TFS Scholarships Launches Online Toolkit to Provide College Funding Resources

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disability-owned business

SALT LAKE CITY— TFS Scholarships (TFS), the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding, has launched a free online toolkit to provide counselors, families and students with resources to help improve the college scholarship search process. The toolkit, available at tuitionfundingsources.com/resource-toolkit, provides downloadable resources and practical tips on how to find and apply for scholarships.

The launch comes in celebration with Financial Aid Awareness Month when many families are beginning the FAFSA process and researching financial aid options.

“We hope these resources help raise awareness around TFS and the 7 million college scholarships available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students,” said Richard Sorensen, president of TFS Scholarships. “Our goal is to help families discover alternative ways to offset the rising costs of higher education.”

The resource toolkit includes flyers, email templates, newsletter content, digital banners and table toppers which are designed to be shareable content that counselors, students and organizations can use to spread the word about how to find free money for college.

The newly revamped TFS website curates over 7 million scholarship opportunities from across the country – with the majority coming directly from colleges and universities—and matches them to students based on their personal profile, where they want to study, and stage of academic study. By tailoring the search criteria, TFS identifies scholarships that students are uniquely qualified for, thus lowering the application pool and increasing the chances of winning. By creating an online profile, students can find scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid. About 5,000 new scholarships are added to the database every month and appear in real time.

Thanks to exclusive financial support from Wells Fargo, the TFS website is completely ad-free, and no selling of data, making it a safe and trusted place to search.

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

 

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.

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How the first disabled and woman-owned NYSE floor broker is changing Wall Street

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Cynthia DiBartolo (c), rings the bell during the NYSE closing auction on July 8, 2021.

By AJ Horch, CNBC

Cynthia DiBartolo’s journey to the New York Stock Exchange floor was fraught with challenges and difficulty.

In July 2021, DiBartolo’s firm, Tigress Financial Partners, became the first disabled and woman-owned floor broker to become a member of the NYSE.

Floor brokers are members of firms who execute trades on the exchange floor on behalf of the firm’s clients. They are physically present on the trading floor and are active during the New York Stock Exchange opening and closing auctions.

Tigress Financial Partners has been co-manager or selling group member on more than 620 IPO and secondary transactions with an aggregate market value of over $321 billion, including for companies such as​ Warner Music, Monday.com, and Airbnb.

In mid-2020, Wall Street banks, which are predominately run by white men, came under intense pressure to improve diversity following the Black Lives Matter protests.

Companies vowed to improve their practices via philanthropic programs, diverse hiring practices, and internships for underprivileged candidates. DiBartolo crafted a diversity questionnaire to make it easier for companies selling stock or issuing debt to find and vet minority and women-owned firms. American Airlines has already adopted the survey, and JPMorgan has begun to create a database to help automate the process.

Prior to launching Tigress Financial in 2011, DiBartolo served as a compliance director, an attorney, and as a risk management director for some of Wall Streets’ largest firms. However, her life would change in 2009 with a diagnosis of throat and neck cancer.

DiBartolo became severely disabled following life-saving surgery that compromised her ability to eat, speak and swallow. Through reconstructive surgery, DiBartolo was able to regain her ability to speak, but can only do so several hours a day.

Cancer not only took DiBartolo’s voice but also her career, as she recalled in an interview with CNBC’s Bob Pisani. “You see, there was no place for an attorney, risk management director, compliance director who couldn’t speak,” she said.

During her recovery, DiBartolo began to understand just how marginalized people in the disabled community were. “During the time I didn’t have the ability to speak, I realized how marginalized I was not just in financial services, but in society,” she said.

Inspiration from her father convinced her that she needed to act; “They took your tongue, not your brain.” her father told her. Using her experience from decades on Wall Street and tenacity DiBartolo launched the first and nation’s only disabled and woman-owned financial services firm.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Employee Self-Advocacy: How To Talk To Your Employer About Your Disability

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Three business people standing in their suits speaking with one another in an office library

By Paula Morgan, Forbes

Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their personal lives with their employers, particularly when it comes to health issues and disability. Legally, you are in no way obligated to disclose your disability to your employer, or even to a potential employer during an interview. It is also illegal for employers to ask about it outright, but once you bring it up, the topic is fair game.

Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to mention your disability to your employer, particularly when you are requesting a reasonable accommodation to help you perform your job better. While it may be a scary conversation, talking about your disability with your employer is an important opportunity to be an advocate for yourself, which is something that all employees should learn how to do.

Self-advocacy is as simple as taking the initiative and having the confidence to talk with your employer about your needs in the workplace. For some, this conversation may center on a deserved raise or promotion, but at its core, advocating for yourself is about communicating what you need to do your best work. Even if you are working with a case manager to find a job that embraces individuals with disabilities, you cannot and should not depend on other people to advocate for you.

We’ve seen the powerful impact self-advocacy has had on our customers here at Allsup Employment Services. One success story that stands out came from an individual who had returned to work at the Post Office after being out of work for a year due to her disability. She struggled to do the heavy lifting required for the job and was about to quit, when she received a letter from her union about the possibility of switching to light duty.

After speaking with one of our case managers about what that would look like and getting a letter from her doctor, she met with HR and the union, who helped her to outline the duties she could do to fulfill the light duty assignment. She has been back at work and thriving for months, all because she made the decision to speak up.

Advocating for yourself begins by having a conversation with HR or your employer, and the best way to start is by framing it in a way that makes your priorities clear: taking care of your health and doing your job well. Use this time to be transparent with your employer. Talk about the challenges that you’re facing and lay out specifically what you believe you need to overcome those obstacles and function at your highest level in the workplace.

Make sure to keep the conversation positive and highlight the correlation between the accommodation you are requesting and the impact it will have on your performance. One of our case managers was helping an individual who was working really hard to manage a job she couldn’t physically do, and her supervisor recognized that, as well as the fact that it wasn’t a good fit. But because of her hard work and dedication, her employer offered her the opportunity to transition into a position that aligns better with her abilities.

Another piece of the puzzle that stops employees from requesting accommodations is the confusion over whom to ask. It’s different for everyone, and it may be more than one person. For some, it could be HR or a manager, but it’s always best to start out having these conversations with your immediate supervisor. Someone with whom you work on a daily basis is in the best position to recognize the great work you’re doing and the workplace obstacles that might be hindering your performance.

Employers will often need to strategize with HR to determine employee eligibility for an accommodation and how to provide it, but in most cases, the biggest obstacle is that the employee doesn’t come forward out of fear. Often the solution could be as simple as a flexible schedule, for individuals who have frequent medical appointments, or an inexpensive piece of equipment to make a desk accessible for use of a wheelchair.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Sunrise Medical has completed two strategic acquisitions in Europe in 2022

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Sunrise Medical CEO Thomas Babacan professional picture in suit with arms crossed smiling

Sunrise Medical, a world leader in advanced assistive mobility solutions, is pleased to announce that it has completed two strategic acquisitions in Europe in 2022 – The Helping Hand Company based in the UK and Now Tech based in Hungary – continuing its strong pursuit for strategic improvements and growth.

The Helping Hand Company is a reputed British company specializing in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of pressure management seating and positioning products, Symmetrikit 24hour postural care range, independent living, and environmental products.

Its well-established operation and vertically integrated manufacturing will benefit Sunrise Medical group in strengthening production capability in Europe and further optimizing its global supply chain. It also extends the product portfolio, especially in the Seating and Pediatrics area, to offer more comprehensive 24-hour postural care products to satisfy the well-diversified customer demand.

Now Tech, a Budapest-headquartered tech start-up company, joins Sunrise Medical with a strong digital, software, and electronic engineering team, bringing highly desired technical skills and more than 10 years of industry-specific knowledge and expertise. Its latest innovation, the special head control product Gyroset Vigo, has already been well received by the market and will become part of Sunrise Medical’s SWITCH-IT power wheelchair special control product offering. The addition of Now Tech will significantly strengthen the group’s innovation power.

“We are very excited to welcome The Helping Hand Company and Now Tech into the Sunrise Medical family. Continuously improving our global operation excellence and striving for great, breakthrough innovations has always been the center of our strategy,” Thomas Babacan, the President and CEO of Sunrise Medical group (pictured above) commented. “Both acquisitions will significantly strengthen our group’s setup and competences, especially in global supply chain and our innovation talents, which will enable us to further improve our products & performances and serve our customers better in many ways.”

About Sunrise Medical: Committed to improving people’s lives, Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the innovation, manufacture and distribution of advanced assistive mobility devices and solutions. Distributed in more than 130 countries under its own 17 proprietary brands, the key products include manual and power wheelchairs, power assist products, motorized scooters, seating & positioning systems and daily living aids. Operating in 18 countries, Sunrise Medical group is headquartered in Malsch, Germany and employs over 2,300 associates worldwide.

Click here to find out more about Sunrise Medical visit.

Helping Employers “Bring Their A Game” to Workplace Mental Health

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A desk covered in work essentials and a notepad with the words

By the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

The challenges brought to daily life in 2020, coupled with an increased understanding about the prevalence of mental health conditions, is spurring employers to consider strategies they can use to support employees’ mental health.

To help employers learn how to cultivate a welcoming and supportive work environment for employees with mental health conditions, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) created a Mental Health Toolkit centered around four pillars referred to as the “4 A’s of a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace.” The toolkit also provides summaries of research and examples of mental health initiatives implemented by employers of varying sizes and industries.

The first “A” of the four pillars, awareness, involves strategies for educating employers and workers about mental health issues and taking action to foster a supportive workplace culture. One example of an organization’s efforts in this area is professional services firm EY’s “We Care” campaign. This internal campaign uses personal stories, including those shared by company leadership, to educate employees about mental health conditions, reduce stigma, and encourage them to support one another.

The second “A” in the “4 A’s” is accommodations, meaning providing employees with mental health conditions the supports they need to perform their job. Common examples include flexible work arrangements and/or schedules, which may be considered reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other disability nondiscrimination laws and regulations.

An example of accommodations for someone with a mental health condition are those provided by defense contractor Northrop Grumman for an employee who is a veteran with service-connected disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The employee uses several workplace accommodations to ensure his workplace success, including noise-cancelling headphones and bringing his service dog to work with him.

The third “A,” assistance, refers to assisting employees who have, or may develop, a mental health condition. Many employers do this through formal employee assistance programs (EAPs). An example of this in action is chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer DuPont, which has a long history with EAPs. In fact, DuPont is regarded as having one of the first.

Today, DuPont has a number of internal initiatives focused on mental health and employee wellbeing, with strong support from top leadership. As an example, DuPont’s global EAP team created and implemented an internal anti-stigma campaign called “ICU” (“I See You”), the centerpiece of which is an animated video about how to recognize signs of emotional distress in colleagues and encourage them to seek help. Based on its success, DuPont decided to make the program available to all employers, free of charge, through a partnership with the Center for Workplace Mental Health.

EAPs are associated with larger businesses, but it is important to note that there are strategies small businesses can use to offer EAP services, for example, by banding together to negotiate for better rates. Business membership groups such as chambers of commerce or trade associations may be of assistance in this regard. In fact, providing employee assistance in the small business environment can be especially important, given that decreased productivity or the absence of even one employee can have a significant impact on a small organization.

The final “A,” access, encourages employers to assess company healthcare plans to ensure or increase coverage for behavioral/mental health treatment, something shown to benefit not only individuals, but also companies by way of the bottom line. According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than 80 percent of employees treated for mental health conditions report improved levels of efficiency and satisfaction at work.

An example of a company with a strong focus on providing access to mental health services for its employers is global pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, which engages in the research, development, and sale of drugs for psychiatric and neurological disorders. According to company representatives, educating about and decreasing stigma associated with mental health is one of Lundbeck’s core corporate beliefs—and this applies not only externally, but also internally for its employees. Reflecting this, prescription medications for mental health conditions are available to employees or their dependents at no cost when prescribed by a physician. Further, all benefits information sent to employees leading up to the company’s healthcare plan open enrollment period prominently feature mental health messaging.

For companies that are federal contractors, taking steps to foster a mental health-friendly workplace can have additional benefits by helping demonstrate an overall commitment to disability inclusion. As a result, employees with mental health conditions may feel more comfortable self-identifying as having a disability, which helps employers measure their progress toward goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Federal contractors, and all businesses, can use EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit to learn how to “bring their A game” when it comes to workplace mental health.

Click here to access EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit.

Tips for Conducting Virtual Interviews with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Job Candidates

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A man with a headset conducting a job interview on his laptop.

By Susan Murad

With National Disability Employment Awareness Month just concluded, the Center on Employment at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is offering tips for employers conducting virtual interviews with deaf and hard-of-hearing job candidates.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that the usual approach to the interview process has been dramatically impacted, and many employers are turning to virtual platforms to conduct their interviews,” said John Macko, director of RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment.

Employers can ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing job candidates have full access to communication for a successful interview. Here’s how:

  • Avoid having bright lights or a window directly behind you that can create glare and cause eye strain for the candidate. Make sure there are no distractions in the background, as well.
  • If the candidate is not familiar with the platform (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) used for the interview, allow them to perform a test connection to make sure the candidate can connect at the time of the interview.
  • Encourage the candidate to let you know if communication is unclear. Ask questions and clarify comments to ensure the candidate understands everything that is happening during the interview.
  • Use a dry erase board, writing tablet, chatroom, or comment feature to help clarify your communication.

Continue to  RIT.edu to read the full article.

Bullied boy with dwarfism scores role in new ‘Mad Max’ movie

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Quaden Bayles is set to appear in

By Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Quaden Bayles, an indigenous Australian boy who won the support of celebrities and well-wishers around the globe after being bullied because of his disability, has landed a role in the new “Mad Max” movie.Oscar-winning director George Miller has cast the now 11-year-old in a small role in the movie “Furiosa,” a prequel to his 2015 post-apocalyptic blockbuster “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Miller revealed in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine, published Saturday, that he was moved to put Bayles on the big screen after watching the distressing video his mother shared of him in February 2020.

The Queensland boy, born with a type of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, is already scheduled to appear alongside Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in Miller’s next film, “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” “It was good for us and it was good for him,” Miller told the Sydney Morning Herald. “And he did such a good job that he’s got a small role in Furiosa.”

In the 2020 viral video clip, Bayles is shown crying uncontrollably in the back of his mother’s car as he asks for a knife to kill himself.”This is what bullying does,” his mother, Yarraka Bayles, said in the video, livestreamed on Facebook to raise awareness of the impact of bullying. “Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

The Employee’s Practical Guide to Requesting Accommodations

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women sitting in a wheelchair at work giving a high-five to a coworker

Asking for job accommodations can be difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before or believe that your accommodation might be “too cumbersome.” Luckily, the ADA has protections in place that might allow you to ask for more than you think. Here’s what you need to know:

My Employer and the ADA:

The ADA is a federal civil rights law passed in 1990 and went into effect beginning in 1992. Its purpose is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, in the programs and activities offered by state and local governments and in accessing the goods and services offered in places like stores, hotels, restaurants, football stadiums, doctors’ offices, beauty parlors and so on.

The focus of this guide is Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Only “covered entities” must comply with Title I of the ADA. The term covered entities includes private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local government employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees. Federal executive agencies are exempt from the ADA, but they must comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is almost identical to the ADA.

Requesting an Accommodation:

You can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while you are employed. You can request an accommodation even if you did not ask for one when applying for a job or after receiving a job offer. In general, you should request an accommodation when you know that there is a workplace barrier that is preventing you, due to a disability, from competing for a job, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment like an employee lunchroom or employee parking. As a practical matter, it is better to request an accommodation before your job performance suffers or conduct problems occur because employers do not have to rescind discipline that occurred before they knew about your disability.

According to the EEOC, you only have to let your employer know that you need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. You can use “plain English” to make your request, and you do not have to mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.”

Here are some examples:

  • Example A: An employee tells her supervisor, “I’m having trouble getting to work at my scheduled starting time because of medical treatments I’m undergoing.” This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Example B: An employee tells his supervisor, “I need six weeks off to get treatment for a back problem.” This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Example C: A new employee, who uses a wheelchair, informs the employer that her wheelchair cannot fit under the desk in her office. This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Example D: An employee tells his supervisor that he would like a new chair because his present one is uncomfortable. Although this is a request for a change at work, his statement is insufficient to put the employer on notice that he is requesting a reasonable accommodation. He does not link his need for the new chair with a medical condition.

Requests for reasonable accommodation do not have to be in writing, so you can request accommodations in a face-to-face conversation or using any other method of communication. Your employer may choose to write a memo or letter confirming your request or may ask you to fill out a form or submit the request in written form, but the employer cannot ignore your initial request. However, you may want to put your request in writing even if your employer does not require it. Sometimes it is useful to have a paper trail in case there is a dispute about whether or when you requested accommodation.

What Can I Request?

In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide “reasonable” accommodations for employees with disabilities. Therefore, you can request any accommodation that is considered “reasonable.”

Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations from the EEOC:

  • making existing facilities accessible
  • job restructuring
  • part-time or modified work schedules
  • acquiring or modifying equipment
  • changing tests, training materials or policies
  • providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • reassignment to a vacant position
  • medical leave
  • work at home

The following are not considered forms of reasonable accommodation and therefore not required under the ADA:

  • removing or eliminating an essential function from a job
  • lowering production standards
  • providing personal use items such as a prosthetic limb, a wheelchair, eyeglasses, hearing aids or similar devices if they are also needed off the job

Note: While employers are not required to eliminate an essential function, lower a production standard or provide personal use items, they can do so if they wish.

The only limitation on an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations is that no such change or modification is required if it would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. “Undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer concerning the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. An employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship.

What if My Request is Denied?

If your employer denies your request, try to find out why so you know what to do next. For example, if your employer denied your request because your medical information did not show that you have a disability, you can provide additional information. Or, if your employer decided that the accommodation you requested would pose an undue hardship, you may want to suggest other options.

If you do not think your employer had a valid reason to deny your request, or the employer will not tell you why the request was denied, you have options. You can appeal the decision by going up the chain of command, filing a grievance with your union if you have one, or filing a complaint with the EEOC or your state enforcing agency.

Source: Job Accommodation Network

5 Tips to Create or Improve Your Linkedin Profile

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woman's hands typing on laptop

Ready to land your dream job?  You’re in luck because recruiters and employers are looking for candidates in record numbers this year. And one tool they’re using to help them recruit is LinkedIn. Whether you already have a full LinkedIn profile, or you’ve never set one up, follow these five tips to make your profile shine.

Start with the details

This might seem counter-intuitive, but getting the details down first can help you round out the more general parts of your profile, such as the headline and summary. So don’t be afraid to dive right into the “Work Experience” section.

A good format to use for your experience is to start with a one or two sentence summary of each position, followed by bullet points that highlight specifics in terms of accomplishments and results. You might use a slightly edited version of your resume for this.

Get the headline right

Let’s be honest: your LinkedIn headline does a lot of heavy lifting for you. So it’s important that it highlight your industry or career as well as your skills and/or what you can offer to an employer. It doesn’t need to be cute or attention grabbing. But since it’s the one piece of your profile that most people actually will read, you do want to make sure it conveys information about you. Put yourself in the mind of a recruiter for your dream job, and make sure your headline has some keywords that will identify you as a good fit for that position. For example, if you’re looking for a career in something as specific as accounting or database management, you want to make sure that’s obvious from your headline.

To start brainstorming your headline, go back to your Work Experience information. You should find a story somewhere in your summary statements and your bullet points. Once you land on a headline, you might even want to tweak your Work Experience section to make sure it works well with and flows from your headline.

Make the effort with a headshot

This little image is the most-viewed part of your profile—in fact, recruiters and employers see it before they even click through to look at the rest of your profile. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer for your headshot, but if you have access to one, it can make the process easier. If you don’t, have someone take a a photo of you in front of a neutral background, and crop it to show just your head and the top of your shoulders. A good rule of thumb for how to dress is to wear what you would wear to your dream job (even though only the top of your shoulders will be visible). You want to look professional and friendly. Employers are looking for someone who will get along well with colleagues, so smiling or having an approachable look is important.

List all 50 skills

LinkedIn has up to 50 slots for you to list your skills, and they use these skills like keywords to match you to recruiters’ or employers’ searches. So, the more skills or keywords you have listed, the more likely you’ll show up in someone’s search.

Not sure which skills you should list? One place to get ideas is from the LinkedIn profiles of people who have jobs similar to yours, or who work in the same field. CareerOneStop’s Tools & Technology Finder is also a good place to identify the most common tools or software programs for your specific occupation; if you have experience with the tools or technologies you find listed when you look up your occupation there, you should definitely list them.

Ask for recommendations

This last point can be the hardest one for many people, but having even a couple recommendations on your LinkedIn profile can make a difference in whether a recruiter pauses and takes a closer look. Recommendations can be quite short—even two to three sentences—so asking someone to write one for you does not have to be a huge burden to them.

In terms of who you should ask, you can really consider almost anyone you’ve known in a professional setting. That can include people more senior than you, more junior than you, or colleagues at your own level. It can also include current or former colleagues, bosses, or employees.

Source: CareerOneStop

Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive clothing line offers more choices for people with MS and other disabilities

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Tommy Hilfiger's adaptive clothing line started with clothes for children. Based on their popularity the brand expanded the line for adults a year later.Tommy Hilfiger

By 

For people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other disabilities, getting dressed can be challenging. Navigating buttons or zippers can feel difficult or even some fabrics feel uncomfortable. A lot of adaptive clothing — garments designed to be functional for people with disabilities — focuses heavily on the function. Tommy Hilfiger hoped to change that by offering a line that’s functional but looks as fashionable as his other clothing lines.

“Nobody was doing it and when the idea came to me, I thought it was a natural for us because we are a very inclusive brand and we’re really proud to be leading the way now for adaptive fashion globally,” Tommy Hilfiger told TODAY. “A lot of this has to do with my personal experience as a result of having children on the autistic spectrum and I have firsthand experiencing as far as knowing what their needs are … and understanding the fact that they too would like to be like their peers.”In 2016, Tommy Hilfiger released its line of adaptive clothing for children and in the next year adult clothing was available “as a result of the great response.”

“They need it to function. But they also want to look good and for us it took a bit of studying and due diligence to try to figure out specifically what they would need in terms of function,” he explained. “We were able to use the same design as our mainstream collection but add innovative modifications and make dress easier.”

The brand uses a variety of closures, such as Velcro, magnets and hoop and loop closures, that can be easier to manage. While Hilfiger has personal experience with family members who have disabilities, including his sister who had MS, the company worked with people with disabilities to understand what works best for them.

“We asked a lot of people with disabilities what their preferences would be and we took it very seriously,” he said. “I wanted it to really come out of the gates as being a great collection and it took us quite a while to develop that.”

After people wear the clothes, they might share their thoughts and Hilfiger said that helps them continue to improve upon the design.

“The feedback really helps us to drive the business and the changes,” he said.

In the past, Hilfiger has supported Race to Erase MS, co-founded by Nancy Davis. Her organization has raised money to help drug development for MS. When she was diagnosed 30 years ago, she and others had few options for treatment.

“I had been recently told that I would never walk again and I would never have much freedom in my life and I had a really impossible disease that (doctors) would never find any treatment or cures for, but I decided I wanted to start my own foundation,” she told TODAY. “There’s now 22 drugs on the market that have FDA approval, which is nothing short of a miracle, and it was because of so many people like Tommy Hilfiger and all the different supporters.”

When Davis was diagnosed, she had three young children felt determined to have a different future. She said most people are diagnosed between 20 and 40 when they hit “that stride in their life.”

“I so badly wanted to live my life and had so many dreams and aspirations and they told me the most that I could do in my life is operate the remote control to my TV set,” she said. “It’s scary. It’s the unknown. Today there’s so much hope.”

Even with new medications, though, dressing can still be a challenge for people with MS. Davis recently met with Selma Blair, whom Race to Erase MS honored in the past, and the actress admitted that it took her about 40 minutes to get dressed.

“When you look at how hard it is to get up in the morning and put on clothes it’s really amazing that Tommy was so forward thinking in that he came up with this line that looks beautiful,” she said. “But it makes it very easy for that person who can’t get dressed.”

Click here to read the full article on TODAY.

Pottery Barn debuts 150 pieces of furniture for people with disabilities

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man in wheelchair reaching for a book in his home office surrounded by Pottery Barn furniture

By Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company

If you’re living with a disability, small design choices can make a big difference to your quality of life. High bathroom consoles make it hard to wash your hands from a wheelchair; low sofas are hard to get out of when you have a knee condition.

Today, Pottery Barn is launching a furniture collection designed to be accessible to the elderly, the injured, and those living with disabilities, making it one of the first large home brands to do so. In consultation with experts, the company’s designers adapted 150 best-selling styles—from dining tables to office desks—to accommodate a range of disabilities.

Pottery Barn’s Accessible Home line gives consumers more options for furniture that is both functional and stylish. And as a major retailer—whose parent company, Williams-Sonoma, generated $8.2 billion in 2021—this initiative may signal to the rest of the industry that it makes good business sense to design more inclusively.

Marta Benson, Pottery Barn’s president, felt strongly that the brand should launch an accessible home collection after she visited one of its stores, only to find that the bathroom didn’t contain Pottery Barn furniture. When she asked a store designer why, he pointed out that none of Pottery Barn’s bathroom consoles complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires public bathrooms to have wheelchair-accessible sinks. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” she recalls. “From that moment, I just started tuning into what it means to be inclusive and accessible to all abilities.”
Benson tasked Pottery Barn’s designers with creating modified versions of some of the brand’s most popular products to make them safer and easier for people with disabilities to use. To guide them, she brought in experts from the Disability Education and Advocacy Network, which is led by people with disabilities, as well as designers who specialize in designing for disability.

One of those experts is Lisa Cini, founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, and a leading designer in the field of long-term care and Alzheimer’s. She’s known for a project called the Werner House, a 10,000-square-foot mansion she purchased in 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Her goal was to explore what it takes to create an inclusive, multigenerational house, and she invited designers and manufacturers to help renovate it. It’s equipped with technology like height-adjustable sinks and toilets, and transitions in flooring to make it easier for people to age in place. Cini herself lives in the house with her elderly parents and makes adjustments based on the family’s everyday experiences.
Cini and the Pottery Barn team used the Werner House to help create the Accessible Home line. “We looked at all the current Pottery Barn products and determined what was most appropriate for the Werner House, but we also identified gaps in the market,” Cini said via email.

In some cases, the designers made small tweaks to existing products. For instance, they redesigned mirrors so they can tilt, making it easier for those in wheelchairs to easily see themselves. They also created modified versions of popular office desks, like the Pacific, Dillon, and Malcolm, with dimensions that accommodate wheelchairs. These desks also feature open storage and shelving, to eliminate the need to grip and pull drawers.

Some products required more elaborate changes. The brand has taken its most popular armchairs—Wells, Irving, Tyler, and Ayden—and adapted them to include power lift, which makes it easier to get in and out of the chair. The chairs are also able to move in every direction, which relieves pressure and stress on the body. The 150 products will be available online and in select stores, and they’ll be the same price point as the original versions.

Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.

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