When Patricia Saucier was a teenager, she felt as if her life story would be defined by what she could not do.As a child, she was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. By the time she was 16, her parents signed her up to receive Supplemental Security Income from the government. They wanted to make sure she would be financially OK, but it made her feel different — and not in a good way. (Pictured: Patricia Saucier)
“I felt like they were saying I couldn’t do anything,” she said. But Saucier, now 43 and living in Searsport, has found a way to rewrite her story. For 20 years, she and her twin sister, Latricia, have worked for Bank of America’s 48-person Support Services team in Belfast. Nearly 40 of the team members have an intellectual disability — the others are managers — and both sisters have thrived there. They are paid well, get along with their coworkers and like the work. Patricia Saucier was even named employee of the quarter this year.
“I love working here. Even though each of us has intellectual disabilities, the managers never talk down to us. They talk to us. They know we’re adults — we just learn differently,” Saucier said. “I wish there were more jobs like this out there.”
The idea for the Support Services team began 30 years ago in Delaware. That’s when Charles Cawley, the founder of credit card giant MBNA, learned that one of his managers was concerned about the future of his son, who had a disability.
“Mr. Cawley said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” and started the program, Brian Bragg, the head of Support Services in Belfast, said. There was a need. According to Special Olympics, approximately 6.5 million Americans have an intellectual disability, such as autism, Down syndrome or limited intellectual capacity. Most such adults are unemployed or underemployed, with about a third working full time, according to a 2014 survey by the sports organization. But the study also showed that people with disabilities can stick with competitive jobs.
Verizon has created an employee resource group (ERG) that utilizes diverse perspectives to put out products that are critically needed in our world today and tomorrow.
DIVERSEability Magazine recently spoke with Verizon at the CSUN Conference in Anaheim regarding one of the products created by their ERG that has already begun to dramatically change the way the world sees the disability community.
For years, the disability community has been asking for a more realistic representation of images featuring individuals with disabilities. But now the wait is over. Verizon, in partnership with Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance, has created a solution—Disability Collection.
Over the years, Verizon puts out a tremendous amount of media, and when they tried to present people with disabilities using photos from stock image libraries, they had difficulty finding images and especially finding images that portray individuals with disabilities accurately.
“Any time we tried to find an image of someone with a disability, it would either be a pitiful image or a heroic image, neither of them really reflecting reality”, said Larry Goldberg, the senior director of media accessibility at Verizon.
Goldberg said he himself has a hearing loss and his career started with closed captioning on TV, “so this is my community. Currently, I am part of a great team at Verizon — a group within Verizon called Verizon Media — which is all about content and apps and how to make them accessible for people with disabilities,” he added.
Margaux Joffee, Verizon’s associate director of accessibility, went to Getty Images, one of the largest stock image libraries in the world, to jumpstart this solution. But first, she approached the National Disability Leadership Alliance to ensure that people with disabilities had a strong voice in how they are being represented. This led to the joint creation of the first ever guidelines for photographers on how to accurately represent people with disabilities in photography. Those guidelines have now been distributed to over 250,000 Getty Images photographers worldwide, resulting in set of truly accurate, diverse and dignified images.
“Getty Images, the National Disability Leadership Alliance and Verizon has put out this amazing collection of images. It has touched everyone in disability leadership groups, but also inside Verizon,” Joffe said. “When we launched this project in D.C., the disability community loved this, but what was really cool was that Verizon’s staff and executives fell in love with the project too because it was tangible and real. “The new Disability Collection is a culmination of the efforts of companies like Verizon who are focused on portraying people with disabilities by breaking through stereotypical images, and providing a more realistic picture of this community.
The development of this image library will continue to change how the world views the disability community, and will challenge other companies to follow suit in the future. Learn more about the Disability Collection and how to view and download the images at DisabilityCollection.com
When I was 20 years old, I experienced a life altering motorcycle accident, which resulted in paraplegia and the need to use a wheelchair for mobility. In the years that followed, I struggled with my disability until being introduced to adaptive sports and recreation. Adaptive sports helped me to regain my self-confidence and created an opportunity to “pay it forward.”
Motivating others via public speaking engagements became a daily endeavor. My efforts were featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and, as a result, I was invited to help produce a series of short video segments on adaptive sports and lifestyle. This quickly blossomed into the start of a new venture, Disability Inclusion Solutions, for clients seeking high quality, accessible multimedia production.
Years later, in order to expand my opportunities and have access to greater resources, I became a certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) through Disability:IN, the leading national third-party certifier of disability-owned business enterprises.
Being a DOBE has created opportunities for direct dialogue with corporations interested in forming diverse supply chains, resulting in some fantastic professional relationships.
But while DOBE certification may open the door to supplier diversity channels, having core capabilities, scalability and established relationships is what lands contracts. Being a small business, I quickly realized the importance of collaborating with other small businesses, both to enhance my capabilities and to develop innovative services and products that meet the demands of prospective global customers.
For example, in 2013, I recognized an opportunity to expand our offerings and began the development of an enterprise-wide e-learning software solution to ensure employers at every level have the knowledge required to effectively communicate, interview, hire, accommodate, and engage with people with disabilities. The goal was to create a series of 15-minute disability inclusion modules that we could license to customers,
But after nearly three years of research and development, I realized we needed to expand our capabilities in order to offer the highest quality product to the broadest possible audience. Our ideal partner would have a strong brand with extensive reach across the corporate landscape and expertise in digital accessibility so our product would meet prevailing accessibility standards.
Fortunately, I knew another certified DOBE—longtime friend and colleague, Joyce Bender, founder and CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc.—who became our partner. In 2016, Disability Inclusion Solutions joined together with Bender Consulting Services to develop iDisability™, an enterprise-wide e-learning solution. iDisability™ provides 15-minute fully accessible vignettes that can be viewed across multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. It’s very gratifying to be able to say that our partnership has already benefitted nearly 2.5 million users across a variety of professional industries.
The business case for employing people with disabilities has never been stronger, thanks in part to recent research by Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), that reaffirms the fact that companies benefit when they prioritize strategies that embrace disability inclusion.
I never imagined during the fragile aftermath of my accident that I would one day embrace my disability, have a family and be a small business owner. Building Disability Inclusion Solutions and partnering with other DOBEs allows me to advance disability inclusion, equality and belonging—all while growing the bottom line in my business.
At the Newseum recently, Comcast announced a series of initiatives designed to help address the digital divide for low-income Americans with disabilities through the Internet Essentials program, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive Internet adoption program for low-income households.
The largest of these was a grant from the Company to the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD). The Comcast grant will help fund the creation and delivery of digital literacy training programs specifically designed to address the needs of low-income people in the disability community. Once developed, the programs will be delivered at 10 AAPD affiliates across the country, as well as shared online for anyone to access.
According to Pew Research Center, 23 percent of people with disabilities say they never go online and 57 percent say they do not have a home broadband subscription.
The grant follows last month’s announcement that, since 2011, the Internet Essentials program has connected more than eight million low-income Americans to the Internet at home, including nearly 210,000 in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area, 90 percent of whom were not connected to the Internet at home until they signed up through Internet Essentials. In addition, the company made the most significant eligibility change in the program’s history, expanding eligibility to all low-income households residing in the Comcast service area, including all low-income seniors, adults, and people with disabilities.
“The Internet is an incredible resource so long as you have the skills and the tools to use it,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast Corporation. “By partnering with AAPD and working with the disability community, we want to address and break down the barriers to broadband adoption that are unique to this population. The first step is to address digital literacy issues and facilitate digital skills development. So, we’re going to create relevant training programs and then fund their delivery at locations across the country.”
“Having an Internet connection at home is absolutely vital for low-income people living with disabilities,” said Maria Town, President and CEO of the American Association for People with Disabilities. “I commend Comcast for extending its Internet Essentials program to people with disabilities because it will help us advance our mission to provide equal access, integration, and full inclusion for Americans with disabilities.”
In addition, Comcast held events across the Washington, DC area to raise awareness of the digital divide with special guests Paralympic Gold Medalist and Purple Heart Recipient Rico Roman, and Olympic Gold Medalists from the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando.
As part of the day’s events, the Company held a digital literacy assembly at Walker Jones Elementary, where Cohen surprised 50 sixth graders with free laptops and six months of complimentary Internet Essentials service. The company also hosted a digital inclusion event at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center where 100 seniors were given free laptops to help them stay connected to family and friends in the 21st century way of life. Lastly, Comcast held a Youth Hockey Clinic with Roman, Lamoureux-Davidson, and Lamoureux-Morando, where the Company surprised 25 students from Cornerstone Schools in Ward 7 with free laptops to help further their education. In partnership with Dell Technologies, the companies provided new equipment to Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena for its computer lab.
Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet; the lack of a computer; and cost of internet service. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.
As the school year gets underway, Rice Krispies is thinking about what notes parents may want to tuck into their kids’ lunch boxes. (Exhausted parents, on the other hand, may be counting down the days until they can foist lunch-making duties back on to the school cafeteria, no judgment.)
Last year, the Kellogg cereal brand teamed up with the National Federation of the Blind to create specialized “Love Notes” with phrases like “You’ve Got This” to “Love You Lots” written in braille for parents to share with children who are blind.
It was a sweet, inclusive message. Now Rice Krispies is continuing its mission with a new kind of love note, this one designed with children living with autism or on the autism spectrum in mind.
Since not every child communicates love through words, the cereal company partnered with Autism Speaks to create touch-and-feel sensory “Love Notes” so children can actually feel love and support as they transition back to school.
The four “lightly reusable” stickers come in a range of supposedly calming colors and different textures, including fleece, faux fur, satin, and velour for sensory-focused kids to feel the love through a tactile experience.
The future looks bright for this veteran entrepreneur, who miraculously regained his once lost eyesight.
By Annie Nelson
Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Michael J. Landry Jr. was returning from his 5th combat deployment as a Field Radio Operator when he received orders to Okinawa, Japan in August 2014. He underwent an eye exam and was told his vision had changed but not to worry.
However in Japan, Landry noticed his vision was getting worse—so much so that his optometrist thought he was exaggerating his condition. It was then he was told that both of his corneas were shattered and he was legally blind in both eyes.
I spoke with Landry about his amazing journey, from regaining his sight to competing in the Marine Corps Trials to starting his own lifestyle clothing and music businesses.
Tell me about your journey to being able to see again?
I was medically evacuated from Okinawa in March 2016 and sent to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif. In Japan, I was still able to make out the outlines of objects because of the cloudy weather, but in California, I wasn’t able to see anything because it was so much brighter. I was fitted for hard-lens contacts until I received a corneal transplant in my left eye. The crazy thing was the eye transplant I received was originally blue! But then genetics took over and the eye eventually turned brown.
Due to my amazing doctor, the day after the surgery for the first time in two years, I was able to see the eye chart. Over the next 20 months, the vision in my left eye improved to the point that I was able to get prescription glasses, but only for the left lens because I was still blind in my right eye. Last February, I received the transplant for the right eye and today, I still have 12 stitches inside that eye but my vision overall is constantly improving.
You recently competed in the Marine Corps Trials—what events did you compete in and how did you finish? Are you going to the Warrior Games?
Yes, I competed in several events including track, shot put, discus, 100m sprint and powerlifting. For the powerlifting event, my doctor recommended to limit the weight because the excessive eye pressure could still cause damage. I was scheduled to run the 200m and 400m, but I pulled my hamstring during the 100m sprint. I ended up finishing first place in all events except powerlifting. I competed in the visually impaired category for field events, however, I did out throw every other competitor overall. I was also selected to compete in the Warrior Games and I’m looking forward to it.
What did the Marine Corps Trials teach you?
It taught me that I’m able to do more than I think. I’ve never competed in any of those sports before and it felt as if it came naturally. It also taught me that I need to learn to stretch better so I don’t get hurt!
You are a new entrepreneur. Tell me about your businesses and how you started?
The birth of One Life Clothing started when I was going blind. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true so I began sewing with the thought that in order to sew, you have to be able to see. Going blind at the age of 32 forces you to see life in a different perspective. Tomorrow isn’t promised and you never know what can happen so you should always enjoy the “One Life” you have.
My second business I actually credit with saving my life. I was going through a lot mentally and physically with the loss of my sight and was severely depressed. At one point I was contemplating suicide until one day my brother, who is a rap artist, called me to vent about his music career, or lack thereof due to bad business deals. To help him, I started One Life Entertainment Music Group, LLC. Thus far, we’ve released four solo albums and two compilation albums.
My non-profit organization, One Life At A Time Outreach, helps not only feed the homeless, but also provide necessities like clothes, toiletries and shoes.
What does the future look like for you?
Bright I would say. Losing your vision and gaining it back is a blessing on its own, no matter what life throws at me. I’ve already won because I can see again. I’m embracing the new me. Business-wise, I would love to get into government contract designing and making uniforms as well as getting my clothing line into stores.
What advice would you give other service members who are recovering from an injury or illness?
You have to embrace the new you. I know what it feels like to be completely alone and to be stuck in your own head, but you have to remember that you are here for a purpose. God will never give you a task that you can’t handle. We are all gifted—find your gift and get out of your comfort zone.
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.
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 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?
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!
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.