7 Tips to Help Mentally Overcome an Employment Gap

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woking working on her resume attached to a clipboard

Here’s advice on overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create before they sabotage your job search, from those who’ve been there.

William Childs loves his new job. He is Marketing Director at Kitchen Magic, a growing national kitchen remodeling and cabinet refacing company. “This job is a creative person’s dream. The product, the people, the collaborative ideas we are generating, it’s totally amazing,” Childs says. “This is what I spent my 14-month employment gap searching for, and I am so glad I didn’t give up on my career goals.”

Employment gaps do not define you

According to a recent Randstad U.S. study, the average job search today takes about five months. When Childs was laid off late in 2017 from an executive-level marketing job, he did not anticipate a longer-than-average employment gap. He explained: “When my old job was eliminated, it was the first time in many years that I had no specific job to go to next. I had always benefited from people just knowing me and my work, so starting from scratch while unemployed felt pretty weird.” When a few leads at the beginning of his job search didn’t materialize, he felt a bit demoralized.

According to a 2019 Monster survey, 59 percent of Americans have had an unexpected gap in their career. For a lot of people looking for jobs with a gap on their resume, there can be internalized feelings of shame, says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist, CEC-certified executive coach, and author of “The YOU Plan.” “Shame puts on a lot of added pressure to an already stressful time, which can lead to obsession,” Dr. Woody explains. “Don’t victimize yourself over a lost job or a failure in the past. It can be debilitating.” He advises readers to recognize their setback as just that, a setback — then deal with it and move on to better things.

Childs did keep moving forward. He designed an online portfolio and kept adding to it during his hiatus by taking on freelance work. He wrote for an online magazine and volunteered his talents to local non-profit groups. A year into his search, he took an advertising sales job as he continued to apply for positions. “The sales job was what I needed to do financially, and what I needed to do for my own piece of mind,” he reflects. “I was earning income, learning, and connecting with people. It helped me a lot.”

While he did not give up on finding an innovative executive marketing position, Childs needed ways to stay focused and positive on his continued career search. When it comes to overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create, the following advice can help keep you more focused, motivated, and confident.

1. Honesty really is the best policy

Susan is happily employed in Reno, Nevada at The Slumber Yard, a specialty online clearinghouse of reviews, comparisons, and deals for mattresses and bedding products. Prior to taking the job last year, this mattress review specialist (whose name has been changed for this piece) had left the workforce to care for her young son after he was injured in a serious accident. When she was ready to re-enter the workforce, Susan crafted a very targeted resume and cover letter that succinctly addressed her employment gap. Still, the two-year pause in her career had her a little nervous. “I wasn’t exactly sure what the job market would be like for me,” she remembers.

“Her resume had everything we were looking for, and when she told me why she had a gap in her employment history, her honesty really impressed me,” says Matthew Ross, The Slumber Yard’s Co-Founder and COO. Ross immediately called Susan in for an interview. “Her experience and knowledge of our industry are what got her the job. But, the way that she explained her employment gap really showed her character, both as a person and as a professional.”

You can explain your employment gap without oversharing, says Dick Lively, Partner and HR Consulting Director at RAI Resources in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “On a resume or in a cover letter, saying you took time to care for a family member who was ill or that you relocated across the country for your spouse’s job should be enough detail. Keep it professional but not too personal,” he says. It is also OK to exclude a gap explanation from the resume altogether, so long as you are prepared to address it during the interview if you are asked. Just don’t make something up. “At the end of the day, the truth always comes out, explains Lively. “You don’t want to face a potential employer or a new boss and try to explain why you lied.”

2. Don’t stop networking

Your first instinct may be to hide away until you have a new job, but that will not help your efforts. In fact, it might even hurt them. Keeping your name and face out there can help you get an introduction to a hiring manager. Plus, it’s great practice for interviews. “For me, I talked about the creative process and exchanged ideas; it helped me formulate how to best present myself as a job candidate,” says Childs.

Lively suggests that you don’t wait too long after your last job ends to start networking: “It is not only important to get your name out there and to hear about jobs that may be coming up through the grapevine,” he explains. “You also need to talk shop and connect with people. The longer you wait, the less confident you may feel. Interpersonal skills need to be kept sharp, just like any other skill.” That said, it is OK to take a few days or even a couple of weeks after your last job ends to regain your composure before you start networking. The last thing you want to do is get emotional about your job loss in front of your professional connections.

3. Expand your network

As valuable as your tried-and-true network of professional connections is, Dr. Woody cautions that you shouldn’t always drink from the same well when you are trying to find a new job. “Always networking with the same group of people can put blinders on your job search or create an echo chamber where you keep repeating the same steps that aren’t working anymore.”

Expanding his network definitely helped Childs. “Learning about new businesses and how they do things and connecting with new people is very inspiring,” he says. Telling new people a bit about yourself helps remind you about your talents and experience. You don’t know what else is out there if you don’t ever mix things up.

4. Own your truth

“You can, and should, use a positive spin when talking about your experiences,” says Childs. During an interview or a phone screening, don’t try to hide what caused your employment gap. Don’t complain or point fingers either. Tell your story concisely and truthfully, ending with what you learned or what you have gained since. When Childs interviewed with his new employer, he was prepared to lay his cards on the table when the question came up about his resume gap. His honest, three-sentence elevator speech consisted of:

  1. I was laid off when my department was eliminated.
  2. I am now doing advertising sales. It’s not me, but it’s a job, and I am proud of the quality of work I do.
  3. I have learned a lot about customer service through this sales experience, and I can apply that knowledge to my next marketing and creative position.

Dr. Woody believes this kind of planning is invaluable: “Preparation builds confidence. Working on your narrative reminds you that you have talent and have a lot to offer an employer. Taking time to boil it down to a concise summary instills it in your mind. This is who you are.”

5. Keep up a motivating routine

For years, Childs has emailed daily “Thought Bombs” to colleagues and friends. These are quotes he has collected on creativity, inspiration, and business integrity. Throughout his 14-month job search, he committed himself to continuing this morning ritual. “It got me up and thinking, ready for the day,” he says. “On my worst days, I would tell myself, ‘All I gotta do is get out of bed and deliver the Thought Bomb,’ and it really helped me get moving.”

“I really love this,” says Dr. Woody. “He used this routine to get himself into the right mindset each day. He had a purpose that was of value to his mailing list, and the discipline it took to do this daily task set his whole day in positive motion.” For other people, the routine could be mediation, exercise, journaling, or some other daily ritual.

6. Concentrate on the connection

Childs kept himself well-versed in the current ideas and trends in his field. His knowledge and passion for his work inevitably crept into his cover letters and interviews. “People are much more engaged with stories that are filled with excitement, passion, and personality,” says Childs. “Bragging and standard-issue talking points get stale quickly, but if you can connect with someone about what truly motivates and inspires you, they won’t forget you.”

Coming across as arrogant or whiny is a red flag for employers, notes Dr. Woody. But sharing insights and understanding about your field is a way to help them envision working with you. It also helps them put your employment gap into perspective in relation to your qualifications and talent. He explains: “People remember more about how you made them feel than about the specifics of what you said.”

Continue on to Top Resume to read the complete article.

Born This Way Actress Shatters Disability Stigma

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Cristina Sanz poses on red carpet

Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. In 2016, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability as part of an ensemble cast to be on an Emmy award-winning show.

In 2018, she shattered stigmas by getting married to her longtime fiancé Angel Callahan.

The two already had been dating for five years before the show premiered. Their desire to live an independent life together—and get married—was a consistent plot line throughout the show. The first season ended with their engagement; the fourth season finale was an hour-long episode featuring the wedding between these two individuals with developmental disabilities.

“I wanted to show everyone that you can have a disability and get married,” Sanz told People magazine.

Her wedding, moving out on her own and working at two jobs are things her parents never imagined as Cristina was growing up.

“I will not wake up waiting for my daughter to come back from a date like my mother did for me,” her mother, Beatriz Sanz, said she used to think. But Sanz was the first of her siblings to get married.

While studies show many people within the Hispanic and other communities do not publicly discuss their own or a child’s disability due to negative stigmas, Sanz and her parents lead by example by allowing television viewers to watch her life unfold on TV. Therefore, she is an important example of RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which features people with disabilities who succeed in their chosen career.

When disability is depicted in pop culture, it tends to be all white. Real storytelling requires exploring people of all backgrounds. In addition, far too many Hispanics and Latinos in America who have a developmental disability are not receiving the diagnosis, school accommodations and high expectations they need to succeed. Today, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school, and only 7 percent complete college.

“[Born This Way] tells our stories, our dreams,” Sanz said. “People can see that our lives are most of the time very typical. People with disabilities have jobs, fall in love, have businesses and enjoy time with friends.”

Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Harriet Tubman had epilepsy, performer Selena Gomez lives with lupus, business leader and Shark Tank superstar Barbara Corcoran is dyslexic and gymnast Simone Biles has ADHD. Each of them, like Sanz, is a positive role model for success.

Sanz works for her dad’s school as well as at a senior center. Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Celebrities like Sanz are making a difference.

“What Cristina really inspired us, is that we want to focus on the abilities of everybody—not what people can’t do, but what they can do,” Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project, said.

Source: respectability.org

High-Tech Jobs for the Neurodiverse

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image of wheels cranking with man holding cell phone in his hand

Expandability, a not-for-profit division of Goodwill of Silicon Valley, uses a neurodiverse set of professionals to operate its innovative employment program, Neurodiversity Pathways, formerly called Autism Advantage. The organization increases accessibility to high-tech jobs for neurodivergent individuals, many of whom are on the autism spectrum.

Neurodiversity advocates promoting support systems (such as inclusion-focused services, accommodations, communication and assistive technologies, occupational training, and independent living support) that allow those who are neurodivergent to live their lives as they are, rather than being coerced or forced to adopt uncritically accepted ideas of normality, or to conform to a clinical ideal.

Designed for underemployed or unemployed neurodiverse adults who hold or are working toward a two- or four-year degree (or equiva-lent), the program equips them with workplace and personal effectiveness skills needed to succeed in today’s work environment. Neurodiversity Pathways also supports and educates employers across industries including financial services, networking, security, and enterprise software, on the value of hiring neurodiverse candidates.

Expandability used a $50,000 grant from Symantec Corporation to enhance its program and extend its reach. Cecily Joseph, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, said, “The Expandability program provides crucial access to high-tech jobs for a group of tremendously skilled people within our community, who are often underrepresented by traditional hiring practices.”

Building on previous success, the Neurodiversity Pathways program makes a direct connection between employers and neurodivergent individuals, while also raising awareness in the community to their unique skillsets. To ensure success, the program trains hiring managers and their teams on how to create an inclusive environment. Continuing to build best practices and engagement will bring more employers and candidates to the program and increase employment opportunities.

“Expandability has a unique opportunity to address a need often overlooked,” said Trish Dorsey, Executive Director of Expandability. “Employers are looking for strong technical talent to fill critical roles. Talented people on the autism spectrum can help fill this gap. With Symantec’s generous grant, we can provide training and make corporate connections that are not afforded with traditional education and recruiting processes.”

For more information, visit ndpathways.org.

What is DOBE Certification?

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women in wheelchair looking at laptop held in her lap

The Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) certification is granted to businesses that are at least 51 percent owned, operated, controlled, and managed by a person with a disability. With this certification, disability-owned businesses have increased access to contracts offered by large corporations and market advantages over competitors.

As a group that is considered to be “disadvantaged” in the United States, disability-owned businesses are often more attractive to large businesses involved in national, state, and local supply chains.

Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion

Disabilities come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just like business owners. Though many people tend to view disabilities as an obstacle, these traits are unique and special, setting a disabled individual above others. For business owners with disabilities, this distinction is an asset within the corporate world. A ‘disadvantage’ can become a positive advantage, letting business owners join a diverse global supply chain where every voice can be heard and possibilities are endless.

Why Get Certified?

Disability:IN created the Disability Supplier Diversity Program to help disability-owned businesses expand through a diverse supply chain. By certifying your business, you have access to increased resources and a more level playing field than non-certified disadvantaged business owners. Disability:IN offers supplier events, webinars, monthly teleconferences, better business opportunities, a scholarship program, and a Mentoring & Business Development Program to help you better your business opportunities and operations.

Large companies and corporations are becoming increasingly interested in creating diverse supply chains, which opens several opportunities for diverse businesses. Adding a certification to your business can also improve your reputation within your industry, community, and network, making your company more attractive to individuals and businesses alike. The DOBE certification opens the door to networking and matchmaking events throughout the country, allowing you to make connections and relationships with important corporate contacts.

How to Get Certified

To certify your company through Disability:IN, you must meet specific requirements. Read through the questions below to see if you qualify for a DOBE certification:

  • Do you have a physical and/or mental disability that substantially impairs one or more major life activities?
  • Do you own a majority (at least 51%) of your business? Can you verify this through supporting financial and business documents?
  • Is your business independent and not significantly reliant on another business for day-to-day operations?
  • Are you involved in the day-to-day operations and management of your company, including decision making?
  • Are you able and willing to submit the business and financial information required by the USBLN? This information will be used to evaluate your eligibility for this certification and will be confidentially reviewed in a secure, permanent environment.

Are you interested in increasing your access to business dealings with private sector corporations who want to do business with DOBE-certified businesses?

Sources: connxus.com, disabilityin.com

Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE)

A business that is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a person(s) with a disability.

Veteran–Disability Owned Business Enterprise (V–DOBE)

A business that is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a veteran, but disability was not incurred during their time of service.

Service-Disabled Veteran–Disability Owned Business Enterprise (SDV–DOBE)

A business that is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a veteran, who sustained their disability during their time of service.

If you are ready and interested in pursuing this certification, start the process by completing the application offered by the Disability:IN.

Source : disabilityin.com

Tips for People with Disabilities Starting a Business

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man sitting at desk in a wheelchair wearing a business suit

By Larry Mager

Small business ownership gives people with disabilities an exciting opportunity to have more flexibility in their work—wiggle room that is often unavailable through traditional employment.

Starting a business with chronic pain, a mobility issue, a visual impairment, or another type of disability comes with its own set of unique challenges, however. Here are ideas on the type of businesses that you could benefit from pursuing, in addition to tips on how start a business without taking attention away from your personal needs.

Don’t Start From Scratch
If you want to start a business, but don’t want to start from square one, consider opening a franchise. This will lessen the risk, and allow you to have access to existing branding and other assets. Owning a franchise has a numerous benefits for an entrepreneur with a disability, including already-established branding, marketing efforts, and guaranteed assistance when it comes to construction, repairs, and staffing. This can be an especially smart path for veterans with disabilities who want to run their own business but don’t want to burden themselves with too much stress soon after returning to civilian life. Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction (which can also be linked to discrimination) can all be exacerbated if a veteran takes on too much stress.

Start a Home-Based Business
Entrepreneurs who want to run home-based businesses can pursue a myriad of opportunities. Many are online-related, including graphic design services, website building, IT consulting, and social media consulting. In addition, you can use other skills to start a home-based business, such as services related to marketing, accounting, writing, and retail, among others. If you are dealing with mobility issues, a home-based online business could be better suited for your needs than running a traditional brick-and-mortar office or storefront. The overhead costs are lower as well.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Health
You should devote considerable time to exercising, eating healthy food, and getting enough sleep. In addition, you might benefit from meditation or another relaxing activity. Without devoting time to your mental and physical health, it will be more difficult to start and grow your small business, so ensure that you can balance your personal needs with running a business. While small business ownership can be a wonderful opportunity for individuals with disabilities, it can also present challenges. Before you start a business, ensure that you have a solid plan that will help you prepare for the responsibilities that come with being a business owner. It’s a fun dive into the unknown, but do remember that it is a dive!

Source: forafinancial.com

Meet The Kenyan Engineer Who Created Gloves That Turn Sign Language Into Audible Speech

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Kenyan engineer is seated at work station holding up the sign language glove wtih his right hand

Twenty-five-year-old Kenyan engineer and innovator, Roy Allela, has created a set of gloves that will ultimately allow better communication between those who are deaf and those who are hearing yet may not necessarily know sign language. The Sign-IO gloves in essence translate signed hand movements into audible speech.

Allela’s gloves feature sensors located on each finger that detect the positioning of each finger, including how much each finger will bend into a given position. The glove connects via Bluetooth to an Android phone which then will leverage use the text-to-speech function to provide translated speech to the hand gestures of a person signing.

The inspiration behind the Sign-IO gloves comes from the personal experience of having a young niece who is deaf. He nor his family knows sign language and often struggled to adequately and consistently communicate with her.

“My niece wears the gloves, pairs them with her phone or mine, then starts signing. I’m able to understand what she’s saying,” Allela shared in an interview with The Guardian.

Allela’s vision for the gloves is to have them placed in schools for special needs children throughout his home country of Kenya and then expand from there to positively impact the experiences of as many deaf or hearing-impaired children as possible. His gloves are amongst a number of cutting-edge projects that are contributing to the growing market of assistive technology devices that seek to provide aid to those with specific impairments and limitations.

Continue on to Because of Them We Can to read the complete article.

Apple unveils disability-themed emojis in push for greater diversity

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Apple's images of the disability emojis that will be available in the fall

Apple will introduce disability-themed emojis in a move designed to “bring even more diversity to the keyboard.The emojis, which were unveiled to coincide with World Emoji Day, will include a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg. They will be available to use later this year.

“Celebrating diversity in all its many forms is integral to Apple’s values and these new options help fill a significant gap in the emoji keyboard,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.

The tech giant submitted a proposal for more emojis that were inclusive of disability in a proposal sent to the Unicode Consortium — the nonprofit organization that sets the global standard for emojis — in March 2018.

“Currently, emoji provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities,” Apple wrote at the time. “Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all.”

Apple said it chose options that are most inclusive of people in four main categories: blind and low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, physical motor disabilities and hidden disabilities. The iPhone maker said it had consulted with top organizations for people with disabilities when submitting the proposal.

Apple noted that the new additions to the emoji keyboard are designed to be a starting point, not a comprehensive list of all potential disabilities.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Meet Grace Hopper Celebration 2019’s Honoree Jhillika Kumar

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Jhillika Kumar poses outside smiling wearing a white blouse and smiling

The Student of Vision Abie Award honors young women dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Georgia Tech student Jhillika Kumar.

When Jhillika’s parents brought home an iPad for the first time, they could not have predicted how much it would improve their family’s lives. Accessible technology, for the first time ever, allowed her autistic and nonverbal brother to enjoy his passion for music. It distracted his mind from the physical world of disability. She watched her brother instantly swipe and tap swiftly across the interface. The smile that it brought him is the smile she wants to bring to millions of others with disabilities.

Jhillika’s family experience ignited her passion to advocate for disability rights and a career driven by a mission to create an inclusive world. She is a UX/UI designer, aspiring entrepreneur, and a third-year Georgia Tech student with a desire to improve the lives of the differently abled. She advocates to lift the barriers that exist within technology, design, and even policy, and empowers the largest underserved group by bringing attention to the importance of empathy and mutuality in design.

Knowing the impact that UX Design could make on someone who once couldn’t communicate, Jhillika decided to pursue a focus in computer science and interaction design through Georgia Tech’s undergraduate Computational Media program and Digital Media master’s program. Over the summer of her sophomore year of college, she interned at Disney where she created a short film to raise awareness to the product teams on the capacity that their technology had to empower entire communities of untapped potential, purely through improved accessibility. Expanding on this, Jhillika presented a talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech last fall, where she spoke about the importance of accessibility in the industry.

All of Jhillika’s efforts in this space have come together in her current initiative: an on-campus organization she founded called AxisAbility. In order to augment the capabilities of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, AxisAbility is creating a virtual platform to understand family needs and match them with the technology engineered to directly generate physiological changes in the brain to improve cognitive function.

At the School of Interactive Computing, Jhillika currently works in academia, collaborating with Dr. Gregory Abowd and Ivan Riobo to study how non-speaking autistic individuals could use technology-led therapies and assistive technologies to communicate. The study looks at evaluating cognitive competency through eye-gaze tracking software (retinal movement). This could provide vast insight into their cognitive abilities. Jhillika returned to school to her junior year of college engulfed with the spirit of empathy for the differently abled, and was invited as a speaker at World Information Architecture Day and FutureX Live, as well as Women in XR. Her initiatives won her the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award for 2019 awarded by Georgia Tech.

Continue on to “How Our College Startup’s Autism App Is Flowering Into Fruition – Enlighten Mentors to read Jhillika’s personal story and how you can help her mission.

Stronger Together: Salesforce, Abilityforce & Sunday Parker

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Sunday Parker of Salesforce sitting with her team members in a conference area

By Jaeson Parsons

Sunday Parker’s experiences with a mobility-based disability since birth has given her unique insight into the struggles that those with disabilities face. We wanted to get a better understanding of Sunday’s career journey as well as her insight into the creation and success of Abilityforce at Salesforce.

Sunday, pictured far left, has succeeded, and now she is the Global President of Abilityforce, the Employee Resource Group at Salesforce.

DiversityComm asked Sunday to give us some background into her experiences growing up with her disability.

“I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma that didn’t have a stop light, let alone many accessibility considerations,” she stated. “As a wheelchair user since age 9, I was often lifted into shops and restaurants that didn’t have ramp access. Overcoming challenges was my ‘normal’—I faced barriers going to school, spending time with friends, and even lived in a house that had multiple steps getting in the front door.”

After graduating high school in 2009 and moving to San Francisco to attend university, her experiences were eye-opening.

“For the first time, I could take buses and trains, easily go along sidewalks, and the majority of businesses were accessible. This shift from living in a small town that had barriers at every turn to one of the most accessible cities in America was life-changing.”

Sunday graduated in 2013 with a degree in interior architecture and design; however, she felt more suited to the tech industry.

“After graduation, I wasn’t sure where my career journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to be part of an organization where I felt valued and could explore my interests,” she said.

It was Salesforces’ philanthropic method that attracted her to apply.

“[Their] commitment to donate 1 percent of earnings, 1 percent of products, and 1 percent of employee time to charitable causes is an organization I was excited to be a part of, and felt I could bring value to.”

Before accepting the position, Sunday requested to speak with an accommodations manager to discuss her disability needs for the position. She was encouraged by their reaction.

“My initial conversation started with them assuring me, ‘My job is to make sure your first day is the best first day you’ve ever had, so let’s talk about how we’re going to do that.’” A company switch is tough for anyone, but there is added complexity as a disabled person like myself who requires accommodations. But I left that conversation not just excited, but confident to start my journey at a company that was mutually invested in my success.”

Once at Salesforce, Sunday became involved in a grassroots group called Abilityforce. Founded in 2016, this was Salesforce’s first resource group for employees with disabilities.

Through her career development, Sunday has experienced many challenges and missed opportunities related to accessibility in the workplace, as well as the lack of resources, and this was something she wanted to see improved drastically for future generations. Sunday has seen firsthand the benefits of employee resource groups as it relates to the team environment at the company.

“Having employee resource groups helps to build a culture where everyone, regardless of their identity, can feel empowered to bring their full and authentic selves to work. People want to work at companies that reflect the communities they live in.”

We asked Sunday to outline the future for Abilityforce.

“We have a long-range plan to become a best place to work for people with disabilities. We continue to strive to have our physical and technological environments accessible and designed with everyone in mind by developing innovative best practices.”

Companies like Sunday’s that create employee resource groups allow for a deeper connection within the company and across the globe, as colleagues around the world provide their unique insight for development. Sunday said something that was very powerful—that we are stronger together. Finding ways to connect and break down the chains of isolation through human connection is a powerful tool. In her final remarks, Sunday stated that business can be a powerful platform for social change. Creating employee resource groups can increase solidarity and become a driving force for equal opportunity and accessibility within the workplace.

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.

This Woman’s 37-Year Wait For A Barbie That Looks Like Her Is Finally Over

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Barbie sittin in a wheelchair is with her group of doll friends

You’re never too old to play with Barbie—especially when you’ve been waiting 37 years for one you can see yourself in.

Jessica Jewett is a Georgia-based author and artist who was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and uses a wheelchair. When she learned through Instagram that the iconic doll brand is expanding and diversifying its offerings to include a Barbie with a prosthetic limb and a Barbie who uses a wheelchair, she had an emotional reaction.

“It just took me back to being 5, 6, 7 years old, asking my mom and grandma why there aren’t dolls that look like me,” she told HuffPost. “I used to ask all the time why Barbie’s parent company Mattel couldn’t make a wheelchair for the doll.”

It’s a long time coming for Jewett, who wrote on Twitter that this was the toy she “needed as a little girl.” Growing up in the ’80s, she has no memory of seeing herself represented in dolls and toys like her friends did.

“I would just start making up my own thing instead, which is probably why I became a writer,” she said. “I ended up having to make up my own stories that had nothing to do with me, because there was nothing like me out there.”

That lack of representation and accessibility followed Jewett into other aspects of her life, as well. At her elementary school, the special education classrooms were in a back room, where she said the teachers were more like babysitters than actual teachers.

“I used to sort of have this feeling from a really young age that I was different, but not understanding why that difference was something to be hidden,” she said. She went from shy kid to child advocate at just 12 years old, when her middle school refused to build an entrance ramp for her to use.

Accessibility remains a pressing issue in many parts of the U.S. ― which is one reason Jewett was so excited to see that Mattel will now also offer a ramp that is compatible with the doll’s famous DreamHouse set.

Continue on to Huff Post to read the complete article.