really trying to send a different message to her.”

That message is one that Smith had to learn the hard way, after coming face-to-face with what made her different. During her first job in retail as a 16-year-old, Smith explained that she encountered blatant discrimination for the first time, and decided that she needed to do something about it.

“People just started thinking that I was in a space that they could just comment on my body openly, and it was the first time that I had ever really faced that,” she explained. “It was the moment that I realized how am I gonna deal with this, how am I gonna move forward? This is obviously a reality, and so how do I not internalize this? How do I not make sure that this doesn’t effect me and what I want to do with the world?”

For Smith, the answer seemed to be within the fashion industry and discovering the ways that she could change it herself. Until she realized that clothing is not the underlying issue.

“I didn’t really understand what I was tackling,” she said of her goal to illustrate that bodies of all types were just as beautiful as the 6-foot standard. “And so, I was determined the finish the degree but then after that I said we’ve got bigger fish to fry. We have got to create a space for us first before we can worry about our clothes.”

Now, Smith is tackling those bigger issues as an activist. But she refuses to neglect the important details, like accessible clothes.

Continue on to YahooNews to read the complete article.

Highlighting African-Americans with Disabilities in Honor of Black History Month

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black-history-month

As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, RespectAbility recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of African-Americans to the United States. It is important to note this includes more than 5.6 million African-Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.4 million of which are working-age African-Americans with disabilities.

Therefore, we would like to reflect on the realities and challenges that continue to shape the lives of African-Americans with disabilities.

Only 28.7 percent of working-age African-Americans with disabilities are employed in the U.S. compared to 72 percent of working-age African-Americans without disabilities. This is in line with the rest of the country, with fully one-in-five Americans having a disability and just 30 percent of those who are working-age being employed, despite polls showing that most of them want to work. This leads to approximately 40 percent of African-Americans with disabilities living in poverty compared to 22 percent of African-Americans without disabilities.

Deafblind lawyer Haben Girma advocates for inclusion in both education and Hollywood.

For many of the 1,199,743 black students (K-12) with disabilities in America today, the deck is stacked against them. Frequently “invisible disabilities” such as ADHD are not diagnosed and students do not get the supports they need to achieve. Frustrated, they can act out and become suspended. African-American students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by suspension in schools, with more than one in four boys of color with disabilities — and nearly one in five girls of color with disabilities — receiving an out-of-school suspension.

Studies show that when students miss too many days, either for being truant or just being absent, they get so far behind in class that it can lead to them dropping out of school. As documented in Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, this can lead to the school-to-prison pipeline. Today there are more than 750,000 people with disabilities behind bars in America. Many of them do not have high school diplomas, are functionally illiterate and are people of color.

Harriet Tubman did not let her epileptic seizures stop her from risking her life to free slaves through the underground railroad.

Overall, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 84 percent of students without disabilities. However, only 57 percent of black students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 74.6 percent of black students without disabilities.

Some celebrities and business leaders are using their voice to share their stories, educating people about both visible and invisible disabilities. They are defying the statistics and have remained highly successful with their disabilities. These role models make a big difference in setting high expectations for youth with disabilities. People with disabilities of all backgrounds can be amongst the highest achievers on earth. Harriet Tubman had Epilepsy, actress Halle Berry lives with diabetes, business leader and Shark Tank superstar Daymond John is dyslexic and Stevie Wonder is blind. Each of them is a positive role model for success. They are perfect candidates for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which is shining a light on individuals with disabilities who are succeeding in their chosen careers.

Continue on to Respectability.org to read the complete article.

Turning the Tassel—Helping people with autism spectrum disorder earn a college degree and be prepared to enter a competitive workforce

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By Rebecca Hansen, Ed.D.

Meet Jeff Staley. Jeff is from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and is currently studying computer and information technology at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Before graduating from Poolesville High School, Jeff earned 15 college credits from coursework in algebra, calculus, analytical geometry, and statistics. Jeff was accepted into The West Virginia Autism Training Center’s College Program for Student’s with Autism Spectrum Disorder following his junior year of high school. For five weeks, between the months of July and August, The College Program hosts a high school summer transition program, in which students who have been accepted by Marshall University take one college class of their choice, live in the residence halls, and participate in social skill development workshops and activities led by peer mentors and mental health counselors.

For the past 10 years, students have reported that this experience helped to ease the transition from high school to college by providing them with newfound self-confidence, autonomy, and understanding of the expectations of advanced learning.

Jeff spent the summer following his junior year of high school earning an additional three college credits in general psychology. During this summer experience, Jeff learned how to balance free time, live away from home, create and maintain peer relationships, and navigate a college landscape. Many people with autism spectrum disorder find comfort and reassurance in experiencing the physical layout of a new environment in advance, guided by a trusted professional who understands how anxiety producing establishing a new routine can be. Proper planning and anticipation of a change in routine can help alleviate the stress and anxiety related to it. The College Program recommends visiting a variety of college campuses to find out the types of supports that may exist to help with academic demands, social opportunities, and residence life needs.

An impressive 94 percent of students who have received services from The College Program have graduated or are currently on track to graduate from Marshall University.

Jeff Staley
The College Program provides individualized skill building and therapeutic supports to degree seeking students with Autism Spectrum Disorder through a mentored environment while navigating a college experience at Marshall University.

The College Program is dedicated to create safe spaces for people with autism spectrum disorder throughout campus, in the community, and on the job. The College Program’s Allies Supporting Autism Spectrum Diversity movement works to educate people who wish to provide a safe and accepting environment for individuals living with autism spectrum disorder. The one-hour training provides participants with the opportunity to better understand challenges with social communication and provides practical ways in which to best communicate with someone on the autism spectrum. Many people are still afraid to talk to someone with autism because they don’t know what to say or how to best interact. Our advice? Don’t shy away. Invest time in learning more about how autism affects someone’s daily life. Oftentimes, they will thank you for it. Knowledge decreases the fear factor and leads to an environment where everyone can experience a life of quality.

People with autism, such as Jeff, can feel empowered by talking about how the disorder affects daily life. These conversations are at the crux of creating an inclusive campus culture. Neurodiversity is becoming better understood and sought after on campuses throughout the nation and beyond the graduation stage as employers are now seeking to hire people with autism. Employers are beginning to see the benefits of hiring someone with autism because they have established creative interviewing practices so that the candidate’s skill set is emphasized over their potential inability to maintain small talk.

Every June, for three weekdays, The College Program offers an employment preparedness workshop where participants have the opportunity to learn more about the job search process, cover letter and resume development, the proper use of social media, issues surrounding disclosure, self-advocacy skills, finance management, and the importance of networking. A panel of local employers from a variety of businesses and non-profit sectors participate to share the necessary skills to obtain and maintain employment. The College Program recognizes the importance of meaningful employment and the need that exists for practical information to assist students as they transition into more independent adults. What to learn more about Jeff? Check out marshall.edu/collegeprogram/employment-preparedness and watch the six-minute video about the Employment Preparedness Workshop.

To learn more about how to become an ally, participate in the employment preparedness workshop, or to apply to The College Program, please visit marshall.edu/collegeprogram or call 304-696-2332.

One woman on coping with blindness and arthritis: ‘Joy is a choice’

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Joy Ross

Although many assume that arthritis is synonymous with old age, Joy Ross, who is a speaker and has a YouTube channel with 88,000 followers, wants people to know that there’s more than one type of arthritis — and the condition can affect younger people as well.

The mother of two was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at just 3 years old. She also has uveitis, a form of eye inflammation, which left her with limited vision and, eventually, left her blind.“Many assume arthritis is an old person’s disease that affects the joints, but arthritis can also cause a loss of eyesight,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

For Ross, coping with arthritis has come with its fair share of depression, but she manages to use social media platforms like YouTube to help inspire and uplift others. And although vlogging is something she never intended to do, the response to her channel has been overwhelmingly positive.Videos on the channel offer a glimpse into Ross’s life as a blind woman living with arthritis, as she has posted videos about her family and her guide dog, Antonia, and how she navigates daily life.

“I make videos about my life and how to live through joy,” she says. “I think people are drawn to the realness of it, as I am not sugarcoating any of my experiences.” Simple day-to-day tasks can be very challenging for Ross. She shares that the fatigue from arthritis can be both debilitating and overwhelming. Choosing outfits and styling her hair are equally taxing, but she explains that clothing that is easy to put on, such as leggings, boots, and slip-on shoes, and a flat-iron brush for her hair can be lifesavers when her hands are aching.

Sadly, Ross’s two daughters, Giorgianna and Isabella, whom she shares with her husband, George, have inherited juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Ross has tried to stay strong for her family, saying that her faith and positive attitude is what makes her a walking example for her own children.

Continue on to Yahoo lifestyle news to read the complete article.

A Love Lesson Unlike Any Other

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By Santura Pegram

For most people, determining which is the greatest of Maslow’s five hierarchy of needs is debatable. However, what cannot be contested is the power of real love when you find it, embrace it, are blessed with cultivating it, and can share it.

Coincidentally, the famous words of American novelist Tom Robbins couldn’t have said it better than when he poignantly expressed how “we waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.” Sadly, far too many people expend a vast amount of their lifetime trying to do just that – “looking for,” instead of “creating,” the essence of what true love really is and whether or not they’ve ever had it (or the potential for it) right under their own nose.

For one South Florida couple, they epitomize what this often-taken-for-granted need truly means.

On the outside, just a few short years ago Kayleigh Ferguson-Walker and Ramon Ferguson-Walker appeared like any other couple in love: comical and jovial most of the time, apprehensive although dreamy-eyed at others. Yet, on the inside, since they’ve known each other they have always shared an uncommon bond of unselfish mutual support that transcends selfish trivial materialistic desires; a rare trait absent in most relationships today. And, they are two incredible people who have been – and continue to be – tested far beyond what the average human mind can imagine, let alone endure. Although Kayleigh nor Ramon want anyone to feel sorry for her, no one should ever allow themselves to think or feel life is so bad for yourself, because if Kayleigh and Ramon can rise above such a life-altering challenge, then surely you, too, can overcome adversity with prayer, time and grace.

Kaleigh Ferguson-Walker
Kayleigh Ferguson-Walker with husband Ramon (pictured right) and Santura Pegram

Kayleigh, the 32-year old wife to Ramon and mother of their beautiful young daughter, Aaliyah, has undoubtedly endured more than her share of unfortunate circumstances that most people would likely have given up hope on altogether. Amazingly, NOT Kayleigh or Ramon Ferguson-Walker. Unlike most people, this couple is learning what it means to “digest ‘no’ responses as vitamins” and use other people’s unspoken doubts about her to prove what someone with an indomitable spirit can overcome – with teammates like their Heavenly Father quarterbacking her life and Ramon leading her defensive game plan.

Tragically, in early 2017, the Ferguson-Walker’s endured a series of unimaginable events that completely changed their lives forever. Pregnant at the time, Kayleigh unexpectedly developed complications which led to not only the loss of her unborn baby due to contracting a serious infection which triggered a diagnosis of sepsis, but also the loss of both of Kayleigh’s own arms and both legs as a result. Quite a sacrifice for merely seeking to have a (second) baby. Despite all of that, through her unwavering faith in God, her inspiring love for life, her unyielding love for her husband and family, as well as her incredible love for people in general, Kayleigh has transformed into not only becoming a human testimony of what our Higher Power is capable of doing in spite of, but together, her and Ramon are also becoming the classic example for what true love and a fully-committed relationship looks like despite the most extreme conditions.

Now, a little over one year after the ordeal that would forever change their lives while simultaneously continuing to test their faith in God and each other, Kayleigh is continuing to heal and decipher God’s strange purpose for her life. What  seems to be unexplainable to most people is clear to Kayleigh and Ramon: God has His hands on them both and she has an eye-opening message that will captivate any audience despite her lingering challenges from her tragic ordeal.

Kayleigh holding her daughter Aaliyah

While recently seated next to Ramon and asked her perspective on the translation of life and love, a smiling Kayleigh gleefully conveyed, “For love, I see it as unconditional for Ramon and Aaliyah. Personally, my heart is not all mine; it is divided for the three of us so that anything I do pertains to my family. My life revolves around my family (particularly my husband and daughter) so my beliefs come from the guidance of God who directs me and helps me as a wife and mother.”

Adoringly, when asked what his thoughts were to the same question, Ramon expressed, “Our lives are meant for each other. The love that we share is not an emotion or feeling. It’s who we are in Christ, because he is love. The essence of everything comes from love. It is where we come from, who we really are, what we are made of. And, this is my wife and daughter. My family is my love and my life. They are a direct reflection of who God is in me.”

Although their spiritual strength and love for each other has helped them navigate through most storms thus far, the kind deeds of other people are just as important. Thankfully, while a previous GoFundMe campaign was created on her behalf to offset mounting costs not covered by insurance for expensive ongoing medical procedures and prosthetic limbs, a newly-launched separate initiative known as the Kayleigh Ferguson-Walker Homebuilding Fund seeks to raise contributions for the construction of an ADA-compliant, one-level, Ranch-style home that will be equipped with ‘Smart Home Technology’ enabling her to control most things by her voice.

Donations to help the ‘Kayleigh Ferguson-Walker Homebuilding Fund can be made online at: fundly.com/the-kayleigh-ferguson-walker-home-building-fund. Plans also include seeking for donations to go towards an education fund and hopeful donation of a new vehicle from any major auto manufacturer that will be modified for her to drive again and resume a life as close to normalcy as possible once she’s equipped with prosthetic limbs.

The resilient little woman with a phenomenal spirit and her uncommonly caring soulmate-best friend-lifetime partner are certain to touch countless lives over the course of time. If you haven’t heard of them before now, you will soon. They’re the humble couple who can teach people twice their age and/or other millennials alike what bulletproof love, genuine respect, and selfless commitment is all about. They’re living a love lesson unlike any other. A beautiful one indeed.

STEM Professor Receives Award to Study Technologies for Disability Community

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Ashley Shew standing on porch with arm around pillar smiling

By Leslie King

The trichotillomania bracelet looks unassuming, just like any other smart technology worn around the wrist. But rather than counting steps or heartbeats, it serves another purpose.

The wristlet vibrates an alarm when it tracks the user subconsciously beginning to pull out strands of hair. For those with trichotillomania, instead of following the compulsion to yank out their hair, the wireless device helps them notice the gestures and change their behavior.

This tool, along with other technologies for the disability community, intrigues Ashley Shew, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Science, Technology, and Society. In July 2018, she received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award that will allow her to investigate the personal accounts of people with disabilities, as well as their opinions of the technologies designed for them.

The prestigious honor, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education, is better known as the CAREER award.

“I’m interested in the storylines that disabled people tell about their bodies and how their relationships with technology differ from popular and dominant narratives we have in our society,” said Shew, who herself identifies as disabled.

Her research focuses on discrepancies between how scientists and engineers understand and explain their work related to disability and the actual needs and wants of people with disabilities. Shew said there is a disconnect between media-based depictions and reality within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and technology design.

“This means people aren’t always designing with real users in mind, but with ideas about what users want based on the entertainment media,” she said. “This is problematic because nondisabled people create and depict disabled people. There is little authentic disability representation in the media, so all these media-driven narratives about technology get fed into engineering.”

Shew cites several misleading media-supported tropes. Negative stereotypes encourage the public to view disabled people with pity, as sinners or fakers, or as resource burdens. And while the trichotillomania bracelet is small and unobtrusive, many technologies, such as wheelchairs or exoskeletons, are not. Some people who could benefit from viable supportive devices might shy away from them to avoid public skepticism or castigation.

And the reverse depictions are just as misrepresentative.

“There are also tropes about inspiration and courage,” Shew said. “The one people lean on, which I’ll be assessing through this grant, involves a focus on inspiration and courage, along the lines of, ‘You’re such an inspiration because you’re disabled in public.’ If you’re not inspiring, you’re courageous to overcome what you’re overcoming. If we believe you’re truly disabled, then if you’re out having a regular life, you’re considered heroic in ways that don’t map onto real life at all.”

Designers often create technologies with this trope in mind. An example of this is a surge of 3D-printed hands for young amputees. Marketed with terms such as “superhero” hands or arms, the branding presents these children as different from people without disabilities. Shew describes this phenomenon as techno-ableism, when technology makers try to empower others with helpful tools but use rhetoric that has the opposite effect. As part of her CAREER award, Shew will publish a book about this phenomenon.

Shew will also seek to counter unrealistic portrayals of people with disabilities by educating creators of disability technologies. Her research will incorporate interviews, memoirs, and the compilation of existing materials into classroom public outreach, an open-access website, and a textbook to complement existing STEM educational resources.

Shew is collaborating with Alexander Leonessa and Raffaella De Vita, associate professors in the College of Engineering, who have also received CAREER awards. In 2019, she will work with them through Virginia Tech’s STEMABILTY, a summer camp for students with disabilities.

A Virginia Tech faculty member since 2011, Shew received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2017 and a Diversity Award in 2016, both from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Also in 2016, she received the Sally Bohland Award for Excellence in Access and Inclusion from the Virginia Tech office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Shew co-edited Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology with Joseph Pitt, a Virginia Tech professor of philosophy. She is also the author of Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge, published by Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

Shew is the fourth faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award in the past several years.

Source: vtnews.vt.edu

 

Northrop Grumman Named a 2018 “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” and Receives the “Employer of the Year: Inspire Award”

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Northrop+Grumman+VOICE+members

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has received the highest ranking for the fourth year in a row on the Disability Equality Index (DEI), and it received the Employer of the Year: Inspire Award, recognizing the company for its exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measureable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain.

The DEI is an initiative between the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN (formerly the US Business Leadership Network), jointly designed by disability advocates and business leaders and it is a trusted, comprehensive benchmarking tool for disability inclusion. The Index measures key performance indicators across organizational culture, leadership, accessibility, employment, community engagement, support services and supplier diversity.

Northrop Grumman received the Employer of the Year: Inspire Award for being a top employer for advancing its disability inclusion journey and strategies and practices that have produced measurable success in many areas. The award recognized the leadership of Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer and the company’s self-identification campaign launched in 2014, the centralized workplace accommodations online request portal and the case management system program started in 2015.

In the 2017 DEI ranking, the company’s Victory Over Impairment and Challenge Enterprise (VOICE) employee resource group was recognized with a Disability:IN leadership award as the program which most exemplifies strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in the area of disability inclusion in the workplace. Northrop Grumman’s VOICE organization strives to develop a sense of community and empowerment among individuals with disabilities (both apparent and non-apparent), advocates and employees with family members with a disability.

“We are very pleased with our progress on disability inclusion and the success of our programs,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of global corporate responsibility, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Our senior leadership commitment and the involvement of our employees have helped us to create a work environment that values diversity and inclusion and employees with disabilities are an important component of our diverse population.”

Northrop Grumman Named a 2018 “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” and Receives the “Employer of the Year: Inspire Award”
Sandra Evers-Manly (center), Northrop Grumman vice president of global corporate responsibility, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation, receives the Inspire Award, for being a Top Employer for advancing disability inclusion strategies and practices. Presenting the award were Ben-Saba Hasan, senior vice president and chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer, Walmart Inc. (left); and Jill Houghton, president and chief executive officer of Disability:IN.

Northrop Grumman actively seeks to attract and retain employees of all abilities because of the value they bring to the workplace. Some initiatives include an online accommodation tool for requests and case tracking; increased accessibility of our website, including the careers section; expanded accessibility at our locations; and adoption of a more focused approach for posting job requisitions with disability related job boards.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) program, which was created in 2005, provides personalized placement assistance, community outreach and workplace accommodations for severely injured service members transitioning to civilian employment. In 2009 Northrop Grumman established the Operation IMPACT Network of Champions, a group of more than 110 companies and partners that share job candidates, best practices and create wider opportunities for veterans with disabilities.

More information on the Disability:IN and AAPD rankings can be found here: https://www.disabilityequalityindex.org/top_companies

Third year in a row Northrop Grumman has been recognized by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) for its exemplary disability hiring and employment practices

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been named a 2018 National Organization on Disability Leading Disability Employer™ for its leadership in disability hiring and its commitment to building a disability inclusive workforce.

NOD Leading Disability Employers are chosen based on data furnished by the companies in response to the NOD Disability Employment Tracker™, a confidential assessment that benchmarks companies’ disability inclusion programs for climate and culture; people practices; talent sourcing; workplace and technology; and strategy and metrics. Results from the tracker are prioritized based on historic disability employment outcomes and percentage of people with disabilities in their workforce.

“Technology companies succeed or fail based on the intellectual capital we recruit and retain,” said Wes Bush, chairman and chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman. “Individuals with disabilities comprise a resource of incredible value and they add an important aspect to the diversity of the global workforce. It is vital for the business community to understand the extraordinary value of this talent pool.”

In August, Northrop Grumman received the highest ranking for the fourth year in a row on the Disability Equality Index, a ranking produced by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN. The company also received their Employer of the Year award for significant policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measureable results in disability inclusiveness in the workplace.

“Northrop Grumman actively seeks to attract and retain employees of all abilities because of the value they bring to the workplace,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of global corporate responsibility, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Our senior leadership commitment and the involvement of our employees have helped us to create a work environment that values diversity and inclusion and employees with disabilities are an important component of our diverse population.”

Some Northrop Grumman initiatives supporting employees with disabilities include an online accommodation tool for requests and case tracking; increased accessibility of our website, including the careers section; expanded accessibility at our locations; and adoption of a more focused approach for posting job requisitions with disability related job boards.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) program, which was created in 2005, provides personalized placement assistance, community outreach and workplace accommodations for severely injured service members transitioning to civilian employment. In 2009, Northrop Grumman established the Operation IMPACT Network of Champions, a group of 90 companies and partners that share job candidates, best practices and create wider opportunities for veterans with disabilities.

NOD is a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 80 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. For more information visit www.NOD.org.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. Please visit news.northropgrumman.com and follow us on Twitter, @NGCNews, for more information.

For a Brighter Future—Advocate Stevie Wonder still keeping the dream alive

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Stevie Wonder performs onstage during The Stevie Wonder Song Party at The Peppermint Club

By Erica Sabino

The world may know Stevie Wonder as a legendary musical artist, but not everyone is aware of the many ways in which he influences the community beyond sharing his love for music. While music does play a big part in his life, the 25-time GRAMMY Award winner’s impact reaches way beyond the music industry and the people who listen to his work.

He may be a celebrity, but Stevie Wonder is one famous figure who uses his popularity to influence positive change in the world for all people, for generations to come.

Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. Born prematurely, he experienced complications with the growth of blood vessels in his retinas, causing his blindness. That, however, did not hinder the child prodigy from learning to play multiple instruments at a young age. From the harmonica to the drums to the piano, Stevie taught himself how to play them all before he reached the age of 10. He was also singing in his church choir by that time.

Stevie’s entrance to the music industry did not begin until he was discovered by singer and songwriter Ronnie White of The Miracles. He was then introduced to Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, was given an audition, and later signed to the record label. It was Gordy who dubbed Stevie “Little Stevie Wonder,” which was changed to “Stevie Wonder” as he grew older.

And what a wonder he was. According to his biography in Rolling Stone, “[Stevie’s] third single, ‘Fingertips (Part 2)’ was a number 1 pop and R&B hit eight months later. Both on records and in live shows, he was featured playing harmonica, drums, piano, and organ, as well as singing—sometimes all in one number. During his first three years in show business, Wonder was often compared to Ray Charles—much was made of the fact that both were blind.”

Stevie Wonder, sons Kailand Morris and Mandla Morris, and designer Kai Milla attend the 4th Annual Kailand Obasi Hoop-Life Fundraiser at USC
Recording artist Stevie Wonder, sons Kailand Morris and Mandla Morris, and designer Kai Milla attend the 4th Annual Kailand Obasi Hoop-Life Fundraiser (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

But Stevie’s brilliance was his own. As he broke out into his career, Wonder became self-sufficient inthe studio—writing his own music, playing his own instruments and even producing his own work. Noted in his Rolling Stone biography, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered singer also distinguished himself with music and lyrics “with such socially conscious subjects as ghetto hardship and political disenfranchisement.” It was not surprising that he was a lifelong advocate of nonviolent political change patterned after Martin Luther King Jr.

Stevie met Martin Luther King Jr. at a rally when he was just 15 years old. Three years following MLK’s assassination, Stevie joined in the decade-long movement to pass a bill that would make King’s birthday a national holiday. He composed the song “Happy Birthday,” which became a rallying song for the initiative. According to journalist Marcus Baram in an article at Cuepoint on Medium.com, “Wonder put his career on hold, led rallies from coast to coast, and galvanized millions of Americans with his passion and integrity.”

“Why should I be involved in this great cause?” Wonder asked as he addressed the crowd at an MLK rally. “As an artist, my purpose is to communicate the message that can better improve the lives of all of us.”

Through his career, Stevie Wonder created a platform to not only share his talents but also make a difference and inspire others to do the same. His many accomplishments can be attributed to his drive, his perseverance, and his determination, both as a musician and an advocate for the causes he believes in.

A true philanthropist, Stevie Wonder promotes AIDS awareness, donates to humanitarian relief efforts, and holds an annual House Full of Toys benefit concert to provide toys for children in need. Wonder has also worked on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Junior Blind of America and the creation of the Wonder Vision Awards Program.

Zucchero, James Taylor, Trudie Styler, Elton John,Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Shawn Colvin, & Sting at the Carnegie Hall in New York, New York
Zucchero, James Taylor, Trudie Styler, Elton John,Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Shawn Colvin, & Sting at the Carnegie Hall in New York, New York (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

In 2009, Wonder was named a UN Messenger of Peace, with a focus on persons with disabilities by the United Nations in 2009. At the news conference to announce his new position, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had this to say of Wonder: “I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights, and to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Stevie Wonder is a true inspiration to young people all over the world about what can be achieved, despite any physical limitations.” In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Wonder the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Wonder was asked by The Guardian if he had ever considered “that it’s his ‘disadvantages’—being born blind and black—that have made him what he is.” To this, the award-winning artist responded, “You know, it’s funny, but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage. I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically—I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and make something out of it.”

Stevie has found success both on and off the stage. Whether he is going on Twitter to encourage people to share their dreams, performing at the dedication ceremony of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, attending a conference to learn about assistive technologies for the blind or visually impaired, or advocating for an international disabilities treaty, Wonder has continuously taken steps to make a positive impact with everything he does.

In 2013, Stevie met with young Viet Nam’s Got Talent singer Crystal (real name: Nguyen Phoung Anh) at the United Nations General Assembly to push jointly for greater inclusion for children with disabilities. Crystal, now 21, became a singing sensation when she auditioned for the popular show in 2012. She was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or “glass-bone disease,” a genetic disorder causing fragile bones. “My bones have broken 30 times or more,” she says. “We stopped counting, because we thought it didn’t matter anymore.” The 16-year-old adds, “Crystal is my alter ego, because it is fragile and shiny.”

“No one should be excluded because they’re blind, or because of any disability or because of their status or their color,” Wonder said. “We cannot allow our differences to let our fear put dreams to sleep.”

In 2017, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announced the presentation of the first Key of Life award to Stevie Wonder for his groundbreaking “contributions to the world through his music.” According to the association, future recipients of this honor will be given to “songwriters and composers who best exemplify [Stevie’s] legacy through their commitment to the art form he elevated through his talent, dedication and unparalleled heart.”

Stevie Wonder is a man who is driven by his beliefs. “You need to put your heart into making a difference,” Stevie told The Guardian. Upon receiving his key of Life Award, Wonder had this to say about an artist’s social power: “There’s always power in the work… So those of us who have been blessed with the gift of expression, don’t be afraid to express your truth. But do it with love. When you think about it, music is probably the most integrated thing that we have. We’re all influenced by each other.”

With Stevie, it’s not just his music that inspires others but also the man that he is. His actions and words go hand in hand in nurturing a movement to help make the world a kinder place. He has become a true inspiration for people all over the world.

MTV to Chronicle Disability Activist’s Quest to Travel Into Space

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Eddie Ndopu

Eddie Ndopu wants to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space. MTV will follow a South African activist on his quest to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space.

Eddie Ndopu, 27, was born with spinal muscular atrophy and given a life span of five years. He has obviously exceeded that, going on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Oxford and has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of disabled young people.

Now Ndopu is hoping to travel to space and deliver a message from above Earth to the U.N. General Assembly, sending “a powerful message on behalf of young people everywhere who have ever felt excluded by society.” MTV cameras will follow him as he enlists an aerospace company to facilitate the mission and chronicle his thoughts and emotions as the launch approaches. The cabler will also document his voyage and message to the United Nations.

The project was announced ahead of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities on Dec. 3.

Continue on to The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.