How I Got Into…With Richard Browne

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Richard Browne

In an edition of ‘How I got into…’ we find out how U.S. world champion and world record holder Richard Browne started out in Para athletics.

Growing up, sport for Richard Browne meant only one thing—American football.

College football beckoned—the springboard to the professional league—but all that changed during Browne’s junior high school year in 2007 when he suffered a traumatic accident, slipping in the rain and crashing through a glass window in Jackson, Mississippi.Several surgeries later, his right leg was amputated below the knee.

“I always tell people that I wish I would’ve got my leg cut off immediately because I would’ve gone to the 2008 Games, but I had 13 surgeries and went three years before getting my leg cut off,” explained Browne.

Not that track and field was immediately on his mind—after his football career ended, Browne kept playing basketball, using his walking leg. “It was a fluke—it was absolute luck. My prosthetist saw me playing basketball on my walking leg and a company donated me a running leg just off the back of that,” said Browne.

“The first thing I did was get on YouTube and watch the 2008 (Paralympic Games) 100m.” The race was won by South African Oscar Pistorius, with US sprinter Jerome Singleton clinching silver; two-time US Paralympic champion Marlon Shirley fell. “I remember Marlon going down. He was my everything—he was fast, he was the world record holder, he had gold medals, he was unapologetic for being a disabled athlete and I loved that.” In fact, Shirley was a great inspiration to the young American—when the pair met, he encouraged Browne even more.

“He told me ‘You know what, you’re going to be good at this’ and ever since then I was like, this is for me,” said Browne. But despite being a keen sportsman all his life, athletics did not come easily.

“I’d never tried track until after I lost my leg, so it was really weird transitioning from being an American footballer to being an amputee T44 sprinter. It was very different, and it was hard for me. “I remember quitting first, I had a conversation with my girlfriend at the time—I remember crying because I quit, but it was so hard just to get out there and run, especially being on that blade—it was different. “My hamstrings were weak and my hips were weak because I hadn’t used any of these muscles that you need to run in three and a half years.”

But Browne persevered—a mindset he puts down to his upbringing.

“It was that mentality that my mum taught us growing up—if you’re going to do something, be the best at it,” explained the 25-year-old, who won World Championship gold in October 2015 in a world record time of 10.61 seconds.

As for persevering, it’s because Browne just wants to be the best. He recalls his first race against British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, who went on to win Paralympic gold in 2012. It was in 2011 at Crystal Palace in London: “I raced Jonnie and I remember that race vividly because I freaked out—Jonnie was telling me his personal best and mine was nowhere close to what those guys were running. My PB at the time was like 11.8 and those guys were running 11.4 or 11.5. I hadn’t made the national team, I was pretty much a nobody and I remember when I told Jonnie my time he laughed! “I went out there and lost to him by 0.05 seconds. I ran 11.56 and the next year, boom, it all began. Losing races, those things didn’t sit with me well.”

Browne clinched silver behind Peacock at London 2012, a result that was repeated at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France 10 months later. “People don’t understand how that 2013 race affected me mentally—I did not want to lose another race,” said Browne, who had broken the world record in his World Championship semi-final.

“Never again would I feel like that. I felt like I had lost my leg all over again, it was the worse feeling in the world and I was like ‘Never again will I feel like this. I want to be the best.’”

Source: International Paralympic Committee
Photo Credit: Cory Ryan

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.

techCheck image

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

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.

Creating a Culture of Belonging

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A woman in a wheelchair leading a business meeting

By Jennifer Brown

Each time I sit down with an executive who has decided to lead their company through the process of being more inclusive, I hear that executive articulate the same problem: They don’t know where to begin.

This feeling is common in positions of leadership. While diversity used to be seen as a “problem to solve” that lived in HR, it is now broadly understood as a core component of business practice that creates quantifiable value firm-wide. Creating cultures of belonging where everyone can succeed seems like something we all want to believe we’re doing already, which makes the leadership aspect all the more critical here: As leaders, we have to do a lot of individual work ourselves to become more inclusive thinkers before we can become more inclusive leaders.

As the responsibility for making progress in this arena has shifted from HR departments to core business operations, so too has the conversation shifted from one about diversity—which is about representation—to one about inclusion—which is about ensuring people are welcomed, valued, respected and heard. As we do a better job of being inclusive in our own actions and words, we have a better shot at creating more inclusive workplaces where people can bring their whole selves to work, be more creative problem solvers, and contribute to a generally healthier workplace culture.

I often remind folks that everyone has a diversity story; not all forms of diversity are visible. This is also true when it comes to disability— a facet of the diversity conversation that we don’t talk about enough. A common misconception when it comes to this topic is that making space for employees with disabilities in the workplace is not just costly, but disproportionately so, relative to making space for other kinds of diversity in the workplace. Yet recent research by Accenture exists to the contrary: 59 percent of the accommodations needed by employees with disabilities cost a company $0, while other non-zero accommodations cost, on average, $500 per employee.

Not monthly—in total. The pay-off is huge: people with disabilities have to be creative to find solutions that allow them to accomplish the same tasks as their able-bodied peers, which leads to greater innate problem-solving.

Combine that with giving those employees the sense that they are valued enough to have their needs met, and you’ll have one powerhouse employee on your hands. As with other forms of diversity, creating workplaces where all employees on the broad spectrum of diverse ability can succeed is deeply intertwined with fostering a workplace culture where people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. According to a 2019 report from Deloitte, 61 percent of the workforce “covers” or makes a distinct effort to disguise a part of themselves they feel would be stigmatized hinder their professional development.

Those who engage in this behavior do not see themselves reflected in the organization around them and feel that their belonging is tenuous or contingent—a pernicious problem that extends beyond the individual to have a negative impact on workplace culture overall. By creating workplaces where people feel they don’t have to cover, we help them feel like they can contribute the full breadth of their energy and creativity.

This doesn’t just impact our internal culture and organizational health—it also impacts our bottom lines. Even simple vocabulary shifts may be of use: In my line of work, we’re speaking not in terms of accommodating a broad range of diverse abilities—both visible, and invisible—but rather in terms of enabling and empowering them.

Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, diversity and inclusion consultant, and author. Her work in talent management, human capital, and intersectional theory has redefined the boundaries of talent potential and company culture. Her latest book, How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive, is a simple, accessible and intuitive guide to becoming a more inclusive leader and provides a step-by step guide for anyone ready to do their part at work.

CEOs That You Never Knew Had a Disability

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Steve Jobs standing on stage talking into a microphone at a conference

By Monica Luhar and Sara Salam

CEOs with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, ADHD, or dyslexia have an impact on society through their innovative, creative, and out-of-the-box thinking. They have also led the way for promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, while not letting their disabilities be the sole trait that defines their ability to lead.

Several well-known CEOs have also turned or viewed their disabilities as strengths or opportunities that help challenge society’s attitudes and misconceptions of the disability community.

Below is a list we compiled of CEOs that have shared some of their struggles, achievements, and advice throughout their leadership career:

Sir Richard Branson – Founder of Virgin Group

Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, a family owned growth capital investor. The corporation now controls more than 400 companies globally. Boasting more than 53 million companies worldwide, Virgin Group earns over £16.6B in annual revenue, according to its website. The company employs 69,000 people in 25 countries.

Branson established the Virgin Group in 1970 by launching a mail-order record business that developed into Virgin Records. Virgin Records was the first Virgin company to reach a billion-dollar valuation in 1992.

Branson attributes much of his success to his dyslexia and learning disabilities. According to an interview with the Washington Post, delegation played a large role in his approach to running his business. His motivations are rooted in wanting to do good in the world.

“Since starting youth culture magazine Student at age 16, I have tried to find entrepreneurial ways to drive positive change in the world,” Branson shared on his LinkedIn profile. “In 2004, we established Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which unites people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world.”

Source: virgin.com

J.K. Rowling – Best-Selling & Award-Winning Author

Best known for her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (born Joanne Rowling) always knew she wanted to be an author. At age eleven, she wrote her first novel—about seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them. Rowling came up with the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross. Over the next five years, she began to construct a framework for each of the seven books of the series. She moved to northern Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, married, and had a child. When the marriage ended in 1993, she returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, with her daughter and the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After several rejection by literary agents, she received one yes. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997.

Rowling has shared the role depression played in her success; at one point she contemplated suicide and suffered chronic depression. In a Harvard University commencement speech, she stated, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Source: jkrowling.com

Paul Orfalea – Founder of Kinko’s aka FedEx Office

Businessman Paul Orfalea founded what is now known as FedEx Office (originally called Kinko’s). He built Kinko’s from a single shop in Santa Barbara to a national chain with more than 1,000 locations and 25,000 employees. FedEx bought Kinko’s in 2004. It has been reported that Orfalea never carried a pen, often allowing others to handle correspondence for him because he didn’t like to read or write. He has dyslexia and ADHD, which he credits as the blessings that allowed him to see the world differently from his peers. “Lacking the ability to learn by reading, I embraced every chance to participate in life. I started businesses, like my vegetable stand. I skipped school to watch my father’s stockbroker at work. I learned early that I would only get through school with a lot of help from a lot of people. I learned to appreciate people’s strengths and forgive their weaknesses, as I hoped they would forgive mine.”

Sources: https://cagspeakers.com/paul-orfalea/

https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2008/06/post-2.html

Tommy Hilfiger – Fashion Designer, CEO/Entrepreneur, Tommy Hilfiger Corporation

American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger built an extraordinary and widely distributed fashion line from the ground up. The company made strides in the disability community by recently unveiling a clothing line geared toward people with disabilities. From a very young age, Hilfiger was equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit and an iconic eye for fashion. He wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until much later on in life, although he shared that he often felt embarrassed to reach out to people for help.

He quit school at age 18 and went on to work in the retail industry in New York City, where he began altering clothes for resale. He and his friends from high school started selling jeans and opened a store called the People’s Place, which became an instant hit. Eventually, the People’s Place went bankrupt when Hilfiger was 25. But, he picked himself back up and continued to focus on his designs before launching what would be known as the iconic Tommy Hilfiger.

Hilfiger recently partnered with the Child Mind Institute in a PSA titled, “What I Would Tell #MyYounger Self.” In the campaign video, he said, “As a child, I was dyslexic. I didn’t realize it until later on in life. I faced many challenges along the way. If you are facing challenges, the best thing you could possibly do is reach out to an adult because adults can help you somehow. I didn’t realize it at the time; I was embarrassed to talk to my teachers and family about it. But if something is bothering you, if you think you have a challenge, reach out to an adult and allow them to help you.”

Although Hilfiger struggled to read and write, he tapped into his creative strengths in other ways and diverted his attention to the world of fashion with a highly successful brand with estimated sales of $6.7 billion.

Barbara Corcoran – Founder of the Corcoran Group and Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank”

As a child, Barbara Corcoran often felt isolated and lonely due to her dyslexia. She struggled to read in the third grade and often found herself daydreaming about creative business ideas that were not related to the school curriculum. She struggled in high school and college, received straight Ds, and also experienced a ton of setbacks. She job hopped a total of 20 jobs, but never gave up on her quest to find her true passion and a career that she was passionate about.

One of the most life-changing moments of her career was when she decided to borrow $1,000 from her boyfriend, quit her job, and follow her dream of starting up The Corcoran Group, a small real estate company in New York City. Today, it’s known as the largest in the brokerage business.

Over the years, Corcoran—an American business woman, investor, author, and TV personality—has invested in over 80 businesses and is a highly recognized motivational and inspirational speaker. She is also the author of the bestselling book, Shark Tales: How I turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business.

Today, Corcoran does not view her dyslexia as an impediment. She has learned to use her dyslexia as an opportunity to push her creative entrepreneurial spirit even further, and to help others on that journey as well.

Steve Jobs – Co-Founder & Former CEO of Apple

You can thank Apple founder Steve Jobs for some of the world’s most innovative tech products that make today’s communication and connectivity a breeze.

Although Jobs grew up with dyslexia, he never claimed or publicly shared his disability. He struggled in school and dropped out after one semester at Reed College. But instead of giving up, he decided to think outside of the box in 1976 by conceptualizing the iconic Apple Computer in what was his parents’ garage.

According to Business Insider, 10-15 percent of the U.S. population are dyslexic, but only a few individuals acknowledge and receive treatment for it. Jobs’ disability served as a creative gift that allowed him to take risks and chances with his concepts for Apple.

In his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs discussed the power of trusting in your abilities and believing that the hard work, setbacks, and struggles that you experience today will eventually connect the dots and help you reach your full potential down the road:

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” Jobs said. “So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Monica Luhar is a creative copywriter, content writer, and former journalist. Her bylines have appeared in NBC News, KCET, KPCC, VICE, India-West, HelloGiggles, Yahoo!, and other hyperlocal, weekly, and national news outlets. She has covered topics ranging from diverse representation in the media, entrepreneurship, disability rights, mental health, and has reported extensively on the Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ and Latino communities. You can follow her on Twitter at @monicaluhar or view her writing at monicaluhar.com.

Steve Jobs Photo: Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs delivers the keynote speech to kick off the 2008 Macworld at the Moscone Center January 15, 2008 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 Disability:IN Conference
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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