Tank Crewmen Saved by One Soldier’s Cell Phone

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Disabled veteran sitting on a hospital bed with a prosthetic leg

By Elaine Sanchez

A year after his accident and the loss of his leg, Spc. Ezra Maes is still amazed at the circumstances that led to his survival. If you ask, he’ll credit his survival to a uniform belt, smartphone and “shockingly good” cell service.

What the 21-year-old soldier fails to mention is the sheer force of will it took for him to stay alive.

“If I didn’t help myself, my crew, no one was going to,” said Maes, now assigned to the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “I knew I had to do everything I could to survive.”

A year earlier, the Army had deployed Maes, an armor crewman stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, to Poland in support of a joint training mission called Atlantic Resolve. He served as the loader for the main cannon of an M1A2 Abrams tank, a massive 65-ton tank known for its heavy armor and lethal firepower.

Exhausted on the second day of a weeklong rotation in Slovakia, he and two other crew members fell asleep in the tank that evening. He was jolted awake a few hours later by the sudden movement of the tank heading downhill.

“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” Maes said. “But he shouted back that it wasn’t him.”

The parking brake had failed. The crew quickly initiated emergency braking procedures, but the operational systems were unresponsive due to a hydraulic leak.

The tank was now careening down the hill at nearly 90 mph. “We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said.

After a few sharp bumps, they crashed into an embankment at full speed. Maes was thrown across the tank, his leg caught in the turret gear. He then felt the full force of the tank turret sliding onto his leg. His initial thought was his leg was broken. His next thought was he needed to get free so he could assist Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, who was bleeding out from a cut on her thigh. The driver, Pfc. Victor Alamo, was pinned up front with a broken back.

“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Maes said. “I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”

Freed from the pressure of the turret, the blood poured out of his wound at an alarming rate, but with other lives on the line, Maes pushed his panic and any thought of pain aside. He pulled himself up and into the back of the tank to grab a tourniquet from the medical kit. Halfway there, he began to feel lightheaded from the blood loss.

“I knew I was going into shock,” he said. “All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here. Either I step up or we all die.”

Maes began shock procedures on himself — stay calm, keep heart rate down, elevate lower body — and cinched his belt into a makeshift tourniquet to slow down the heavy bleeding. He called out to Crump, who had staunched her bleeding with a belt tourniquet, to radio for help.

Maes’ heart sank when Crump said the radio wasn’t working.

But then he heard an incredible sound: his cell phone was ringing.

Maes’ phone was the only one that wasn’t broken and the only one with working cell phone service. With one leg cut and the other broken, Crump crawled to reach Maes’ phone and threw it down to him. He unlocked the phone and sent his friend a text. Help was on the way.

His last memory of that location was his sergeant major running up the hill carrying his leg on his shoulder. “I wanted to keep it, see if it could be reattached, but it was pulverized,” Maes recalled.

Maes, who had also broken his ankle, pelvis in three places, and shoulder, was rushed to a local hospital, his first helicopter ride, before being flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany and then on to BAMC. Between an infection he picked up overseas and nearly daily surgeries to fight it, he spent four months in intensive care.

“I feel super lucky,” he said. “My crew all does. So many things could have gone wrong. Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”

A year later, Maes is immersed in physical and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, BAMC’s outpatient rehabilitation center. Maes works out intensely with Candace Pellock, a physical therapy assistant. Against the backdrop of the hospital, he moves across the gravel on crutches with an ever-present smile despite the Texas heat and strain of balancing on uneven ground.

It’s all in preparation to receive his long-term prosthetic leg through a cutting-edge procedure called osseointegration. For this procedure, not unlike a dental implant, BAMC surgeons will implant a titanium rod in the bone of Maes’ residual limb, rather than a traditional socket, to attach the prosthesis.

While he was having a tough time emotionally before the accident, Maes now sees each day as a gift. It’s a second chance he’d like to share with others who may be having a tough time post-injury or trauma.

“When something like this happens, it’s easy to give up because your life won’t be the same, and you’re not wrong,” he said. “Life will take a 180, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Don’t let it hinder you from moving forward.”

At 21, Maes has a new attitude and a new lease on life. With combat arms in the rearview mirror and inspired by the CFI’s care, he plans to become a prosthetist and help others regain their mobility.

But what he doesn’t plan to do is switch his phone service.

As he puts it, “My cell phone saved my life.”

Source: defense.gov

How the Child Care for Working Families Act Benefits Children With Disabilities and Their Families

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A child in a wheelchair at the park with his mother

By MK Falgout and Katie Hamm 

More than 1.1 million children under age 6 in the United States receive services for a disability,1 while 2.5 percent of parents of young children have a disability that affects their workforce participation.2

All families, including those with disabilities, benefit from access to affordable child care that will support their children’s development in inclusive and enriching environments. These programs also provide parents with the support they need to thrive. But the dearth3 of inclusive, affordable child care options causes job disruptions for parents of disabled children at twice the rate of those whose children do not have disabilities.4 This fact sheet highlights how the Child Care for Working Families Act provides a comprehensive solution to meet the child care needs of all families.

Families of children with disabilities and the current child care system

The current child care system requires additional public resources to reach all the families who need high-quality services. This lack of public investment results in a mostly private-pay system that marginalizes historically underserved communities.

  • Although 1 in 8 children ages 3 to 5 who is enrolled in an early childhood program has a disability or significant social or emotional challenges,5 nearly 1 in 3 parents of disabled children report that finding available slots is a primary difficulty in accessing child care, compared with 1 in 4 families with nondisabled children. 6
  • Nearly one-third of children with disabilities live in poverty,7 making most licensed child care options nearly impossible to afford.8
  • Children of color are underrepresented in early intervention9 programs through infancy and toddlerhood for reasons pertaining to disproportionate lack of access to quality health care.10
  • New data suggest that in all but six states, no more than 2 percent of children who receive a child care subsidy have a disability.11*
  • Children ages 3 to 5 who have disabilities are 14.5 times more likely to face suspension or expulsion than children without disabilities,12 due in part to the fact that only 1 in 5 early childhood educators and providers report “receiving training on children’s social and emotional development.”13
  • Child care workers, primarily women and disproportionately women of color, earn on average less than $12 an hour,14 and only 1 in 5 early childhood educators receives training on children’s social and emotional development.15 Both of these realities contribute to the inadequate support for providers caring for children with disabilities, given that nearly 10 percent of the early childhood workforce works mostly with children who have disabilities.16

The Child Care for Working Families Act benefits children with disabilities

The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) creates a new standard for inclusive and accessible child care by investing in communities historically underserved by an underfunded child care system dependent on parental fees to cover the high cost of care.17 Just as importantly, the CCWFA ensures that providers are appropriately compensated for providing quality child care. More specifically, the bill has the following benefits:

  • The CCWFA prioritizes policies and funding that serve disabled children in high-quality, inclusive early learning environments by:
    • Affirming the importance of child care in supporting children with disabilities by setting benchmarks that ensure the system provides care for children with disabilities alongside children without disabilities.
    • Investing in expanding the supply of high-quality, inclusive child care for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities.
    • Requiring states to consider the additional cost of providing high-quality and inclusive care to children with disabilities when developing child care provider payment rates, as well as requiring that parents of disabled children are consulted in the process of developing these rates.
    • Requiring states to provide training opportunities for child care providers so that they can learn how to care for children with disabilities and conduct developmental screenings.
    • Prohibiting the use of suspensions, expulsions, and adverse behavioral interventions in all child care settings receiving public funds.
    • Establishing a new funding stream to provide early intervention services in child care settings.
    • Allowing states to prioritize funds to construct or renovate child care, including for providers who are caring for children with disabilities.

Continue on to AmericanProgress.com to read the complete article and to view original sources.

Eligible Voters With Disabilities Increase By Nearly 20%

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People voting at polling booths

As the November election draws near, new research finds that the number of voters with disabilities across the nation has grown exponentially and could make the difference in how races are decided.

There are an estimated 38.3 million eligible voters with disabilities in the U.S., according to a report out this month from the Rutgers University Program for Disability Research. That represents an 19.8% increase since 2008 and outpaces a 12% rise in voters without disabilities during the same period.

Moreover, the researchers noted that when people with disabilities and the family members they live with are factored, disability issues are significant to 28.9% of the electorate.

“The sheer size of the disability electorate makes it clear that people with disabilities and their family members have the potential to swing elections,” said Lisa Schur, a professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers and an author of the report. “While their partisan split is similar to that of other citizens, people with disabilities put a higher priority on health care and employment issues, so how candidates deal with those could be decisive.”

The report is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey and Census population projections for 2020-2021.

The new figures suggest that there are more potential voters with disabilities than there are Black or Hispanic voters in this country.

Researchers behind the report cited a surge in turnout among people with disabilities in 2018 and said turnout could be especially strong this year given the expansion of mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the full article. 

Voting could be more difficult for people with disabilities in upcoming presidential election

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Americans queuing at a polling place

Voting is one of our most important civil rights, but it isn’t always accessible for paralyzed veterans and other people with disabilities.

Paralyzed Veterans of America has launched the “Access Your Vote” campaign to help voters plan ahead to avoid problems during a challenging year.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office about voters with disabilities, released on Nov. 2, 2017, found fewer than half of polling locations were accessible during the 2016 presidential election. This year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, things could become even more difficult for voters with disabilities, due to added cleaning and distancing protocols, longer waits, fewer polling locations and the risk of exposure to the virus.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to all government-provided services, programs and activities, including the opportunity to vote. However, PVA members have reported barriers to voting in previous elections such as inaccessible sidewalks, insufficient accessible parking and long lines.

“Voting is an important civil right that our veterans have fought to protect. It should be accessible and safe for everyone, including those with disabilities, and PVA is making sure that happens. It’s especially important to help voters make a voting plan in a year that’s complicated by a pandemic,” says David Zurfluh, U.S. Air Force veteran and Paralyzed Veterans of America national president.

PVA represents veterans with spinal cord injury and disease, such as MS and ALS, and is urging all Americans, especially those with disabilities, to make an individual voting plan now by visiting PVA.org/vote for state-specific information, early voting guidelines and a checklist for creating an individual plan.

“People with disabilities absolutely need access to their polls. This is a community of over 60 million Americans, and the only way to ensure our needs are met is to make sure we can cast our votes with reasonable accommodations safely and securely in all 50 states,” says David Zurfluh.

For in-person voting, PVA recommends visiting your polling place ahead of time, so there’s time to report potential problems to local officials.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

One Warrior’s Illuminating Journey

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Michael Landry standing outside at a sporting event

The future looks bright for this veteran entrepreneur, who miraculously regained his once lost eyesight.

By Annie Nelson

Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Michael J. Landry Jr. was returning from his 5th combat deployment as a Field Radio Operator when he received orders to Okinawa, Japan in August 2014. He underwent an eye exam and was told his vision had changed but not to worry.

However in Japan, Landry noticed his vision was getting worse—so much so that his optometrist thought he was exaggerating his condition. It was then he was told that both of his corneas were shattered and he was legally blind in both eyes.

I spoke with Landry about his amazing journey, from regaining his sight to competing in the Marine Corps Trials to starting his own lifestyle clothing and music businesses.

Tell me about your journey to being able to see again?

I was medically evacuated from Okinawa in March 2016 and sent to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif. In Japan, I was still able to make out the outlines of objects because of the cloudy weather, but in California, I wasn’t able to see anything because it was so much brighter. I was fitted for hard-lens contacts until I received a corneal transplant in my left eye. The crazy thing was the eye transplant I received was originally blue! But then genetics took over and the eye eventually turned brown.

Due to my amazing doctor, the day after the surgery for the first time in two years, I was able to see the eye chart. Over the next 20 months, the vision in my left eye improved to the point that I was able to get prescription glasses, but only for the left lens because I was still blind in my right eye. Last February, I received the transplant for the right eye and today, I still have 12 stitches inside that eye but my vision overall is constantly improving.

You recently competed in the Marine Corps Trials—what events did you compete in and how did you finish? Are you going to the Warrior Games?

Yes, I competed in several events including track, shot put, discus, 100m sprint and powerlifting. For the powerlifting event, my doctor recommended to limit the weight because the excessive eye pressure could still cause damage. I was scheduled to run the 200m and 400m, but I pulled my hamstring during the 100m sprint. I ended up finishing first place in all events except powerlifting. I competed in the visually impaired category for field events, however, I did out throw every other competitor overall. I was also selected to compete in the Warrior Games and I’m looking forward to it.

What did the Marine Corps Trials teach you?

It taught me that I’m able to do more than I think. I’ve never competed in any of those sports before and it felt as if it came naturally. It also taught me that I need to learn to stretch better so I don’t get hurt!

You are a new entrepreneur. Tell me about your businesses and how you started?

The birth of One Life Clothing started when I was going blind. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true so I began sewing with the thought that in order to sew, you have to be able to see. Going blind at the age of 32 forces you to see life in a different perspective. Tomorrow isn’t promised and you never know what can happen so you should always enjoy the “One Life” you have.

My second business I actually credit with saving my life. I was going through a lot mentally and physically with the loss of my sight and was severely depressed. At one point I was contemplating suicide until one day my brother, who is a rap artist, called me to vent about his music career, or lack thereof due to bad business deals. To help him, I started One Life Entertainment Music Group, LLC. Thus far, we’ve released four solo albums and two compilation albums.

My non-profit organization, One Life At A Time Outreach, helps not only feed the homeless, but also provide necessities like clothes, toiletries and shoes.

Michael Landry portrait with children Makiya and Michael III
Michael with children Makiya and Michael III

What does the future look like for you?

Bright I would say. Losing your vision and gaining it back is a blessing on its own, no matter what life throws at me. I’ve already won because I can see again. I’m embracing the new me. Business-wise, I would love to get into government contract designing and making uniforms as well as getting my clothing line into stores.

What advice would you give other service members who are recovering from an injury or illness?

You have to embrace the new you. I know what it feels like to be completely alone and to be stuck in your own head, but you have to remember that you are here for a purpose. God will never give you a task that you can’t handle. We are all gifted—find your gift and get out of your comfort zone.

Continue to follow Landry’s journey at onelifeclothing.net and on onelifemuzik.com

Meet the first openly autistic woman elected to political office

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Sarah Hernandez sitting at her desk smiling wearing a flowery green and yellow dress

By Kathleen Wroblewski, Director of Communications, Bay Path University

It’s difficult for many people to approach a stranger’s house and knock on their door. It’s quite another matter if you are knocking on doors and running for public office.

Within minutes, you need to introduce yourself and connect with the person on the other side of the threshold. We call it being face to face—a fundamental form of human communication.

When Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez, ’14 G’15, of the occupational therapy department decided to run for the school board in her local town, the process of canvassing in the community and meeting strangers was absolutely terrifying. “At first, I had to watch how people did it. And, slowly, I learned to pick up certain cues and how to handle myself in different situations. People were very patient with me. It was a big step when I knocked on that first door.”

Sarah’s success is all the more remarkable because she is neurodiverse: she is on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a development condition defined by social and communication difficulties and repetitive, inflexible patterns of behavior.

When you first meet Sarah, a mother of three with a friendly and welcoming smile, she appears to be the opposite of society’s profile of being autistic. But appearances can be deceiving. Sarah, along with many other young girls and women, has mastered what is known as “social camouflaging,” or hiding in plain sight. In many ways, this coping technique has led to women of all ages to be misdiagnosed, or in some cases, not diagnosed with autism at all. And that gets to the heart of Sarah’s story:

“I was diagnosed in my thirties, and that is not unusual for women. I knew that I was different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were times that I just had to shut down and not communicate. I was lucky to learn it was a form of autism because most women fly under the radar and never find out. They live in a world of inner turmoil. It’s only recently that researchers are looking at the gender differences in autism. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ASD are based on data gathered from the studies of boys.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common in boys than girls. As awareness of autism grows, new protocols are being developed that indicate the gap may not be as wide as once thought. In the meantime, there are discernable shifts in society’s perceptions of autism.

Expanding the Definition of a Diverse Workplace

Sarah, like many others on the spectrum, has learned to live with her autism. She is a role model for her occupational therapy students, sharing her experiences to make them more sensitive to the differences and contributions of the members of her “tribe.”

“I let my students know right up front that I am autistic. And I share my knowledge of the strengths of autism—our ability to think in patterns, to visualize, and to be problem solvers,” she says.

In fact, this skill set is prompting companies and organizations to expand their definitions of a diverse workplace. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, by Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, reports that the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool. With a vast number of IT and IT-related positions going unfilled, HR departments are re-examining their recruitment practices and working environments to accommodate neurodiverse employees. In companies with active neurodiverse hiring programs, such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, and others, they have already realized productivity gains and a high number of innovations. They have found that diversity does deliver.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

“I know I am incredibly lucky to be working at Bay Path,” states Sarah. “I am doing what I love, and I can be honest about who I am.”

Sarah’s generosity of spirit does not stop at Bay Path. She and her husband have one biological child, have adopted two children, and are therapeutic foster parents. When one of Sarah’s children experienced difficulties in school because she is darker in complexion, she knew she had to step forward to give voice to her daughter and others. She decided to run for the school board.

“I can hide my disability, but my daughter can’t turn her skin color off. I decided that I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with others on the spectrum, as well as represent all those who need a spokesperson.”

So, Sarah left her comfort zone and began knocking on doors, participating in debates, and attending meetings. She never hid her autism. And she won.

But her victory wasn’t just for the schoolchildren in her town. Through social media, her election gained broad attention. NBC Hartford did a profile on her, and at a national conference on autism, she shared the stage with former Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Senate.

For Sarah, the attention was sometimes hard to believe: “As a person on the spectrum, I believe we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. But we have to keep participating, and we have to work to represent ourselves. I like to say, ‘We have to put our pants on in the morning.’ We just need to show up.”

Sarah certainly has.

Source: baypath.edu

World Disability Day 2018 Focuses On Equal Opportunities And Inclusiveness For People With Disability

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World Disability Day 2018 is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society.

December 3 is observed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities or World Disability Day. Commemoration of this day was done by United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1992. The day is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society. The idea is to increase awareness about persons with disabilities, their situation and their means to survive in cultural, economic, social and political life. On this day, awareness is spread on how organisations and individuals can get involved in breaking down attitudinal and structural barriers for people with disability.

Around 1 billion people around the world live with a disability. This number makes for around 15% of the global population. On World Disability Day, celebrations are done for achievements of people with disabilities.

World Disability Day 2018 theme

World Disability Day 2018 theme is, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” According to the United Nations, The theme focuses on empowering persons with disability with equal opportunities and inclusiveness. The idea is to empower them with equitable, inclusive and sustainable development as part of Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030.

The 2030 agenda aims at including every single person with disability, and leave no one behind. Persons with disabilities can be both beneficiaries and agents of change. They can speed up the process of sustainable development which is inclusive in nature. They can promote a society which is resilient for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.

Continue onto NDTV to read the complete article.

Gene Crayton, Paralyzed Veterans’ First African-American President

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Gene Creyton, PVA

Gene Crayton was born on a southern Illinois farm, 15 miles north of where the Ohio and Mississippi river’s meet, the fifth of six kids, Crayton learned early about duty, service and a hard day’s work.

His father, a share cropper, died when he was two years old and it was up to his mother to keep the farm going and raise the family.

Crayton’s sense of service followed him throughout his early life and at the young age of 17, during his junior year of high school, Crayton enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After graduation, he entered active duty where he attended Hospital Corps School at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, on his way to becoming a corpsman.

“I had hoped to become a doctor,” says Crayton. “As corpsman, I was constantly helping people and doing things to keep people from getting sick. Those duties constantly fed my desire to help others by doing things to help improve their lives. And in some cases, save their lives.”

Crayton soon reported for a training aboard the U.S.S. Purdy where he spent his time working in the sick bay. It wasn’t long after the Purdy that the young sailor would be called to serve in Vietnam.

Crayton was assigned to the 26th Marine Regiment to serve as corpsman. Since the Marine Corps has no medical personnel of its own, it has historically forged a tight bond with the Navy.

Typically referred to as “Doc,” a Navy corpsman will train alongside their Marine unit, often doing the same type of tactical training and physical fitness training as the Marines.

Crayton ultimately served during the Tet Offensive where he saw many tragic injuries and saved numerous lives. His unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its extraordinary heroism in action.

“One thing that I don’t think many people talk about, but when I was in Khe Sanh, Vietnam right before the Tet Offensive started, I had never seen a place so beautiful in my life,” Crayton recalls.

“The banana trees and the different colors of the foliage and the birds. And then of course, Tet hit and all of that changed. I think, if you want to talk about anything, the experience was an extension of my learning as far as culture is concerned. Remember, I was a 17-year-old kid when I went to boot camp. I learned about different cultures and learned how to take care of myself.”

After leaving active duty, Crayton moved to St. Louis, where he was assigned to the local Marine Corps Reserve unit. Respiratory therapy was a new field at that time and Crayton took a job at Deaconess Hospital.

“At the time, there were only 200 registered respiratory therapists in the United States,” says Crayton. “So, people that had training were in demand. When I went to apply they asked me when do you want to start to work?”

Crayton held that job until an automobile accident left him a T-5 paraplegic. He was honorably discharged from the Navy not long after and left wondering what would come next.

“I was injured when I was 21,” says Crayton. “After going through the post-injury depression and all of that, I adapted the attitude that I can do it. That attitude ultimately gave me my life.”

Crayton spent his first few post-injury years a recluse, desperately trying to regain control of his new life.

“I had no freedom, no independence, I didn’t drive, I wouldn’t go anywhere unless someone took me,” says Crayton. “After the change, I got out, found my own apartment, learned to drive and had a couple of jobs before discovering Paralyzed Veterans of America, which lead me to where I am now.”

Like so many veterans before him, Crayton discovered the resources and camaraderie of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and it wasn’t long before he fully inserted himself into the Gateway Chapter. There, he learned about the organization, traveled to Washington, D.C., for legislation testimony and quickly rose in the ranks of the organization ultimately serving as chapter secretary, president and national director.

Crayton became the first African-American national president during the Paralyzed Veterans’s 63rd Annual Convention in Miami.

It was an opportunity to better the organization and help other people,” says Crayton. “But I don’t think I had a very successful presidency to be honest with you. I look back on it now and believe the things I was trying to accomplish were right, but I just went about it in the wrong way. I tried to be responsive to everybody … no one was too big and no one was too small for my time.”

Crayton wouldn’t change a thing and credits Paralyzed Veterans for helping shape the man he is today.

“Being with the Marines certainly taught me discipline,” says Crayton. “I’m not sure it [military service] affected my life as I am now. I give the credit to Paralyzed Veterans and the positive influence over the man I am now. Paralyzed Veterans taught me many skills on being a better leader, how we lobby for the veterans and their benefits and I had a chance to see some of the most prestigious events in and around our nation’s capital.”

As we honor Black History Month, Crayton reflects on the men and women who blazed a trail before him and continues to advocate for education and employment; two of his most passionate platforms.

“Growing up, I heard a great deal about Booker T. Washington, who was before my time, but nonetheless was a strong voice of the African-Americans post-slavery,” says Crayton. “Of course, I enjoyed hearing the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, and as time went on I learned about some of the athletes and the contributions that they made, such as Joe Louis, who was known for his contributions to the United Service Organization (USO). I absolutely enjoyed the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen and had the honor of meeting a few of them over the years. They blazed the trail for other African-American pilots.”

Crayton encourages young African-Americans to enlist in the military, but to get a military occupational specialty that will benefit a secure civilian livelihood.

During Black History Month, Crayton has a deep appreciation and respect for the men and women who helped blaze a trail for him. He follows their example by advocating for education and employment for African-Americans, which are two of his most passionate platforms.

King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” It’s safe to say Crayton has spent his life working on a great answer to King’s question.

Source: Paralyzed Veterans of America

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.

 

This woman is an exceptionally effective Capitol Hill lobbyist. She also has Down syndrome.

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There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington, legions of well-connected pros who are hired by special interest groups to vigorously advocate for issues.

Perhaps nobody in those ranks is more committed to their cause than Kayla McKeon, the first registered Capitol Hill lobbyist with Down syndrome.

“I make personal connections, tell personal stories,” said McKeon, 30, who works for the District-based National Down Syndrome Society. “It’s hard for them to say no.”

McKeon, a New York native, has already shown her lobbying chops by helping to get a bill signed into law in December that allows people with disabilities to save greater amounts of money without penalty to their Medicaid benefits.

She said walking around Capitol Hill and persuading lawmakers to do right by people she calls “differently abled” is both exhilarating and humbling.

“I feel powerful knowing I am walking in the same steps as congressmen and women,” she said. “I can feel the power radiating as I walk around the Capitol.”

McKeon’s first advantage on Capitol Hill is that she can explain the trials of a disabled person from her heart. Her second advantage is that nothing intimidates her. She’s been giving motivational speeches at the Special Olympics since she was 18.

“She’s never nervous,” said her mother, Patti McKeon. “When she gives a speech to a big crowd, I’m a wreck, and she’s calm as can be. She doesn’t care who she is speaking to, it’s like she’s talking to her best friend. That’s a real strength when you’re talking to members of Congress.”

One of McKeon’s favorite phrases is: “I’m ready, willing and able.”

McKeon started her part-time lobbying job in October, advocating for laws that protect the rights of disabled people while making independent living easier for adults like her. She is also taking classes toward her associate degree at Onondaga Community College in central New York.

The hardest part of her job, she said, is getting on the schedules of high-powered people. The easiest part is making her pitches once she’s face-to-face.

“I’m good at being a self-advocate, of letting myself be heard,” she said.

Sara Hart Weir, president and chief executive of the National Down Syndrome Society, hired McKeon. The two first met about six years ago at various Down syndrome events. Weir said she had always been impressed with McKeon.

When they ran into each other last year in Washington, Weir decided McKeon should be on her staff. She had to ask twice, because at first McKeon wasn’t sure whether it was the right move for her.

Continue onto The Washington Post to read the complete article.

Airpower Foundation Announces Changes to it’s Executive Board of Directors

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The Airpower Foundation is announcing changes to it’s Executive Board of Directors. These changes were effective January 1, 2018.

Sid Eppes, former Vice Chairman, has been elected Chairman, and Major General Kevin Pottinger, (Ret.) USAF, has been elected Vice Chairman by the Airpower Foundation Board of Directors.

The Airpower Foundation expresses it’s sincere gratitude to Mr. Palomares for his numerous years, and countless hours of dedicated volunteer service and leadership as Chairman. Mr. Palomares will remain on the Foundation board.

Mr. Eppes has been a long time member of the Airpower Foundation board, has been instrumental in assisting with the growth and development of the foundation over the years, and served as Chairman of the Grants Review Committee. He served four years as Chairman of the Fort Worth Airpower Council, the oldest civilian military support origination in the nation, and also has served as the Sky Ball Vice Chairman / Operations Director for the past 10 years.

Mr. Eppes’ extensive experience with sponsor relations, organizational partnerships, knowledge of the veteran support community, and relationships with nationally elected officials, will be instrumental to lead the foundation as we continue to grow and increase our support to those who serve and their families.

Major General Pottinger joined the Airpower Foundation Board 4 years ago as the military liaison/advisor and was voted as a director in 2016. Mr. Pottinger has contributed significantly to the Airpower Foundation over the years with his guidance from his military background. We look forward to his leadership as Vice Chairman in the years to come, in addition to his newly appointed role as the Chairman of the Grants Review Committee.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Verizon

Verizon

Robert Half