Autism Awareness Advocate Areva Martin On Her Work-Life Balance Journey

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Areva Martin

Driven career professionals often struggle to figure out a work life balance that doesn’t leave them riddled with guilt. Unfortunately, for parents of kids with disabilities the increased demands can make them feel like caring for their special needs child(ren) means they must automatically reduce or even eliminate their career goals. Indeed, they often feel the pressure to automatically blunt the trajectory of their career in an attempt to demonstrate full commitment to their household’s unique needs and challenges. For those who view attentive parenting of a special needs child and aggressive pursuit of a fulfilling and ambitious career as a binary choice, they need look no further than the compelling example of disability rights advocate and award winning attorney/legal commentator Areva Martin to shatter that myth.

When her son Marty was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Areva found herself struggling to navigate the complex labyrinth of relevant services which eventually led her to develop the Special Needs Network, Inc. to not just serve her needs, but primarily to provide a network of support for families affected by developmental disabilities.

As a disability rights advocate, she has mentored and befriended many parents of special needs children and can actively relate to the unique work life balance challenges that the experience brings, and her message is both clear and determined – “Parenting a special needs child doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career.” Indeed, she doesn’t just say it, she’s done it. Graciously, Areva spoke with me recently to share a few nuggets of advice for other parents struggling to manage the sometimes overwhelming demands of both work and home.

Know the Law

Parents of children with special needs are often left to maneuver a laundry list of requirements in order to sufficiently support their children. From navigating school admissions and identifying appropriate therapies to securing necessary testing and establishing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the demands on a parent’s time and financial resources can be significant to say the least. Identifying sources of support is a critical step in relieving the very real drain on financial and other limited resources. Areva advises parents to learn their rights early so they avoid wasting precious time and money on services that may be available to them at little or no cost. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that applies to public schools in every state throughout the country. The law makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities including autism and a range of developmental, emotional and learning disabilities, and it ensures special education and related services to those children from age 2 to 21. Beyond federal laws, Areva recommends that parents make time to talk to other parents, administrators and officials to familiarize themselves early on with any applicable state, local, even district level regulations or policies that might provide support or create barriers for their particular situation. Indeed, knowledge is power and taking the time to equip yourself with the knowledge early on is key.

While it may be tempting for parents of special needs children to “suffer in silence” rather than share concerns, issues or problems, Areva warns against that urge and instead encourages parents to be open with friends and colleagues.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

5 Questions That Help Define The Outlines Of Disability Advocacy

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What is the shape of disability activism? There is a lot of natural variation in the large and diverse disabled population, and many different opinions among the smaller core of committed disability activists.

But there are some beliefs, positions, and mindsets that shape the community of individuals and organizations loosely referred to as “Disability Activism.” They aren’t exactly boundaries or litmus tests. They are more like magnets that draw disability advocates in certain directions. What are these key positions? How do we identify them?

Here are five questions that go a long way towards defining disability activism as more than a set of moods and activities, but rather a movement with both diversity and a distinct direction.

Is disability mainly a medical or a social experience?

The disability experience has two main aspects. First, there are people’s own mental and physical conditions, practical impairments, pain, discomfort, illness, and lack or loss of functioning. These form the conventional components of disability itself. It is essentially a person experience, and medically based.

Then there are the barriers people encounter that are related to their disabilities, but come from the outside. This can include lack of physical, sensory, or mental access to essential spaces, processes, goods, and services – and discrimination by individuals, laws, institutions, and practices. These are the social forces that make disability so much more than a purely personal and medical experience.

These two aspects of disability have for some time been referred to as the “Medical” and “Social” models of disability. Most disabled people experience elements of both. But whichever comes to be your dominant concern is both affected by and then further shapes how much you look to yourself for a better life and how much you look to outside people and social forces.

Modern disability activism is mostly based in the Social Model of disability. It is more concerned with collective action to make society more accepting, equitable, and accessible, and focused much less on funding for medical research or development of new treatments and therapies. This less a matter of right or wrong, than it is a difference in focus. But it’s enough of a difference to give disability activism a noticeably different tone, flavor, and direction than, say, fundraising for medical research, or treatment of disabling conditions. Broadly speaking, disability activism seeks to fix society’s ableism, not fix disabled people’s disabilities. That gives disability activism it’s most essential and distinct shape and dimension.

Read the full article at Forbes.

European Space Agency announces call for ‘parastronauts’ with disabilities

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The European Space Agency is diversifying its astronaut pool with its first call for astronauts that is open to candidates with physical disabilities.

In this call for new astronauts, the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade, ESA announced that it plans to accept four to six career astronauts (who will be permanent ESA staff) and about 20 “reserve astronauts,” who could fly for shorter missions to destinations like the International Space Station.

As part of this call for astronaut applicants, ESA Director General Jan Wörner revealed during a recent news briefing that the agency is aiming to bring its first “parastronaut,” or astronaut with physical disabilities, on board, according to SpaceNews.

As part of what it calls the “Parastronaut feasibility project,” “ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as crew members on a safe and useful space mission,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it will open up this opportunity for one or more applicants.

For this parastronaut, who would be the first astronaut with physical disabilities selected not just by ESA but in history, the agency is “looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware,” ESA added in the same statement.

ESA consulted with the Paralympic Committee to determine exactly which physical disabilities would work consistently with space missions, according to a New York Times. Currently, the agency is accepting applicants with leg amputations, significant differences in leg length or who are very short (typically, space agencies have a height minimum for astronaut candidates), according to the Times, though the agency hopes to expand this opportunity to others in the future.

After being recruited, astronaut candidates chosen as part of this project would work with the agency to determine what physical accommodations they might need to fly to space.

Continue on to Space.com to read the complete article.

13 Practical Ways To Help Employees Adapt To New Technology

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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.

‘Framing Britney Spears’ Doesn’t Bring Up Disability and That’s a Problem

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Britney Spears is physically able-bodied, beautiful, and successful. It’s not what disability narratives have historically prized throughout the years.

Everyone has an opinion on Britney Spears, even if you think you don’t. Since the pop star’s infamous series of erratic decisions starting in 2007 — which led to her being placed in a conservatorship for the last 12 years — there have been numerous opinions stated about whether Spears is a prisoner or being protected. This week, FX’s “The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears” sought to lift the veil on what many people have heard about Spears and her confinement, but one word was noticeably absent throughout the hour-long broadcast: disabled.

Last year, as the #FreeBritney movement started up, disabled rights advocate and writer Sara Luterman brought up Spears’ conservatorship with regards to disability rights issues in The Nation. A conservatorship, as Luterman lays it out, is “generally imposed on people with a documented disability who are determined, by a judge, to be unable to care for themselves.” A conservator determines how the conservatee spends their money, takes care of themselves day to day, and anything else falling under a wide swath of things deemed necessary.

As Luterman points out, “Guardianship is most commonly used on young adults with intellectual disabilities and older adults with dementia. It isn’t clear how many people are under guardianship in the United States, but in a 2013 report, the AARP’s ‘best guess’ was 1.5 million Americans.

Yet within “Framing Britney Spears” the topic is never couched with regards to disability. Instead they make it clear that conservatorships are usually reserved for those who are elderly. The distinction is pertinent, as elderly doesn’t always mean disabled — but too often disabled always means elderly. The series also limits their discussions to #FreeBritney allies or those with legal connections to conservatorships, and never does it solicit the opinions of disabled rights advocates.

And this is disturbing, because there are elements of Spears’ life that definitely sound troubling — but when you factor in the more nefarious ways conservatorships control a person’s medical and, especially, sexual and reproductive health, it’s reminiscent of the numerous ways those with disabilities have been controlled and prohibited from being considered actual people.

Read the full article at Indie Wire.

The First Blind Man to Climb Mount Everest and Other Inspiring Athletes Star in Super Bowl Ad

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Erik Weihenmayer

Guaranteed Rate, one of America’s top 5 retail mortgage lenders, announces that the newest ad in its national brand campaign, Believe You Will, will air during this year’s Super Bowl.

The 60-second spot will feature some of the Believe You Will campaign’s ambassadors, including Dustin Poirier, who recently defeated UFC legend Conor McGregor, and Ryan Newman, who will be racing to win his second Daytona 500 next week, marking the one-year anniversary of his infamous, fiery crash.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the most iconic sporting event in the world,” said Guaranteed Rate President and CEO Victor Ciardelli. “Our new Believe You Will campaign is authentically us. We are a mortgage company that believes ‘We Grow For Good’–the more we grow, the more good we can do. We believe people are amazing and can do anything they want in the world; they just have to believe they can.”

Guaranteed Rate’s ad, as well as the entire Believe You Will campaign, was produced by the company’s in-house creative team. The Believe You Will campaign’s ambassadors were identified based on their personal stories and philosophies, which connect directly to the idea that incredible goals can be attained through the power of positivity and belief.

“At Guaranteed Rate, our core values are rooted in the power of belief and positive thinking, to achieve audacious goals,” said Guaranteed Rate Chief Marketing Officer Steve Moffat. “To share that philosophy, we found remarkable stories of people who believed in their abilities to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. We hope that people around the world will be inspired by these stories and will believe that they too can achieve great things.”

The spot airing during the game highlights several of the campaign‘s inspiring ambassadors, including:

  • Dustin Poirier, who believes he will regain the UFC lightweight title after having just defeated the legendary Conor McGregor in a vicious 2nd-round TKO on January 23.
  • Ryan Newman, who believes he will win his second Daytona 500, one year after being in one of the sport’s most shocking crashes ever.
  • Erik Weihenmayer, who believed he could defy the odds to become the first blind person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.
  • Rose Namajunas, who believed she could rise above extremely tough circumstances and become a UFC champion.
  • Seth Jones, who believed that even though his dad was an NBA veteran, he could forge his own path to become an NHL All Star.
  • Starr Andrews, who believes she can accomplish her dream of being an Olympic figure-skating champion in Beijing.
  • The voice of the ad and the entire Believe You Will campaign is motivational speaker and coach Dr. Eric Thomas, known to many as “The Hip Hop Preacher.”

Guaranteed Rate rolled out its Believe You Will campaign after a year of momentous growth for the company as it met record-breaking consumer demand and launched various high-profile sports sponsorships. Well known for its title sponsorship of the Chicago White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field, the company sponsored a wide array of sporting events in 2020, from mainstream sports like NASCAR, IndyCar, MLB and NHL, to more niche sports like professional bass fishing, figure skating, bowling and lacrosse.

To preview Guaranteed Rate’s Believe You Will Super Bowl ad, please visit:
rate.com/about-us/purpose and follow the company on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook @GuaranteedRate and #believeyouwill.

About Guaranteed Rate Companies

The Guaranteed Rate Companies, which includes Guaranteed Rate, Inc., Guaranteed Rate Affinity, LLC, and Proper Rate, LLC, has more than 9,000 employees in over 750 offices across the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, Guaranteed Rate Companies is one of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the United States, funding over $73 billion in 2020. Founded in 2000 and located in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., Guaranteed Rate Companies has helped homeowners nationwide with home purchase loans and refinances. The company has established itself as an industry leader by introducing innovative technology, offering low rates and delivering unparalleled customer service. 2017 marked the launch of Guaranteed Rate Affinity, LLC, a mortgage origination joint venture between Guaranteed Rate, Inc. and Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in residential real estate franchising and brokerage. In 2020, the company launched Proper Rate, LLC, a mortgage origination joint venture between Guaranteed Rate, Inc. and @properties, one of the nation’s largest residential brokerage firms. Collectively, the Guaranteed Rate Companies have earned honors and awards including:Top Lender for Online Service for 2018 byU.S. News & World Report; Best Mortgage Lender for Online Loans and Best Mortgage Lender for Refinancing by NerdWallet for 2021; HousingWire‘s 2020 Tech100 award for the company’s industry-leading FlashCloseSM technology; No. 3 ranking in Scotsman Guide‘s Top Retail Mortgage Lenders 2019;ChicagoAgent Magazine‘s Lender of the Year for five consecutive years; Chicago Tribune‘s Top Workplaces list for seven consecutive years. Visit rate.com for more information.

SOURCE Guaranteed Rate

So You Want A Diverse Workforce? Then Truly Welcome People With Disabilities

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About 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability. Here’s how organizations can become disability confident.

By now, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place for over 35 years and roughly 62 million adults in the United States live with a disability — that’s about one in four people.

Yet how many of us can honestly say we are confident when it comes to including persons with disabilities in our workplace culture?

 

(Image Credit – The Hill)
According to a report from the Return On Disability Group, although 90 percent of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4 percent consider disability in those initiatives.

To be clear, a disability-confident organization is one that puts policies and procedures into practice that ensure people with all types of disabilities are included equally. Similarly, a disability-confident employer thinks about the unique needs that may arise when designing their products, services, collateral, and even job descriptions.

In order to excel in today’s evolving marketplace, you must not only acknowledge the importance of persons with disabilities to your business but also embrace actions that support their success as both employees and consumers. Furthermore, persons with disabilities account for total disposable incomes of over $500 billion, so it’s critical to businesses to ensure that persons with disabilities feel welcome to apply and contribute to your existing team.

  1. Screen In, Not Out

Like any employer, you want the best person for the job. This means, you must be prepared to show your disability confidence by guaranteeing that persons with disabilities are truly welcomed — and that starts before the interview. This can only be done if you and your hiring team are committed to “Screen In, Not Out.” This important Inclusion-ism is literally an Human Resources litmus test.

Anyone who has ever attended a Human Resource course has been advised to screen out in order to minimize the number of resumes and to weed out less desirable applicants. There are two clear issues with this practice that disability confident employers need to consider; first, by choosing to screen out you are knowingly shrinking your applicant pool in a time when a different perspective could be crucial to your company growth. Secondly, the “screen out software” that is being used by larger businesses perpetuates unconscious biases that result in a lack of diversity among applicants and, ultimately, your team.

  1. Stay Curious

The second Inclusion-ism you will want to embrace, in support of more disability confidence, is to stay curious. In short, never assume that you know what is going on; by contrast, you should be genuinely open enough about the why and hear the reason without judgement. Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” you may question, “Why does it seem that you are regularly late on Wednesdays?”

Often, the reason comes down to a simple issue requiring minimal accommodation. You may soon discover that this employee could be a top producer on your team (aside from being late on Wednesdays).

Bottom line: embracing a “stay curious” attitude means being open to and looking for ways of doing things. By encouraging your entire team to ask questions, listen, and observe with the primary goal of understanding any given issue, you are on the road to becoming disability confident.

  1. Win, Win, Win

In the 1989 publication: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective,” Steven Covey describes the significance of a win-win situation which leads to mutual benefit.

It is time to refresh that concept to gain relevance in today’s diverse workplace. This is where “Win, Win, Win” comes in. The fact is it takes three wins to be truly inclusive. When you promote a person with disability from within, the business wins (you’ve selected the best candidate), the individual wins (they receive an opportunity that less disability-confident employers may not offer), and the entire team wins (benefiting from an innovative and adaptable leader who has overcome barriers). Plus, there are significant benefits to your customers who may see themselves reflected in the diversity of your team!

As we all know, people living with disabilities are everywhere; at work, play, traveling, shopping — just like everyone else. The more we strive to be Disability Confident Leaders, the more we can be sure we are practicing from a true Win, Win, Win perspective!

Tova Sherman—a TED Speaker and thought leader with more than 25 years of experience in diversity and inclusion—is the award-winning CEO of reachAbility, an organization which provides supportive and accessible programs dedicated to workplace inclusion for anyone facing barriers. She is the author of Win, Win, Win! The 18 Inclusion-isms You Need to Become a Disability Confident Employer.

Read the original article at The Hill.

 

Ken Ross: “I want to see a disabled person who’s as famous as Brad Pitt on screen”

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The film producer Ken Ross on how having a son with Down syndrome inspired him to promote inclusion in the industry.

Award-winning film producer Ken Ross is calling for more people with disabilities to be seen on TV and film screens all around the world. “If we never give individuals these roles, we’ll never move forward. We don’t need to change people to be the part we want them to be, and we don’t need to be worried about casting someone with a disability,” he says. “You would never ask someone to ‘black up’ to play Nelson Mandela – so why would you ask an actor to ‘impersonate’ someone with a disability?”

Ross has spent the past two decades working with the UK government, the NHS, Bafta and various other institutions to promote greater diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities. And although much has changed for the better (the Baftas and Oscars both recently revamped their diversity requirements, and actors such as Tommy Jessop, who has Down syndrome, are increasingly gaining industry-wide recognition), there is still serious work to be done. Ross says: “We need to get sales agents feeling more comfortable screening films that have people with disabilities. And we’ve got to see people writing their own stories, too.”

Today, despite Covid-19 preventing many TV and film projects from getting off the ground, Ross, who is also a real estate investor, has been screening calls from producers and directors keen to cast more actors with disabilities, among them George Clooney, who is talking to Ross about improving opportunities for people with Down syndrome across the industry. Ross’s last two projects, Innocence and My Feral Heart, both of which star actors with the condition, won various international awards, with Innocence in the running for an Oscar this year.

“Producers call me up and say, ‘Look, I’ve had a part written for this actor after I saw him in your film and was blown away,’” explains Ross. Creating jobs for people with Down syndrome in the film industry is great for both spreading awareness of the condition and showing that it can be seen in a positive light, he adds. “When statistics show that only 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid work, it makes sense to create jobs in the film industry, where you can reach an audience of millions and encourage people to think a little bit more about how they can include others.”

Why TV Writer Katherine Beattie Stopped Hiding Her Disability: ‘We Need Disabled People In All Levels’

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Katherine Beattie sitting is a wheelchair wearing leather jacket and jeans

By Allison Norlian for Forbes.

These days, work looks a lot different for Katherine Beattie. A producer on CBS’s hit procedural drama NCIS: New Orleans, Beattie and the rest of her colleagues had to adjust their storytelling to fit Covid-19 protocols.

They now meet remotely to produce each episode of season 7 versus being on set. They are also shooting in fewer locations, with fewer action scenes, and mask-wearing is mandatory. The most significant change for Beattie, who has worked on the show since its inception in 2014, is not traveling to New Orleans to shoot.

Adjusting has been an arduous task for almost everyone involved – but not necessarily for Beattie, who has spent her entire life adapting to a world not built for her.

Beattie was born with cerebral palsy, a group of movement disorders impacting muscle tone and posture. CP happens as the brain is developing before birth and affects how a person’s brain communicates with their muscles. CP affects everyone diagnosed differently. For Beattie, having CP means tight muscles and getting tired quickly. She didn’t need mobility aids for much of her upbringing, but she has used a wheelchair full-time for almost eight years in her personal life. In her professional life, though, she’s only used a wheelchair for four years.

That’s because, for a while, she hid her disability.

Beattie, 34, grew up in Los Angeles County and was tangentially involved in the entertainment industry. Her

(Image Credit – Forbes)

father, who worked in politics, would often take political candidates to screenings of The Tonight Show, and sometimes Beattie and her twin sister would tag along.

Beattie loved being backstage and meeting the celebrities. At this point, she knew she wanted to work in television in some capacity, but it would take years before she realized she wanted to be a screenwriter. She eventually decided to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and majored in their Radio, Television, and Film program.

Through a contact at The Tonight Show, Beattie landed an internship at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After graduation, in 2008, Beattie was offered a job at the show in their human-interest department. She assisted the producer with all non-celebrity segments. Beattie loved her coworkers and working for the show, she says, but she quickly found herself dissatisfied.

Read the full article at Forbes.

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