MTA New York City Transit Hires First-Ever Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility

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For the first time ever, New York City Transit will have a dedicated accessibility chief. 

On Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford announced the appointment of Alex Elegudin as Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility. He’ll be tasked with overseeing and implementing the Fast Forward Plan initiative to expand accessibility to subway and bus customers, as well as improve Access-A-Ride service.

Elegudin, a longtime accessibility advocate, will serve as MTA NYC Transit’s innaugural Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, an executive-level position reporting directly to President Byford.  His first day on the job is Monday, June 25.

“Advancing the cause of accessibility is one of my top priorities and Alex’s new role will pull together all of our accessibility-related work streams, touching all Fast Forward projects and all NYC Transit departments,” President Byford said.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining President Byford’s executive team,” Elegudin said.  “The vision set forth in the ‘Fast Forward’ plan will make NYC Transit work better for New Yorkers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility quickly.  I look forward to being a part of making the plan a reality and helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.”

“Expanding accessibility is a priority for all MTA agencies, with the subway serving millions of people a day having particular urgency,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who has convened a special working group of MTA Board members to advise on improving accessibility.  “President Byford’s creation of this new position and Alex’s appointment are a victory for all of our customers who need more accessible subway, bus and paratransit service.”

Continue onto the MTA Newsroom to read the complete article.

 

Bob Dole’s Disability Rights Legacy Marked the End of a Bipartisan Era

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Bob Dole at the 2016 Republican National Convention with Mike Pence

By Eric Garcia, The SoapBox

In 1969, Bob Dole gave his maiden speech on the Senate floor on a topic with which he was intimately acquainted. From the moment he lost the use of his right arm and the feeling in his left, in Italy as a soldier in World War II, the challenges of a world not built for disabled people animated both Dole’s life and his political persona: Journalists familiarized readers with his trademark strategies, from holding a pen in his right hand to keep his fingers from splaying to wearing loafers, since he couldn’t tie his shoes. More importantly, the impact of it on his life shaped his ideas and played a role in his own determinations about whom he hired.

In that first address to the Senate, Dole told the story of a man who became a paraplegic and was referred to the state-federal vocational rehabilitation office, which enabled him to get a job as an insurance agent, have a new home, and adopt a child. “It takes place now because the Congress and the federal government initiated and guided a vital, vigorous program of vocational rehabilitation,” he said.

Dole’s praise of a federal government program was surprising given his role as a Republican “hatchet man.” At different points, Dole served as Republican National Committee chairman under Richard Nixon; Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976; Senate majority leader; and thrice as presidential candidate, his last foray coming in 1996 as the GOP standard-bearer who could not prevent Bill Clinton’s reelection.

At the same time, Dole was a consummate dealmaker whose efforts helped bring about the Americans With Disabilities Act, which he co-sponsored not just with Republicans such as John McCain and Orrin Hatch but with prominent liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Tom Harkin, as well. President George H.W. Bush would sign the bipartisan bill into law.

“The fact that the ADA was bipartisan was hugely important, and Senator Dole was a key player in that,” said Chai Feldblum, the lead attorney on the team that drew up the bill. Feldblum’s words are all the more remarkable considering she more famously worked as the legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union’s AIDS Project, and they illustrate how concern for disabled people once spanned the wider political spectrum, from liberals like her to Republicans like Justin Dart and Evan Kemp, who served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Dole’s passing on Sunday has allowed Washington, D.C., to engage in one of its favorite activities—reminiscing on the days when bipartisanship reigned; the ADA looms large as a prime example. But it also forces a round of uncomfortable questions, regarding the way the Republican Party has strayed from Dole’s heyday, abandoning the positions on disability rights it once proudly defended.

“The history of the Republican [Party] writ large in the area of civil rights, up until recently, there’s been a strong and sustained advocacy for civil rights,” said Tom Ridge, who was a Republican congressman at the time of the ADA’s passage and is now chairman of the National Organization on Disability. Ridge’s words about the decline of bipartisanship on disability aren’t empty “party of Lincoln” platitudes: Dole voted for the Civil Rights Act as well as the Voting Rights Act; he brokered a compromise that helped extend the Voting Rights Act in 1982 with future ADA collaborator Kennedy.

“Regrettably, there hasn’t been as strong a champion within the Republican Party since he left the Congress,” said Ridge.

The arc of Dole’s political career traces the trajectory of a Republican Party that largely gave up on governing in favor of promulgating a scorched-earth form of politics as America entered the 1990s. Similarly, as the Republican Party has shifted from being a party that focuses on using government to enact conservative policies to a party that simply wants to defang government, it might mean the end of the old way of disability advocacy and the successes it wrought.

Dole’s introduction to disability was inextricably linked to a desire for bipartisanship. As he recovered at Percy Jones Hospital, Dole met future Democratic Senators Phil Hart and Daniel Inouye. His recovery would also guide Capitol Hill’s debates in a direction favorable to the disabled.

“I was a nurse, and he liked me because a lot of nurses helped him get through his disability after World War II,” said Maureen “Mo” West, who was Dole’s adviser on disability during the debate around the Americans With Disabilities Act, noting that Dole’s chief of staff at the time, Sheila Burke, was a nurse as well. Before that, West had worked for Senator Lowell Weicker, the liberal Republican from Connecticut who introduced the ADA in 1988, who conservatives loathed so much, William F. Buckley endorsed Joe Lieberman to replace him.

But Washington’s recherche du temps perdu betrays the fact that even at that time, disability advocates did not receive a smooth ride in the halls of power. In fact, when the initial legislation for the ADA was first introduced in 1988, Dole had his own concerns—such as the removal of the “undue hardship” criteria for reasonable accommodations, what was considered a public accommodation, and what those public accommodations would be required to do in terms of retrofitting—despite being a co-sponsor.

And gauzy memories about the ADA’s passage gloss over those whom the law left behind. The ADA specifically excluded homosexuality from protection against discrimination, and lumped it in with “transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.”

The bipartisanship of the era didn’t always lead to laudatory results when conservative Democrats teamed up with right-wing Republicans. This was the case when Senator Jesse Helms, the racist and homophobic senator, attempted to rekindle an amendment from conservative Democratic Representative Jim Chapman from Texas that would have allowed for restaurants to shift people with diseases such as AIDS from working in food-handling jobs.

The conservative movement, unmoved by the spirit of bipartisanship that guided the ADA’s passage, vehemently denounced the law. Upon its signing, National Review chided the law in a piece titled “Disabling the GOP.” Conservatives lumped the ADA together with a litany of other bills passed contemporaneously, such as the Clean Air Amendments Act and the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Ed Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, decried all three pieces of legislation as “a new onslaught of economic and social nannyism.”

Click here to read the full article on The SoapBox.

SPAN Program provides specialized health care for adults with special needs

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two adults with special needs laughing together

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Regardless of age or health history, taking care of yourself and forming strong healthy habits is one of the most important things you can do. Achieving wellness looks different for all of us, but may be especially challenging for those with disabilities or special needs. Thankfully, some medical professionals have the expertise and compassion to help adults in this situation.

Dually certified in pediatrics and internal medicine, Laura Gaffney, MD, has dedicated her career to caring for adults with special needs. She started the Special Pediatric-to-Adult Need program, or SPAN, at AdventHealth Medical Group Primary Care at Shawnee Mission. The SPAN program is the only primary care program in the Kansas City area for adults with special needs including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and genetic disorders. It was Dr. Gaffney’s relationship with her mother and grandmother that prompted her to establish the SPAN program.

“My mom had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair,” said Dr. Gaffney. “I felt like she did not get the care she deserved. People would often treat her as if she had impaired intellectual ability, yet she was a pharmacist. Also, my grandmother was a librarian for children with special needs.”

As the medical director of SPAN, Dr. Gaffney has built a team that provides comprehensive, patient-focused care for adults with a chronic condition that persists from childhood to adulthood. The SPAN program offers these patients a consistent and reliable medical home with same-day appointments.

“There are few primary care clinics in the United States for adults with a variety of overlapping needs,” said Dr. Gaffney. “We work to ensure our clinic meets the needs of this unique group.”

Dr. Gaffney and her team will see a patient’s family members and caregivers, which provides an integrated approach to care and a better understanding of the social and emotional needs of the patient. They also have social workers on hand and provide diabetes education. In addition, the clinic features an exam bed that lowers to 14 inches allowing easy transfers and the ability to weigh a patient up to 450 pounds.

“These are ways we are providing whole-person care to adults with special needs,” said Dr. Gaffney. “We have also identified dentists, physical therapists and other specialists who are interested in caring for people with special needs and doing it with respect.”

Dr. Gaffney describes herself as a curious and empathic person. These traits coupled with her background as an internal medicine and pediatric physician give her a unique perspective allowing her to provide excellent medical care for patients with special needs.

“I have been trained to understand genetic, developmental and intellectual issues and how those change as people age,” said Dr. Gaffney. “People with genetic diseases, neurologic diversity and cerebral palsy are living longer lives and there are few physicians that are willing and educationally able to care for this group.”

Click here to read the full article on Shawnee Mission Post.

The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

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The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

By Jessica Lucas, Input

Last month, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Teen Girls Are Developing Tics. Doctors Say TikTok Could Be a Factor” went viral on social media.

The piece reported a rise in young women presenting with symptoms of Tourette syndrome, a widely misunderstood neurological disorder that impacts roughly 0.6 percent of children and causes people to experience tics — involuntary and repetitive movements or sounds.

The Journal cited “a spate of recent medical journal articles,” in which doctors claim many girls with unexplained tics “had been watching videos of TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome.” The piece, which featured two teenage girls who linked their tics to TikTok, said that pediatric movement-disorder centers across the U.S. had reported “an influx of teen girls with similar tics.”

“PEOPLE automatically think we’re doing things for ATTENTION, or that there’s NO WAY that Tourette syndrome can be REAL.”
The article acknowledged that the “TikTok tics” epidemic was anecdotal and even quoted an academic who cast doubt on TikTok being the root cause of this phenomenon. “There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” Dr. Joseph McGuire of Johns Hopkins University Tourette’s Center told the paper. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression, and stress.”

But the headline was damaging enough. And it was worsened by subsequent coverage: Buzzfeed, the New York Post, People, and Business Insider ran with the story — all without any input from the Tourette’s community itself, which has been horrified by the press frenzy.

Ben Brown, host of the Tourette’s Podcast, has been deeply perturbed, as have his listeners. “There’s a lot of frustration. Some people are just livid,” says Brown, who is 41 and based in North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of five, but lived a “closeted” life with the condition while he worked as a photojournalist. Brown “came out” with Tourette’s when he launched his podcast in 2018.

“Now we have scientists who are saying things we know from experience are just not safe,” Brown says. He and many others living with Tourette syndrome fear the current rhetoric around TikTok tics could further stigmatize Tourette’s, especially for young women.

Britney Wolf is a 31-year-old Tourette’s campaigner from Ohio. “People automatically think we’re doing things for attention, or that there’s no way that Tourette syndrome can be real,” says Wolf, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of seven. She interviews people with the condition on her YouTube channel in a bid to challenge stereotypes. “There’s already so many of these people trying to tear us down,” she says, “and articles like this give them more fuel to start claiming that all advocates are faking it.”

Jaleesa Jenkins, a 24-year-old Tourette’s YouTuber from California, is most frustrated by the suggestion that Tourette-like symptoms can be “caught” through platforms like TikTok. “The idea is really oversimplified and really stigmatizing,” she says. “It’s just not true. It makes people afraid, suspicious, or scared to be around us.”

It seems that the recent press attention has undone years of campaigning. “People with Tourette syndrome have worked hard for a very long time to feel understood — particularly for people to understand that tics aren’t voluntary or done for attention,” says Dr. Christine Conelea. The clinical practitioner and researcher is an assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota and has worked with Tourette’s patients for 15 years. “I worry that those who are doing advocacy on social media spaces will be questioned and targeted.”

Wolf finds the situation heartbreaking. “So many people have told me how much they have learned about Tourette’s because of people online,” she says. “It felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Now it feels like we’re being pulled back.”

Click here to read the full article on Input.

Local Teen Clings To Hope Almost A Decade After Epilepsy Diagnosis

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Local Teen Clings To Hope Almost A Decade After Epilepsy Diagnosis

By Derrick Stuckly, Brown Wood News

The month of November is known as a time when we gather around the table with our friends and family to celebrate what we are thankful for. But for more than 3.4 million Americans the month of November means so much more. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.

According to the National Epilepsy foundation 1 in 10 people will have a seizure and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime.

Ellie Mclver, a 16 year old junior at Santa Anna High school, is 1 in 26.

For most teenagers their list of worries usually involves what they’re going to wear to winter formal, acne, sports, and narrowing down what college they will apply to. But for teenagers like Santa Anna junior Ellie, her list looks a little different. I had the opportunity to get to know Ellie and her mom Brandi as they both courageously shared with me what Ellie’s life has looked like since she was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the tender age of 8.

Ellie was in class her 3rd grade year when she had her first seizure. Tests performed after that seizure led to an epilepsy diagnosis. The epilepsy diagnosis was hard enough for the family but the news only got worse as they would later be told by doctors that Ellie’s seizures were considered irretractable. Ellie explained to me that this means medicine does not work to control her seizures.

Not even a year after her diagnosis Ellie went in for her first major brain surgery. This was a terrifying time for the entire Mclver family. They weren’t even sure this surgery was going to help but with medicine out of the question, this was their only option to try to stop the seizures.

After surgery Ellie’s family walked around cautiously but eventually a week passed, then a month, and before they knew it Ellie had been seizure free for 4 years.

Time went on and as most families do Ellie’s family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving in 2018 when family members noticed Ellie was “zoned out.” For any other teen this is a pretty normal occurrence but for Ellie this indicated a seizure. After 4 years Ellie was experiencing a focal seizure which meant she was no longer seizure free. Her seizures progressively got worse after this occurance. In September of 2019 Ellie’s family had a hard time pulling her out of a seizure and they had to call an ambulance. Once again Ellie had no choice but to undergo another brain surgery. This time the surgery was unsuccessful, she was still having seizures.

Ellie is 16 now and she knows she is facing more complex brain surgeries in hopes that one day she will be completely seizure free. Ellie is not fearful for what is ahead; she is ready to head into battle to do what she needs to do so she can have more freedom. With that, I asked her if there are things are she’s had to overcome because of epilepsy that other teens her age haven’t had to deal with. She said, “The hardest thing is that I can’t get my drivers license!” She also went on to say, “I miss a lot of school because after a seizure it can take a few hours or even days to recover so I feel like I’m always playing catch up.” I was amazed to learn that even though she is forced to play catch up Ellie’s resilience and urge to be great outweighs the task of that catch up. She told me she is the president of their FFA chapter, she plays clarinet in the high school band, and she takes dual credit classes. She did have to give up playing high school sports because the stress was more than her brain would physically allow her to handle.

Although Ellie has had to give some things up and she has a lot to manage and figure out, she still expressed little concern for herself and more concern for her friends. She shared with me that her friends have never seen her have a seizure and she hopes they never do. She said, “but they do see a lot of side effects from my medication. My medications can be hard to regulate so sometimes I seem “high”, and I have tons of “brain fog.” She said her teachers and friends are great at knowing when she isn’t doing okay, and they do all they can to help support her.

Ellie’s mom Brandi confirmed this by saying, “Ellie has a huge support group and so many people praying for her every day. She gets notes from people in our church, other churches, and several cards a month from a sweet group of ladies that don’t even live in our town.” Brandi went on to say that Ellie calls these things her ‘fan mail” and the encouragement makes a huge difference on this journey.

I asked Brandi what it has been like to watch her daughter battle epilepsy for more than half of her life and I was so inspired by her when she said, ‘Ellie has handled every obstacle in her path with grace and although it has been heart wrenching to watch her go through all that she has, Ellie has never lost faith, so how could I?”

Ellie continued to share her faith and confidence in God when she said “When things get tough, I cling to the verse 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads, “God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

It is without a doubt that even at such a young age with such a tough diagnosis Ellie has power, love, and a sound mind about her. People who don’t know Ellie would never know that she currently takes 3 medications that must be administered on a strict schedule, they don’t know how often her family must make the drive to Fort Worth to be seen and monitored by her neurosurgeon, and they don’t know that sometimes she suffers in pain and in a fog. Her radiant smile would surely tell you otherwise.

Click here to read the full article on Brown Wood News.

Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

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Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

By , NPR

A coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health has issued an urgent warning declaring the mental health crisis among children so dire that it has become a national emergency.

The declaration was penned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals.

In a letter released Tuesday, the groups say that rates of childhood mental health concerns were already steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.

“This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020,” the declaration from the pediatric groups says.

When it comes to suicide in particular, the groups point to data showing that by 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.

Teenage girls have emerged particularly at risk. From February to March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, the data shows that in 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children between the ages of 5 and 11 and 31% for those 12 to 17, compared with 2019.

“Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” the American Academy of Pediatrics’ president, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, said in a statement.

The crisis affects children of color even more
The declaration from the pediatric groups notes that the disruptions children and families have experienced during the pandemic have disproportionately affected children of color.

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed that 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. A majority of those children were kids of color.

The study showed that, compared with white children, Native American children were 4.5 times more likely to have lost a primary caregiver. Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children nearly twice as likely.

“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome turns his winning moment into a growing movement for inclusion

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The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome races forward for inclusion

By Julia M. Chan, CNN

Chris Nikic’s journey to becoming an elite athlete began with a single step. What kept him going was a single recipe for success: get “1 percent better” every day.

“One percent — stick with that goal,” Chris says. “If you stick with that goal, (you) can succeed and be a successful person.”

Last fall, Chris showed the world the power of small but consistent improvement, setting a Guinness World Record as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, ending with a 26.2-mile marathon. But crossing that finish line was only the beginning.

Now, the 22-year-old Special Olympics Champion Ambassador from the Orlando area is on a mission to promote inclusion and highlight human potential.

Early hurdles

From birth, Chris faced a number of cognitive, physical, and sensory challenges, according to his mother, Trish Nikic. He underwent open-heart surgery at five months old and years of therapy to help with things like eating, speech, and balance.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle he encountered, though, was how other people perceived him.

“People treated me different,” Chris recalls. “They were telling me that I can’t do that or can’t do this.”

When Chris was eight, he and his family found a supportive and welcoming community in Special Olympics Florida. Inspired by his athletic older sister, Chris eagerly took to sports like basketball, golf, and track.

Their true benefits went beyond exercise for the growing boy. Athletics “gave him an opportunity to be socially included with others,” Chris’ father, Nik Nikic says.

Leveling up

As Chris got older, he became more sedentary while recovering from a series of ear surgeries. After Special Olympics Florida launched its triathlon program in 2018, Chris’ parents encouraged him to try it to get in shape and have fun.

“The first time he ever did a sprint with Special Olympics, he came in dead last,” Trish says. “But you know what? Chris was happy.”

Chris soon outgrew his first triathlon coach. Dan Grieb, the captain of a local triathlon club, came on board to help take Chris to the next level. In a year and a half of training, Chris went from the couch to a sprint 14-mile triathlon.

Chris set his sights on a half IRONMAN race scheduled for May 2020. When Covid-19 forced organizers to scrap the official event, Chris and his team held their own race. CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 followed Chris’ journey, ultimately ending with him qualifying to compete in the full IRONMAN competition in Panama City.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Next Big Thing: ‘Eternals’ Star Lauren Ridloff on Becoming Marvel’s First Deaf Superhero

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“I’m hoping that more people are going to be able to dream bigger,” says Lauren Ridloff of playing the first deaf superhero in a Marvel film. COURTESY OF ERIK CARTER

BY ABBEY WHITE, The Hollywood Reporter.

Being a superhero wasn’t part of Lauren Ridloff’s plan. The Eternals star wanted to be a children’s book author before an American Sign Language tutoring gig for the director of Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God led to a starring role in the show’s revival.

Theater, she says, is a “much more natural and inviting medium for deaf actors,” and the production came fully staffed with a toolbox ready to support its deaf and hearing artists. But coming off that critically praised performance in 2018, Ridloff wasn’t sure she wanted to keep acting. TV and movies weren’t a place she had seen herself represented growing up, instilling the idea that it couldn’t be part of her dream.

Yet, after scoring The Walking Dead as her first TV role, Ridloff found herself in demand. Now, she’s set to star in the Chloé Zhao-directed Marvel movie that will take her and deaf representation to marvelous new heights when it releases on Nov. 5.

During her transition from stage to screen, Ridloff says she’s felt like she wanted to prove she’s easy to work with, something that has led to her not always advocating for what she needed as an actor. But being on this massive Marvel production full of A-listers who “know exactly what they want” helped change her outlook.

Ahead of The Eternals’ anticipated release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ridloff about her journey from stage to screen, how working on a blockbuster as an emerging actor changed her perception of self-advocacy on set, and why the Eternals cast wasn’t sure what to expect in the final cut.

Your journey to acting was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. Before that Broadway break-out, what were your acting ambitions and how have those changed?

My goal growing up was to write a book. That’s why I studied English and creative writing in college, and that is a big reason I started teaching. I wanted to write children’s books. I felt that the best way to understand how a child thinks in their mind is to be with them all day. So I started teaching because of that. I didn’t dream of acting. I didn’t want to pursue acting. I had some acting experience — your basic high school play, or I was a part of a performance group in college, a dance group. I just didn’t see enough people on the screen like myself. Every once in a while, like maybe Marlee Matlin, I saw on the big screen, and then years went by, and you would see somebody appear on one episode of a TV show or another episode there. Acting on Broadway came so completely as a surprise to me. It wasn’t part of my plan.

And, yes, absolutely, my goals have changed since I’ve gotten into acting. When I was on Broadway, my manager was interested in pursuing and looking for other projects, and I told him to then I didn’t know if I wanted to continue acting. Maybe this was just a one-time thing. I wasn’t even sure if it was my thing. But then, when I saw the theater audience full night after night, and I saw the lines forming at the back door, I realized that my classroom just got a lot bigger. I made a bigger impact here. It seems like I can act, and I enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a character, which is very connected to reading and writing. When you write, you need to drop into that character and how it represents itself on the page. So I felt like it was a very natural leap into acting because of that.

Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

Disability Advocate Chelsie Hill Has the *Best* Advice for Fending Off Fitness Class Intimidation

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Chelsie Hill seated on a wheel chair in front of a pool with yellow digital background surrounding her

By Zoe Weiner, Well + Good

When Chelsie Hill was in a car accident at age 17, her “whole world was flipped upside down,” she says. A spinal cord injury left her paralyzed from the waist down, but as a lifelong dancer, she refused to let the fact that she was in a wheelchair get in the way of her passion. So two years later, in 2012, she started a wheelchair dance team called “The Rollettes.”

Hill connected with a group of women through social media who, like her, were in wheelchairs and wanted to dance. “I wanted to meet girls like me and find friends… I wanted to just feel a sense of normalcy, and feel like I wasn’t the only person in my community or in the world who got in the car with a drunk driver or became paralyzed,” she says. “When you’re by yourself and you’re alone and you’re trying to figure out life, it can be very lonely—it can feel like you’re the only one. And for me, being around these girls helped me gain a sense of confidence that I never thought I would ever get.”

In the near-decade since the Rollettes conception, the group has performed all over the world, introduced the “Boundless Babes Society” mentorship program to connect women and girls living with a range of disabilities, and grown its platform to increase visibility for people with disabilities. “I have so many little ones who come to Rollettes Experience and they look on TV and they don’t see anybody like themselves,” says Hill. “And so for us, representation and education are the two biggest things that we’re very passionate about in every way.”

Hill’s role as the team choreographer has given her the opportunity to take the dance moves she loved when she was younger and make them accessible to people with differing abilities. “I love going to dance classes and adopting the choreography from an able-bodied choreographer to make it work for me,” she says. “That’s when I get the most creative, because I am forced to do moves that my body naturally wouldn’t know how to do… but I can translate them in a way that looks similar because my body is used to all of the moves from when I was a little girl. That’s kind of the advantage I have as a wheelchair dancer: I know how all these moves are as an [able-bodied person], so I just make them work for what my ability is now.”

Even with decades of experience under her belt, though, Hill is no stranger to the oh-so-relatable experience of entering a dance or workout class and immediately feeling intimidated—something many of us can relate to. “I was always so intimidated to go into any class, especially in Los Angeles with some of the top dancers in the industry, top choreographers and me and my wheelchair rolling in and people looking at me like, ‘What is she doing here? Does she know where she is?'” she says. “So I can totally empathize with that feeling of not feeling like you’re ready.”

Click here to read the full article on Well + Good.

Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

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Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

A Senate panel plans to bring tech executives back to Capitol Hill following a revealing report from The Wall Street Journal about the impact of Facebook’s Instagram platform on teens’ mental health.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, announced the hearing in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Blackburn said the hearing would take place in a couple weeks and would include representatives from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Google-owned YouTube.

A spokesperson for Blackburn said a hearing date and the specific attendees from the companies have not yet been confirmed.

The Journal’s report, which the outlet said was based on internal documents from Facebook, revealed that the company had been aware of significant negative impacts of its photo-sharing Instagram app on teenage girls. At a March hearing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in response to a question about children and mental health, that research he’s seen shows that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.”

While the research cited in the Journal’s report did not show entirely negative effects, it seemed to cut against Facebook’s narrative about mental health. That angered several lawmakers across parties and chambers of Congress, some of whom called for Facebook to abandon plans to create a child-focused Instagram product.

“What we know is a lot of this anecdotal information that we had from parents, teachers, pediatricians about the harms of social media to children, that Facebook was aware of this,” Blackburn said. “They chose not to make this public.”

Blackburn said her staff met Friday with a whistleblower who has worked for Facebook, and who had access to documents on which the Journal reported.

Although both the House and the Senate have hauled tech CEOs to Congress several times over the past couple years, Blackburn said she expects this hearing to stand out because of its bipartisan nature. She said she is working with the subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on the effort and the two will look at rules around how social media is able to market to children, as well as statutes meant to protect them online, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule.

Representatives for Blumenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are determined to do something in a bipartisan way that is going to protect our children in the virtual space, that will allow them to be able to use the internet, do Zoom school if they need to, do research, but to be protected and to have their privacy protected when they are online,” Blackburn said.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

He’s 72, an amputee, and won 6 medals at National Veterans Wheelchair Games

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Patrick Terry is 72, an amputee, and won 6 medals at National Veterans Wheelchair Games

By Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press

At first, the bad news hit Patrick Terry hard: His right leg would have to be amputated below the knee due to an infection.

“I cried for about half an hour that day, sobbing,” he said.

Then he remembered something a mentor taught him: the Serenity Prayer.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

That was 2009. Terry, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime Union Beach resident, accepted his condition. Then he sought to make the best of it by participating in adaptive sports. His quest reached an apex last month, when he won six medals — three gold, one silver and two bronze — at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in New York City.

At age 72.

“My family and the people that know me are proud of me and just overwhelmed that I could do this,” he said.

From addiction to adaptive sports
Originally from Yonkers, N.Y., Terry competed in football and track in high school and enlisted in the Navy in 1969, serving aboard the USS Albany. He later served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and worked for New York City’s Department of Transportation, paving and milling roads.

By 2005, he was in need of help for alcohol and drug addiction. A sponsor in a 12-step recovery program introduced him to the Serenity Prayer.

“That freed me to be the person I am,” Terry said. “I now have 16 years clean and sober. I used to blame everybody else for my problems. The problems, they were with me.”

In 2009 he joined the East Orange Thunder, an adaptive sports team comprised of veterans and founded by Ralph Jones, a recreational therapist with the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System.

“He picked up on all the adaptive sports quickly,” Jones said. “He’s just a natural athlete.”

Click here to read the full article on Asbury Park Press.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022