DAV’s 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year

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Dr. Kenneth Lee

Dr. Kenneth K. Lee president of the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) named Dr. Kenneth K. Lee, a combat-injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Army veteran, its 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.

Lee, who deployed as the commander of the Army’s Company B, 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, was injured in November 2004 by a suicide car bomber in Iraq. The explosion resulted in an open head traumatic brain injury and severe shrapnel wounds to his legs, which led to his evacuation back to the states, where he would later be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While recovering from his injuries, Lee, a rehabilitation specialist, saw how long and difficult recovery could be, often leaving lasting changes. Lee, who resides in Brookfield, Wisconsin, is a volunteer physician at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which the Department of Veterans Affairs and DAV co-host, so he was no stranger to using adaptive sports as therapy. Through his own recovery, Lee propelled himself into the world of adaptive sports to help him deal with the psychological and physiological effects that can often cause an individual to hit bottom.

Within a year of Lee’s retirement in 2013, he formed the Milwaukee Wheelchair Lacrosse team and is now the president of the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association (WASA) which runs numerous adaptive sports programs.

DAV National Commander David W. Riley presented Lee the award at the organization’s 96th National Convention in New Orleans.

“Dr. Kenneth Lee is a shining example of everything that is good about our nation and its veterans,” said Riley. “The compassion he shows for other veterans and his work to help them find success is truly the hallmark of this award, and we’re very proud of what he’s doing for this community. At DAV, we truly value the importance and therapeutic effectiveness of adaptive sports and it is vital to have experienced leaders like Dr. Lee involved and carving out a path ahead.”

Despite his injuries and the constant pain in his lower extremities, Lee speaks with gratitude about his time in the Army.

“I got a lot more from the Guard than I put into it,” said Lee. “I joined the military with my eyes wide open. I volunteered to join. I have no regrets.”

Lee and his wife Kate currently live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, with their two children. As a youth volunteer, in 2014 his daughter Leah earned a $10,000 scholarship by volunteering for the DAV at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. On the same day he will be honored as the charity’s veteran of the year, his son Jonathan has earned the charity’s largest scholarship of $20,000 and will be honored the same morning. They both hope ultimately to serve veterans as physicians through the VA.

About DAV
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning

About DAV
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with nearly 1.3 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932.

Learn more at dav.org.

3-time Paralympian Angela Madsen dies while rowing from L.A. to Honolulu

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Angela Madsen sitting in a stadium seat smiling looking to the left

Three-time Paralympian Angela Madsen died earlier this week while attempting a solo row from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Madsen, 60, was declared dead at 11 p.m. PST on Monday, June 22, when the US Coast Guard discovered her body several hours after she last made contact with anybody, according to a letter posted to RowOfLife.org, a website set up to document the journey, and signed by Madsen’s wife, Debra Madsen, and filmmaker Soraya Simi.

A paraplegic, Angela Madsen was a six-time Guinness World Record holder who was in the midst of attempting her next feat: to become the first paraplegic and oldest woman to row from California to Hawaii alone.

“She told us time and again that if she died trying, that is how she wanted to go,” Madsen and Simi wrote in their letter.

The two wrote that rowing an ocean solo was Madsen’s biggest goal and that she was willing to take that risk because “being at sea made her happier than anything else.”

“Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come,” they wrote. “A life forged by unbelievable hardship, she overcame it all and championed the exact path she envisioned for herself since she was a little girl.”

A tragic journey

Madsen’s journey was the subject of a documentary film, and she frequently checked in with her wife Debra and the filmmakers via satellite.

Madsen carried all of her own food and used a desalinator to make fresh water. She set a goal of rowing 12 out of every 24 hours for three-four months to complete her journey, the filmmakers wrote on the film’s website.

She departed from Los Angeles and rowed approximately 1,114 nautical miles, which was 1,275 nautical miles from her destination in Honolulu. Madsen had been alone at sea for 60 days.

On Sunday, June 21, Madsen checked in via satellite and said that she was going into the water to fix her bow anchor. After not hearing from Madsen for several hours, a search and rescue operation was initiated. An aircraft was dispatched and a cargo vessel was re-routed to find her. The Coast Guard discovered her body, the letter said.

“A life forged by unbelievable hardship”

Madsen served as a Marine in her 20s when she sustained a back injury and had to undergo corrective back surgery. However, errors in the surgery left her a paraplegic.

But Madsen said would not let her disability hold her back as she took up adaptive sports. She first rowed for the US National Team in 2002 when para-rowing made its debut at the World Rowing Championships in Seville, Spain, according to USRowing.

While with the US National Team, Madsen won four gold medals and one silver medal at the world championships during her career. She would go to the Paralympics three times where she won bronze in both rowing and shot put, the filmmakers said.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

TechCheck: A powerful tool to help employers assess their technology accessibility practices

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Young woman viewing telecheck on computer

About to take a leap into an accessible workplace technology effort? While many employers don’t know where to begin, getting started is simple.

It means taking stock of your workplace information technology (IT) so that you can pinpoint how to ensure it’s accessible to all employees—including those with disabilities.

Enter TechCheck, a powerful but simple tool from the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) to help employers assess their technology accessibility practices.

Whether you have a formal accessible technology effort or not, TechCheck delivers:

  • A benchmarking accessibility “snapshot” of the current state of your technology;
  • The accessibility goals you want to reach; and
  • Steps you can take to achieve them.

Join the over 100 companies that have used TechCheck to improve the accessibility of their organization.

TechCheck Features:

  • Designed for everybody. Intended for U.S. employers of all types—public or private sector, large or small.
  • Quick and easy. TechCheck takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
  • Instant feedback. After completing the questions, you’ll receive a readout evaluation of where you stand across several dimensions, from internal accessibility training efforts to IT procurement policies.
  • Free and completely confidential. PEAT does not retain your answers except to create your customized readout.
  • The first step toward a more accessible workplace. TechCheck provides formal documentation that you can use to win support from management to develop your accessible technology efforts further.

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To get started on your assessment, visit www.PeatWorks.org/TechCheck

FDA greenlights 1st video-game based treatment for children with ADHD

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screenshot of video game with many colors

The first video game-based treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The video game, called EndeavorRx and approved on Monday, will be prescription only and aimed at children between the ages of eight and 12 with certain types of ADHD.

It will be used alongside other treatments, such as clinician-directed therapy, medication and educational programs.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder which is usually first diagnosed in children and can last into adulthood.

Approximately 4 million children aged six to 11 are affected by ADHD, the symptoms of which include difficulty staying focused and paying attention and difficulty controlling behavior.

This is the first game-based therapy to be granted marketing authorization by the FDA for any condition, the agency said.

“The EndeavorRx device offers a non-drug option for improving symptoms associated with ADHD in children and is an important example of the growing field of digital therapy and digital therapeutics,” Dr Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release.

The game, which can be downloaded as an app onto a mobile device, was authorized for marketing after the FDA reviewed five clinical studies that included more than 600 children.

The agency noted that some negative effects were reported, such as frustration, headache, dizziness, emotional reaction and aggression, but said there were no “serious” adverse effects reported.

While playing the game, children steer an avatar through a course dotted with obstacles, collecting targets to earn rewards.

Akili, the company that created EndeavorRx, has said that children should interact with the game 30 minutes per day, five days a week over the course of a one-month treatment cycle.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

This Rapper is Joining the Fight for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

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Waka Flocka pictured wearing bright green at event in Hollywood

On the evening of May 25, near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, rapper Waka Flocka tweeted that he was going to dedicate his life to suicide prevention and mental illness. This tweet likely stemmed from the reminder of his deceased brother’s upcoming birthday, which would happen less than a week later.

The rapper tweeted his support by saying, “I’m officially dedicating my life to suicide prevention and mental illness!!! Y’all not alone Waka Flocka Flame is with y’all now!!!!”

In 2017, Waka Flocka revealed in an interview with the show The Therapist that his younger brother committed suicide in 2013. In this interview, he stated that his brother, Coades, tried to call him before taking his life, leaving Waka Flocka to wonder what would have happened if he picked up the phone.

While the specifics of what the renowned rapper will do is unknown at the moment, Waka Flocka has made his goals clear, stating in a follow-up tweet that he has officially accepted his brother’s passing and believes he is now in a better place.

Waka Flocka stated, “You have no idea how it feel to wanna take your own life man…my little brother took his own life…This year I’m officially accepting the fact that he’s in a better place.”

How Emojis are Improving Inclusion

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In fall this year, we can expect an array of new emojis coming to our smart devices, including ones that are more inclusive to differing genders.

The Unicode Consortium announced earlier this year that there would be 62 new emojis coming to smart devices, including 55 emojis that will strive to be more gender inclusive.

Emojis of the transgender flag and of non-binary individuals in occupations that were previously only available as women and men will be just some of the new additions we can expect to see.

 

Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year
Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year

By implementing these emojis, people of differing gender identities will not only be able to express themselves through messages and social media in a smaller, normalized way, but will also attempt to include those of all genders to feel validated in who they are.

While these emojis are set to appear on most devices around September or October, some smart devices could receive the new additions early.

More Than One-Third of LGBTQ+ Adults Identify as Having a Disability

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group of diverse people standing together with one man waving an lgbt flag

By Philip Pauli

The LGBTQ+ community and the disability community intersect in significant ways. But identifying the full scope of this community remains a significant challenge due to continuing fears about disclosure and stigmas that remains a painful fact of life in many parts of the United States.

The best available estimates put the total number of LGBTQ+ Americans at around 11 million individuals. Extrapolating from there, RespectAbility estimates that there are roughly 2.3 million women with disabilities in the LGBTQ+ community. That number is joined by approximately 1.4 million men with disabilities in the community.

Both people who identify as LGBTQ+ and people who have invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities like dyslexia, mental health or ADHD, have to decide whether or not to “come out of the closet.” This is not an easy decision for most people because of the uncertainty of whether or not acceptance will follow. LGBTQ+ youth who come out sometimes are rejected by their families and friends. Some are even kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets. According to a University of Chicago report, LGBTQ+ young adults had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.

Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Yet it is challenging to fully capture thestats for lgbtq and disability scope of opportunities open to LGBTQ+ workers with and without disabilities. Just as people with disabilities fear discrimination and face bias throughout the hiring process, far too many LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination or bias in the workplace.

“It is vital to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so all people who have faced prejudice can achieve a better future,” said RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.

The consequences of stigma, bullying and rejection can literally be life and death. The Trevor Project reports that LGBTQ+ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Forty percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, 92 percent of them before the age of 25. Society needs to fight stigmas and promote acceptance so that LGBTQ+ people know that they are valued and that they matter.

Source: respectability.org

New normal of masks is an ‘added barrier’ for deaf and hard-of-hearing community

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face masks deaf community

No outfit is complete without a mask these days. Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sometimes required by businesses, face coverings have become a new social standard in many parts of America. But while masks serve as barriers to the spread of COVID-19, they’ve also become an additional barrier in communicating for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“The best word to describe it would be a challenge,” Brenda Schertz, a senior lecturer of American Sign Language at Cornell University, said in an ASL-interpreted phone call with NBC News. With 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to a 2011 Johns Hopkins University study, the problem affects a significant part of the population on a daily level.

“Going into the grocery story or the bank or really any other public place, we are heavily dependent on facial expression and visual cues on peoples’ faces, and some of us can lip-read … and no longer do we have access to that, because everyone has masks on.”

Schertz described how, recently, she had a new washing machine delivered to her home and had intended for the delivery men to take her old washing machine with them. But there was a “communication breakdown,” she said, and because everyone was wearing masks, she couldn’t understand what they were trying to say. The old washing machine stayed put, and she had to call Lowe’s back to understand what happened.

“It was just something that was no big deal, but I had a huge communication breakdown,” Schertz said.

Similarly, Schertz described how a friend struggled to communicate at a drugstore. Because the clerk was wearing a mask, the friend didn’t understand the simple question of whether she was paying in cash or by credit.

“Just simple little things that, without a mask, we would have figured out very quickly what was needed from us. But with this mask on, we’re guessing or we have to write it down,” Schertz said. “We have no other way if we can’t hear and we can’t see the words being formed on the mouth. It’s a huge challenge … an added barrier, for sure.”

The barriers in everyday communication are often intensified when deaf people seek medical care – a longtime issue that has led to significant health impacts in the community and has become even more complicated in a pandemic.

The disparities in health education and access to care have historically led to “inadequate assessment, limited access to treatment, insufficient follow-up and poorer outcomes,” according to a 2013 article in the American Psychological Association’s Spotlight on Disability Newsletter by Lawrence Pick, a professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Battling all these long-existing barriers is what led Anne McIntosh to create the Safe’N’Clear Communicator mask, the first medical mask approved by the Food and Drug Administration with a clear window over the mouth to facilitate better communication — something she said would improve patient care for everyone, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

From Inclusion to COVID, Meet the These Hollywood Stars Doing the Most for the LGBTQ+ Community

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Wilson Cruz with a group of Star Trek fans

From allies to active members of the LGBTQ+ community, meet some celebrities who have currently been working to further the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people.

Cathy Rena

Longtime LGBTQ+ PR icon Cathy Rena has always found herself on the forefront of the United States’ LGBTQ+ history.  From Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out story to Michael Shephard’s beating in the 1980s to the creation of Pride events, Rena has worked with journalists and LGBTQ organizations for decades to properly portray and advocate for the community in its most difficult times.

Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Rena is working diligently to advocate for the community’s needs and specific struggles during this time. Not only is she an integral member in creating the first-ever virtual global pride, but she also has been working to make the public aware of the inequality of resources that has been given to the LGBTQ+ community.

Omar Shariff Jr.

Omar Shariff Jr., actor and grandson of Omar Shariff, has been one of the most vocal voices for LGBTQ+ people in a time of uncertainty. Already being an active member in the community, formerly serving as a GLAAD spokesperson and an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Shariff has taken his activism to paper in an article that informs the public of how COVID-19 has directly affected the LGBTQ+ community through healthcare discrimination, the need to isolate with unsupportive family members, and the inability to donate blood, to name a few.

Shariff hopes speaking out about these issues will result in a more unified community and a decrease in homophobia by the time the pandemic has ended.

Wilson Cruz

Actor Wilson Cruz, pictured with fans, from the hit TV show My So-Called Life, is moving from in front of the camera to behind it, serving as one of the producers of the new docu-series, Visible: Out on Television. The Apple TV Plus series is set to show how the LGBTQ+ community has been represented in media and how it was used as a platform for activism in the 1970s.

Being one of the first actors to be openly gay in the entertainment world, Cruz hopes to use his influence to encourage others in the community to feel comfortable and proud of who they are.

Natalie Wood

Starring actress of Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story Natalie Wood was best known for her successful acting career before her tragic death in 1981. Despite her passing nearly 40 years ago, Wood’s support for LGBTQ+ people has become a popular topic in the last few weeks due to her newest documentary, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind. Actress Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie Wood’s eldest daughter, narrated and produced the HBO released documentary that closely accounts for Woods’ life outside of the public eye.

Being no stranger to standing up for herself as a woman in Hollywood, Woods was also quite accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, despite society’s view of LGBTQ+ people during the time. Wagner recalls being practically raised by gay men as her mother was friends with many men who identified as gay. Two men in particular, Matt Crowley, a playwright, and Howard Jeffrey, a producer and choreographer, were some of Woods’ closest friends who identified as gay. The two men, though not romantically involved with each other, lived in Woods’ guest home and were made Wagner’s godfathers.

“She would have been in the forefront,” Wagner says of her mother, “She would be waving the rainbow flag with the best of them.”

The Cast of “Queer as Folk”

The 2000’s British TV show, Queer as Folk came back together earlier this month to raise money for CenterLink, the parent company of over 200 LGBTQ centers. Money raised for the organization came from both donations and an auction of some of the show’s memorabilia. The event streamed live on YouTube on May 1 and is still available in its four-hour entirety for viewers to watch. The event was hosted by Scott Lowell but also included other cast members, such as Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Sharon Gless, Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant, Peter Paige, and many more.

To date, the Queer as Folk cast is still hosting donations to be given to CenterLink. Should you want to donate, the link is provided here.

Creating VR Workplace Training Programs for People with Disabilities

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Two men sitting at conference table, one man in a wheelchair

The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)’s latest Future of Work podcast episode features Assistive Technology Specialists Chris Baumgart and Meagan Little of Imagine!Colorado as they discuss how they have worked with employers to create successful virtual reality (VR) workplace training programs for people with disabilities.

The Future of Work podcast is developed in partnership with Workology.com as part of the PEAT’s Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

During the interview, Workology’s Jessica Miller-Merrell notes that 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and she asks both Chris and Meagan what emerging workplace trends or technologies they think will have the biggest impact on people with disabilities in the next 30 years. Here is what Chris said:

“One thing that I will say that I think that we’re seeing is already becoming a trend with a lot of potential is machine learning and augmented reality or smart glasses. But what we’re seeing now is with machine learning, we can actually, essentially use the tools around us to teach in real time. So in a virtual reality headset, you’ve got this immersive experience, and that’s great. One of the things that is still challenging is seeing how much of that still translates into the real world. If I’m in an environment where I have these virtual bottles that I have to package into a virtual mix pack and put on a virtual conveyor belt, and that doesn’t translate a hundred percent into the real world where I’ve got real bottles to package into actual mixed packs and put onto an actual conveyor belt. With machine learning and smart glasses, what we’re looking hopefully to see is that the glasses could then indicate and essentially do the same kind of highlighting as an augment to the reality that the virtual reality headset would provide in the virtual space. So you’re wearing glasses in the real world and it’s actually highlighting an actual object in front of you. And that’s kind of what we’re seeing that’s going to trend. At least I hope so. I think it’s going to be a really valuable trend if it does.”

Listen to the complete interview with Chris and Meagan on the PEAT website.

Autism Awareness Advocate Areva Martin On Her Work-Life Balance Journey

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Areva Martin

Driven career professionals often struggle to figure out a work life balance that doesn’t leave them riddled with guilt. Unfortunately, for parents of kids with disabilities the increased demands can make them feel like caring for their special needs child(ren) means they must automatically reduce or even eliminate their career goals. Indeed, they often feel the pressure to automatically blunt the trajectory of their career in an attempt to demonstrate full commitment to their household’s unique needs and challenges. For those who view attentive parenting of a special needs child and aggressive pursuit of a fulfilling and ambitious career as a binary choice, they need look no further than the compelling example of disability rights advocate and award winning attorney/legal commentator Areva Martin to shatter that myth.

When her son Marty was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Areva found herself struggling to navigate the complex labyrinth of relevant services which eventually led her to develop the Special Needs Network, Inc. to not just serve her needs, but primarily to provide a network of support for families affected by developmental disabilities.

As a disability rights advocate, she has mentored and befriended many parents of special needs children and can actively relate to the unique work life balance challenges that the experience brings, and her message is both clear and determined – “Parenting a special needs child doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career.” Indeed, she doesn’t just say it, she’s done it. Graciously, Areva spoke with me recently to share a few nuggets of advice for other parents struggling to manage the sometimes overwhelming demands of both work and home.

Know the Law

Parents of children with special needs are often left to maneuver a laundry list of requirements in order to sufficiently support their children. From navigating school admissions and identifying appropriate therapies to securing necessary testing and establishing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the demands on a parent’s time and financial resources can be significant to say the least. Identifying sources of support is a critical step in relieving the very real drain on financial and other limited resources. Areva advises parents to learn their rights early so they avoid wasting precious time and money on services that may be available to them at little or no cost. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that applies to public schools in every state throughout the country. The law makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities including autism and a range of developmental, emotional and learning disabilities, and it ensures special education and related services to those children from age 2 to 21. Beyond federal laws, Areva recommends that parents make time to talk to other parents, administrators and officials to familiarize themselves early on with any applicable state, local, even district level regulations or policies that might provide support or create barriers for their particular situation. Indeed, knowledge is power and taking the time to equip yourself with the knowledge early on is key.

While it may be tempting for parents of special needs children to “suffer in silence” rather than share concerns, issues or problems, Areva warns against that urge and instead encourages parents to be open with friends and colleagues.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

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Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 Disability:IN Conference
    July 13, 2020 - July 16, 2020
  2. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020

Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 Disability:IN Conference
    July 13, 2020 - July 16, 2020
  2. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020