More Jobs Than Ever for People with Disabilities

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

By Philip Pauli

New statistics show that Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in unprecedented numbers. New data from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire reveals that 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016, compared to 87,201 the previous year.

But even as Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in greater numbers, serious gaps in employment still exist between different states. For example, 54 percent of working-age people with disabilities in North Dakota have jobs, while only 27.4 percent of people with disabilities in West Virginia are employed.

New Data on Disability and Employment

According to a recent Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, only 35.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18 to 64 had a job, compared to 76.9 percent for people without disabilities. However, this is an increase from the previous year, which was 34.9 percent. Out of almost 20 million working-age people with disabilities, only 7.4 million people with disabilities had a job in 2016.

A new poll released by RespectAbility shows that millions of people with disabilities want to work. The companies driving successful inclusion include JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens. These companies see people with disabilities as resourceful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines.

However, looking at topline national statistics only tells part of the story. State-specific data compiled by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC) shows massive differences among states. In fact, there are some states where people with disabilities are twice as likely to be employed as in other states.

Best States for People with Disabilities

Stats:
• 343,483 new jobs for people with disabilities

• Floridians with disabilities experience the biggest jobs gains of any state, with more than 35,000 people with disabilities entering the workforce.

• Employers hire more people with disabilities as they find that recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities benefits their bottom line.

Top 10 States for Workers with Disabilities (and percentage employed)
1. North Dakota 54%
2. South Dakota 51.6%
3. Minnesota 48%
4. Alaska 47.9%
5. Nebraska 47.4%
6. Wyoming 47.2
7. Utah 47%
8. Iowa 45.9
9. Kansas 44.7%
10. Montana 43.9%

Comparing the number of working-age people with disabilities reveals that Floridians experienced the biggest jobs gains of any state in the nation, with 35,480 entering the workforce. The second largest growth was in the state of Georgia, where 28,000 working-age people with disabilities got jobs. In terms of the largest states in the nation, California added 19,398 working-age people with disabilities to the workforce, while Texas added 17,736 with disabilities to their state workforce last year.

Alaska had the biggest percentage point gain in disability employment rates, going up 5.5 percentage points, followed by North Dakota’s 5.2 percentage point gain in jobs. Idahoans with disabilities have also seen a big increase with their employment rate rising from 38.3 percent in to 43.3 percent. South Carolina has also seen an increase in the number of people with disabilities working, with more than 23,000 getting jobs

Looking at Employment Gaps

Looking at the difference in employment rates between people with and without disabilities can reveal how far behind they are in a state’s economy. The smaller the gap, the more inclusive a state’s economy is, which translates into more opportunities for people to earn an income and become independent. The bigger the gap means fewer jobs for people with disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers. Alaska shows great success with only a 28.2 percentage point gap, the smallest gap of any state. According to the new data, Rhode Island had a 48.6 percentage point gap in employment.

What Works?

Looking beyond the data, two questions emerge—what works to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and what can state leaders do to improve outcomes?

“States including Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Alaska show how a commitment to school-to-work transitions can create brighter futures for young people with disabilities,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Pennsylvania and Minnesota have also brought Employment First policies and a collaborative approach around transitions which has resulted in thousands of new jobs for their constituents with disabilities.”

There are two models that are achieving extraordinary success with work-based learning opportunities: Project SEARCH and Bridges from School to Work. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. Likewise, Bridges offers assessments, workshops and job matching. SEARCH has grown to more than 300 programs in 46 states and served nearly 3,000 youth. Among those young people, more than 78 percent found jobs. These are transformative results for people with disabilities.

Linking Expectation and Education

“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, policy and practices director at RespectAbility. “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.”

Despite progress made in recent years, students with disabilities are lagging significantly behind their nondisabled peers in educational attainment.

Only 65 percent of students with disabilities complete high school, with less than seven percent completing college. For youth of color with disabilities and English Language Learners with disabilities, their outcomes are even less. Key barriers include low expectations and the fact that many school systems either fail to diagnose early enough or address their issues at all. This often pushes children with disabilities into the school-to-prison pipeline. Appropriate early intervention, positive supports, and basic training for educators, parents, and guardians are vital.

Race, Disability and Employment

Even as companies are driving inclusion and states are finding success, there are still people left behind. “Just as looking at the state level employment rates tells a more complex story,” Kahn-Pauli said. “So too when you look at the employment rates among people with disabilities across racial lines.” Only 28.4 percent of African-Americans, 37.4 percent of Hispanics, and 40 percent of Asian Americans with disabilities hold jobs in their communities.

Building on Success

Despite the still-present gaps, seeing a four-fold improvement in one year’s time is fantastic, said Mizrahi. “The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, strong actions by many governors, and more positive portrayals of people with disabilities on TV are starting to have a positive impact.” she said. Further reports by the annual Disability Statistics Compendium and monthly Trends in Disability Employment show signs for continuing hope as more people with disabilities enter the labor market.

“At the end of the day, our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” Mizrahi said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

Source:  respectability.org

How to Get Your Resume Past Today’s Software

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multi resumes lined up

When you send out a resume today, you can be nearly certain that it will wind up going through automated applicant tracking system (ATS) software.

Many, and probably most, employers use these time and labor-saving programs to review job applications and make an initial sort of resumes to either send to Human Resources for review, or to reject.

Read on to learn about just how employers use these software programs to sort through incoming resumes — and find out how to tailor your resume for success.

How employers use ATS software

Once employers identify a job opening, they use ATS software to describe the skills, education and training, years of experience and other details they want in candidates for the position. As applications come in, the ATS scores each one and puts it in rank order based on how well it meets the employer’s list of criteria.

But unlike a human reader, the software is likely to reject resumes because:

  • Qualified candidates fail to use the employer’s chosen keywords
  • The system doesn’t recognize unusual fonts or formatting
  • Candidates lack the preferred experience, but may have qualifications that could make up for what’s missing

Navigating the ATS when you apply for a job

Use these tips to improve the chances that your resume will pass through the ATS to be reviewed by Human Resources staff:

  1. Use thoughtful, relevant keywords. Analyze the job posting to identify job requirement keywords, then use those exact terms in your resume. Any variation from what’s written in the job posting may be missed.
    • Aim to use each keyword twice, more is not helpful
    • Modify your resume keywords for different job openings
    • Ask someone in a similar job to check your terminology; find people in similar jobs on LinkedIn
    • Check professional association websites and publications for ideas for keywords
    • For additional keywords, review an Occupation Profile and check the knowledge, skills and abilities
  2. Follow the posting’s instructions to the letter. Send only the documents requested by the posting, and use the requested format. If no format is specified, use Word or plain-text files. Avoid scanning resumes and sending them as an image; these will not be recognized.
  3. Prioritize formatting details
    • If a font is not specified, use a basic font such as Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman, with font size of 11 or 12 (10 to 14 is generally OK)
    • Bold and all capital letters are OK to use, but avoid using italics and underline
    • Bullet points are fine, but only use solid circles, open circles or solid squares
    • Avoid graphics, logos, charts, tables and columns — this will disrupt the ATS’ ability to read text
    • Lines and borders may be used as long as they do not touch any text
    • For your name and contact information, avoid extra spaces and special characters
    • For dates, use the standard format MM/DD/YYYY or Month, YYYY; avoid abbreviations, such as ’19
    • When a job posting requests the day a past job began and ended, be sure to include one, even if you have to estimate it
    • Margins of 1″ on all sides are typical
    • Putting extra keywords in a white font on your resume will not “trick” an ATS
  4. Choose a resume style that’s compatible with an ATS. A chronological work history, with jobs listed in order by date, should be used to ensure the ATS will successfully interpret it.
    While a functional resume may best highlight your transferable skills, it is likely to be rejected by an ATS. You can use a section such as “highlights of qualifications” or “professional summary” for transferable skills, just include your work history as well.
  5. Keep these general tips in mind
    • Customize your resume for each job application
    • Resume length: 1-2 pages
    • The general rule is to include your previous 10 years’ work history. If your most relevant experience is older, consider noting it in a professional summary / highlights section, but not in work history.
    • ATS systems check both for your work experiences and the number of years on the job.

Since nearly all Fortune 500 companies use an ATS in their hiring process, double down on this advice if you apply to a job with one of them. But keep in mind that networking is still the best way to bypass ATS systems and get your resume directly into the hands of hiring managers.

Source: CareerOneStop

How to Manage Anxiety as We Re-Enter the World

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Business man with face mask works on laptop computer

By Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

Since the pandemic, all of our lives have changed abruptly. For many, this sudden change led to life circumstances that were vastly different than how we’d lived before.

People across the globe have experienced great challenges including loss, grief, fear, stress, economic destabilization and the psychological impact of monotony.

Despite all of the difficulties, some have benefitted and enjoyed the changed circumstances – including a slower pace of life, more time with family and loved ones at home, new hobbies, less commuting, more sleep and fewer demands of planning and decision making.

Now that restrictions are easing and people are beginning to return to work and school, there is a whole new set of anxieties about what the near-future holds.

For example, those who struggled with social anxiety before the pandemic have had less opportunity to practice engaging with others, which has only increased their social anxiety. People’s anxieties about re-entry include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear of becoming sick with coronavirus, even if they’ve been vaccinated;
  • Self-consciousness and/or fear of engaging in-person with people;
  • Fear of being in public;
  • Uncertainty from a shifting of relationships and concern about who remains their friend;
  • Overwhelm with a flood of personal and professional decisions that were on hold, and
  • Worry about returning to an unhealthy, overly-scheduled life.

Fortunately, most of us now have opportunities to move more slowly and with more say in how we operate with the changes to come.

The following three steps might help you determine what is your unique, best path forward:

Reflect: Assess What You Want to Keep/Let Go – Give yourself time to reflect upon how you want to proceed in the coming months. Journaling and conversations with a trusted friend, colleague, family member or therapist can help you determine what you value and what you want to prioritize in your days. Ask yourself and answer, “What have I enjoyed and valued since the beginning of the pandemic, and what of this do I want to maintain?” Perhaps you want to ensure you continue spending time playing the guitar, baking, painting, or enjoying whatever hobby you cultivated during the pandemic. You might also want to continue monthly Zoom meetings with friends or family in another country or state. Maybe you want to ensure that you continue to have a couple of unstructured hours on the weekend or weeknights to relax. Then, consider and answer the following – “What do I want to let go of that did not serve me well during the pandemic?” Perhaps you have been eating or drinking too much or spending too much time on the computer.

Also, consider writing down what you know you need or want to do, but are scared to do – such as socializing in-person, going back to the lab, or traveling by plane. Acknowledge what you’re afraid of or nervous about with non-judgmental acceptance.

Act: One Step at a Time – Once you’ve taken time to reflect, you can begin to think about what you want to commit to personally and professionally. Even if you’re anxious about that activity or responsibility, gently encourage yourself to take a first step. Anxiety is fueled by avoidance, and the longer one avoids something, the scarier it seems. So do go forward and make plans to meet in-person with a friend, but don’t overextend yourself with too many commitments too soon. Going slowly is also important to help you titrate discomfort. While some discomfort is okay and helps to rebuild the “muscle” of returning to work in-person, commuting or socializing, too much anxiety can inhibit growth and thus thwart your efforts. Enjoy the luxury of choice where you have it, and move slowly and intentionally forward toward your goals and priorities.

Communicate: Your Feelings and Boundaries – When you know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do, you can more clearly communicate this with your friends and colleagues. Practice assertively sharing what you are most comfortable doing for your safety or mental well-being. If you are nervous about returning to the lab, consider speaking to your PI to learn what protocols are in place to ensure a safe work environment and what choices you have to balance work in the lab with work from home. If people invite you to a large gathering, and you prefer to start with a smaller group or an activity in a less crowded environment, let them know that you want to see them, and articulate options that would be most comfortable to you.

Overall, be gentle with yourself as yet again you adapt to change; and, remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support as needed.

Source: National Institutes of Health (oitecareersblog.od.nih.gov)

This manager is working toward diversity in Hollywood — and that includes those with disabilities

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Eryn Brown, talent manager at Management 360, has faced barriers in getting employment or even accessing industry events because of her disabilities.

ANOUSHA SAKOUI, Los Angeles Times

After her first experience of the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, talent manager Eryn Brown wanted to end her nascent Hollywood career. Attending film markets such as Cannes can be grueling for most attendees, with parties and meetings held in busy hotels, restaurants, theaters, even aboard yachts. For Brown, who has a congenital, unidentified disability and uses leg braces to walk, accessing many of the buildings and events was a struggle. At the iconic red steps at the Palais des Festivals, where women are expected to wear high heels, Brown either had to be carried or use a side entrance and be separated from her clients. Inside, accessible seating was reserved. “I actually contemplated leaving the business,” Brown, 47, said. “I thought, if I have to go through this dehumanization every year, I don’t think I can do it. I want to be the best at what I do, which involves filmmakers, and Cannes is the pinnacle, so how can I do that?”

Brown didn’t quit. Instead, she pushes for greater access for others with disabilities who have been hindered by discrimination in the film and TV industry.

Last month, the Stanford graduate officially launched 1in4, an initiative run from her Los Angeles home, 13 years after her first humiliating experience at Cannes. The grassroots coalition of executives and creatives has called on studios, streaming companies, talent agencies and other businesses to include disabled people in their diversity programs.

“We need to see a commitment from the contractors and vendors that really feed the studios and streamers,” Jim LeBrecht, the Oakland-based co-writer and co-director of this year’s Oscar-nominated disability rights documentary “Crip Camp.” LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, is one of the cofounders of 1in4 and featured in the documentary. Brown represents Nicole Newnham, the film’s co-writer and co-director.

“I’m yearning for this day [when] … we see our representation in comedies and on television and in film and in dramas that really represents our true numbers in society, and really has storylines that are much truer to our everyday lives.”

Of all speaking characters across the top 100 movies of 2019, only 2.3% had a disability, according to a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Another study of the top 10 network TV shows for 2018 found just 12% of disabled characters were played by disabled actors, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Brown said she was inspired to start a campaign for the disabled community after last year’s Sundance festival gave “Crip Camp” an audience award and racial justice protests refocused attention on Hollywood to diversify.

“I started to examine this greater rise in consciousness that we’re experiencing about marginalization and systemic discrimination, and in these conversations, I found that disability was always left out,” Brown said. “When I tried to advocate for disability being part of the conversation, I was met with indifference and in some cases hostility.”

Brown reached out to LeBrecht and others to form a group — also called 1in4 — to advocate for change in Hollywood. The name refers to the proportion of the adult U.S. population with visible or invisible disability. The group is in the process of registering as a nonprofit and is being financed by the coalition members, private donations and the pro-bono work of allies, Brown said.

The group has called on studios and others to add disability to their diversity policies, employ disabled people at all levels and create more content about disability by and with disabled people. The group also asks that employers require an accessibility coordinator for productions and that talent representatives work with disabled artists.

So far, Brown said, her group has met with representatives from Netflix, Amazon and talent agencies. She said the meetings have been positive. None of the companies would comment for this article.

One problem is that there are few executives in the industry greenlighting projects from the disabled community, LeBrecht said.

“I don’t think anybody’s really appreciated that the stories don’t have to be these harmful portrayals of people,” LeBrecht said. “There are really unique, compelling stories out there. But … we weren’t able to reach people to pitch them to necessarily.”

LeBrecht cites the 2016 Warner Bros movie “Me Before You,” as an example of harmful ideas about disabled people perpetuated by Hollywood. The film drew criticism of its portrayal of a paralyzed banker. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Times.

Man with Down Syndrome Who Got Job at UPS Lands Permanent Position, Inspires Scholarship

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UPS worker with down syndrome lands permanent position and inspires a scholarship. The employee jake is pictured in his uniform in front of a pile of carboard boxes

By Joelle Goldstein, People

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service. After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee. In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service.

After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee.

In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

“There simply aren’t words to adequately express the emotions that come with this achievement,” adds Hyde. “We are so proud of Jake and the way he serves as a role model to others.”

Back in December, Pratt became a viral sensation when Hyde posted a photo of him on Twitter standing next to a UPS truck in his work uniform.

In the tweet, she explained that her brother works every morning at a golf course from 6-10 a.m. before running packages for up to eight hours per day.

“Thank you @UPS for giving my brother a chance & promoting inclusion in the workforce. Jake has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t stop him!” she wrote beside the photo. “I’m so proud of him!”

At the time, Hyde told PEOPLE that she was so thrilled to see UPS giving her brother a chance because it was “his dream to be able to live independently.”

“He has achieved so much, but none of it would be possible without people embracing him and giving him a chance,” she said at the time. “Jake is so worthy and capable, so it’s just awesome for others to be able to see that.”

Pratt’s greatness has certainly been evident to UPS’s team. In the months since that day, Pratt has continued to impress his colleagues with his work ethic and “enigmatic personality,” the UPS spokesperson says.

UPS driver Richard Wilson, who Pratt worked alongside, said Pratt “changed his life” and added in a video shared by the company that “Jake can motivate me any day.”

Click here to read the full article on People.

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.

This Fairhaven native actor proves minorities and people with disabilities can take center stage

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Brennan Srisirikul posing in front of an all blue backdrop while sitting in his wheelchair

By Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times

FAIRHAVEN — Brennan Srisirikul knew about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, but never had the confidence to submit a film — especially since he’s never made one. But after a crazy year, he knew it was time to go for it.

“With the anti-Asian murders in Georgia, it was personal for me, because I’m a mixed race,” Srisirikul said. “My dad is Chinese and my mom is American.” Srisirikul was born in Bangkok, Thailand and grew up in Fairhaven.

“My race wasn’t really ever something that I thought about,” he said. Srisirikul has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. “I’m disabled. So, in my mind, for so long, I thought like that was the only thing people saw.”

But, Srisirikul said that during the pandemic he first faced anti-Asian racism. “The first time it ever happened, someone walked up to me and shouted in my face, ’15 Dollah! 15 Dollah!’”

Srisirikul also is a singer and actor. He wanted to create a short film that not only addressed racism but incorporated his background in musical theater. Alas, “BRENNAN! A New Musical, But Actually A Short Film” was born.

The short film stars Srisirikul opposite John M. Costa as Mike, his therapist. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 and Srisirikul wanting desperately to perform because of his new-found confidence for singing. Srisirikul struggled with his singing voice ever since he was 14.

“The most dramatic thing that ever happened to me was puberty,” he said

Click here to read the full article on Standard-Times

Med Student’s Disability Helps Him Connect With Patients

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A man siting in a wheel chair is wearing a medical jacket and is smiling at the camera

By Nick Romanenko

Tom Pisano has been working on both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience to help to study and treat conditions like his own.

When Tom Pisano started making rounds in his wheelchair, he worried his patients would consider him less capable than his Robert Wood Johnson Medical School peers.

However, he quickly found it had the opposite effect on patients and put them at ease.

Photo : Rutgers

“Patients are more willing to share what’s really bothering them,” said Pisano, 33, who was paralyzed from the chest down during a skiing accident at 19, during his first year of college. “Everyone has an internal struggle or challenge of some form, mine is just visible. That helps give me a connection with the patient.”

On Friday, during what is nationally known as Match Day, Pisano was one of 162 soon-to-be physicians in RWJMS’s Class of 2021 who discovered the name of the residency program where they will spend the next three to seven years training in the medical specialty of their choice.

Nine years after embarking on his journey to earn both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience, he was elated to learn he was matched with his first choices: an intern year at Mount Sinai Morningside-West, followed by a residency at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology. He will continue his medical training working to study and treat neurological conditions.

“I feel so fortunate to have gotten exactly what I wanted for my preliminary and advanced neurology residency,” said Pisano, who grew up in Alexandria Township, NJ, but now lives in Manhattan with his partner. “I can spend my first year close to my partner, who is a pulmonary critical care fellow also at Mount Sinai Morningside-West.

Pisano is among 95 percent of his classmates at RWJMS who matched to the residency of their choice. Among them, 35 students matched to a New Jersey program: 22 students matched to a Robert Wood Johnson Medical School program, and four to  New Jersey Medical School.

“Our medical students have my greatest respect for the work they have accomplished these past four years, and for the exemplary way that they have conducted themselves during the pandemic,” said Robert L. Johnson, interim dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and dean of New Jersey Medical School. “Their success and resilience are evidenced by the excellent programs into which our students matched to continue their specialized education as residents.”

When Pisano was in his first year in college at the University of Virginia, medical school was not his end goal. But after his accident and rehabilitation, the doctors told him he would never walk again, and he had to learn to navigate his new life. Pisano returned to school with a renewed focus.

“When you get down and depressed, you try to rethink your life. The new purpose of my life became to help others and have fun doing it. I found medicine and medical research was the way to do it,” said Pisano, who graduated from UVA in 2011 with a double major in cognitive science and biology.

He spent the following year trying to determine whether he wanted to attend medical school to become a neurologist or graduate school to become a researcher in the field of neurology. After a stint as a research participant and researcher in the spinal cord division of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, Pisano decided he would do both.

“I want be a neurologist who sees patients and I want to do clinical-based research that somehow improves my patients’ quality of life,” he said. “The best way I concluded doing that would be to treat few subsets of the population with diseases that I’m also researching.”

He knew he could accomplish this in New Jersey through a combined program that sandwiched a graduate research degree between four years of medical school. When he graduates in May, Pisano will be one of a handful of RWJMS classmates who started medical school at the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which became part of Rutgers in 2013.

Last year, after Pisano finished his graduate program and was wrapping up his third year of medical school, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail his progress. He wasn’t sure if he’d still be on track to graduate this May.

“When the world was collapsing in March or April, I thought, ‘I want to graduate, but if the attendings (physicians) teaching me have to go save lives, I’m more than OK with that,’” he said.

Read the full article at Rutgers.

13 Practical Ways To Help Employees Adapt To New Technology

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collage Forbes Human Resources Council

Tech continues to play a larger and larger role in businesses and industries of all stripes. As companies bring on more and newer technology to help improve productivity, employees who were initially trained on older systems or who are new to a higher-tech workplace may struggle to keep up or even resist using the new tech at all.

Giving your team the support they need to learn and leverage new tech is a win-win situation for everyone. Below, 13 members of Forbes Human Resources Council share tips for effectively introducing new tech tools to your team members.

Take a multi-pronged approach.

Implement a range of training systems, from written instruction to live video training, to accommodate different work styles and preferences. It’s important that executives lead by example by using the technology themselves and reminding employees of support and resources available on a regular basis. – Neha Mirchandani, BrightPlan

2. Create a sandbox for employees.

The one important strategy in any major wave of change is the willingness to create a sandbox for the employees. For any new tech—or non-tech—strategy to succeed, an appetite for and acceptance of failures and mistakes are required. People learn when they know their mistakes won’t cost them their jobs. They are more open to bigger challenges if there is an allowance for a learning curve. – Ruchi Kulhari, NIIT-Technologies

3. Implement annual skills evaluation.

Annual skills evaluation programs are a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated. Digital transformation requires core competencies for virtually any job to evolve. By evaluating skill levels and skill gaps, your organization can easily identify ways to ensure employees are keeping up with the competition. Employers must constantly update employee skills to match the pace of innovation. – Sameer Penakalapati, CEIPAL Corp.

Read the full article at  Forbes.

What To Look For In A Disability Organization

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There’s an important question that may get too little attention in the world of disability services, activism, and culture. If we really care about people with disabilities and disability issues, we should all do better than just tossing pocket change in every fundraising bucket we see, or signing up for every walkathon a coworker’s kid puts in front of us.

But how do we choose which disability-related causes and organizations to support? Some criteria are the same for any kind of charity or organization seeking voluntary support. Look for sound, transparent finances and accounting practices. Make sure they use funds to further an important mission rather than simply enriching top executives. Support organizations that give regular, readable reports of services provided, advocacy accomplishments, and goals achieved. Look for strong oversight by a genuinely representative Board of Directors or similar governing entity.

These are basic tips for choosing any charity or cause, for donations or for volunteering. But what other qualities should we look for specifically in disability organizations? Here are some criteria and questions to ask, and why they are important:

  • Medical research and treatment

This is the most traditional and well-known type of disability organization. Their goals are mainly to fund medical research into treatments and cures for specific disabling conditions, and in some cases to help provide some of those treatments to people with those conditions.

The closest thing to an original is the March of Dimes, started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to find a cure for polio. But the model continues, with some modernizing alterations, in the March of Dimes itself and in other legacy organizations like the Multiple Sclerosis SocietyMuscular Dystrophy AssociationUnited Cerebral Palsy Association, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Notably, many of these organizations are better known to the general public for their fundraising events, and less for the work they do.

  • Direct services

Most disability organizations provide at least some personal and material assistance directly to disabled people and their families. For some, direct service is the main focus. Services can include funding for adaptive equipment, paying for certain high-cost medical procedures, or enriching experiences like support groups and summer camps. In local chapters and offices, direct services may also include one-on-one information, counseling, and advocacy assistance to address disabled people’s everyday needs, concerns, and barriers.

Read the full article at Forbes.

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Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022