From Inclusion to COVID, Meet the These Hollywood Stars Doing the Most for the LGBTQ+ Community

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Wilson Cruz with a group of Star Trek fans

From allies to active members of the LGBTQ+ community, meet some celebrities who have currently been working to further the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people.

Cathy Rena

Longtime LGBTQ+ PR icon Cathy Rena has always found herself on the forefront of the United States’ LGBTQ+ history.  From Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out story to Michael Shephard’s beating in the 1980s to the creation of Pride events, Rena has worked with journalists and LGBTQ organizations for decades to properly portray and advocate for the community in its most difficult times.

Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Rena is working diligently to advocate for the community’s needs and specific struggles during this time. Not only is she an integral member in creating the first-ever virtual global pride, but she also has been working to make the public aware of the inequality of resources that has been given to the LGBTQ+ community.

Omar Shariff Jr.

Omar Shariff Jr., actor and grandson of Omar Shariff, has been one of the most vocal voices for LGBTQ+ people in a time of uncertainty. Already being an active member in the community, formerly serving as a GLAAD spokesperson and an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Shariff has taken his activism to paper in an article that informs the public of how COVID-19 has directly affected the LGBTQ+ community through healthcare discrimination, the need to isolate with unsupportive family members, and the inability to donate blood, to name a few.

Shariff hopes speaking out about these issues will result in a more unified community and a decrease in homophobia by the time the pandemic has ended.

Wilson Cruz

Actor Wilson Cruz, pictured with fans, from the hit TV show My So-Called Life, is moving from in front of the camera to behind it, serving as one of the producers of the new docu-series, Visible: Out on Television. The Apple TV Plus series is set to show how the LGBTQ+ community has been represented in media and how it was used as a platform for activism in the 1970s.

Being one of the first actors to be openly gay in the entertainment world, Cruz hopes to use his influence to encourage others in the community to feel comfortable and proud of who they are.

Natalie Wood

Starring actress of Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story Natalie Wood was best known for her successful acting career before her tragic death in 1981. Despite her passing nearly 40 years ago, Wood’s support for LGBTQ+ people has become a popular topic in the last few weeks due to her newest documentary, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind. Actress Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie Wood’s eldest daughter, narrated and produced the HBO released documentary that closely accounts for Woods’ life outside of the public eye.

Being no stranger to standing up for herself as a woman in Hollywood, Woods was also quite accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, despite society’s view of LGBTQ+ people during the time. Wagner recalls being practically raised by gay men as her mother was friends with many men who identified as gay. Two men in particular, Matt Crowley, a playwright, and Howard Jeffrey, a producer and choreographer, were some of Woods’ closest friends who identified as gay. The two men, though not romantically involved with each other, lived in Woods’ guest home and were made Wagner’s godfathers.

“She would have been in the forefront,” Wagner says of her mother, “She would be waving the rainbow flag with the best of them.”

The Cast of “Queer as Folk”

The 2000’s British TV show, Queer as Folk came back together earlier this month to raise money for CenterLink, the parent company of over 200 LGBTQ centers. Money raised for the organization came from both donations and an auction of some of the show’s memorabilia. The event streamed live on YouTube on May 1 and is still available in its four-hour entirety for viewers to watch. The event was hosted by Scott Lowell but also included other cast members, such as Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Sharon Gless, Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant, Peter Paige, and many more.

To date, the Queer as Folk cast is still hosting donations to be given to CenterLink. Should you want to donate, the link is provided here.

How Emojis are Improving Inclusion

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In fall this year, we can expect an array of new emojis coming to our smart devices, including ones that are more inclusive to differing genders.

The Unicode Consortium announced earlier this year that there would be 62 new emojis coming to smart devices, including 55 emojis that will strive to be more gender inclusive.

Emojis of the transgender flag and of non-binary individuals in occupations that were previously only available as women and men will be just some of the new additions we can expect to see.

 

Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year
Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year

By implementing these emojis, people of differing gender identities will not only be able to express themselves through messages and social media in a smaller, normalized way, but will also attempt to include those of all genders to feel validated in who they are.

While these emojis are set to appear on most devices around September or October, some smart devices could receive the new additions early.

CEOs That You Never Knew Had a Disability

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Steve Jobs standing on stage talking into a microphone at a conference

By Monica Luhar and Sara Salam

CEOs with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, ADHD, or dyslexia have an impact on society through their innovative, creative, and out-of-the-box thinking. They have also led the way for promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, while not letting their disabilities be the sole trait that defines their ability to lead.

Several well-known CEOs have also turned or viewed their disabilities as strengths or opportunities that help challenge society’s attitudes and misconceptions of the disability community.

Below is a list we compiled of CEOs that have shared some of their struggles, achievements, and advice throughout their leadership career:

Sir Richard Branson – Founder of Virgin Group

Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, a family owned growth capital investor. The corporation now controls more than 400 companies globally. Boasting more than 53 million companies worldwide, Virgin Group earns over £16.6B in annual revenue, according to its website. The company employs 69,000 people in 25 countries.

Branson established the Virgin Group in 1970 by launching a mail-order record business that developed into Virgin Records. Virgin Records was the first Virgin company to reach a billion-dollar valuation in 1992.

Branson attributes much of his success to his dyslexia and learning disabilities. According to an interview with the Washington Post, delegation played a large role in his approach to running his business. His motivations are rooted in wanting to do good in the world.

“Since starting youth culture magazine Student at age 16, I have tried to find entrepreneurial ways to drive positive change in the world,” Branson shared on his LinkedIn profile. “In 2004, we established Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which unites people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world.”

Source: virgin.com

J.K. Rowling – Best-Selling & Award-Winning Author

Best known for her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (born Joanne Rowling) always knew she wanted to be an author. At age eleven, she wrote her first novel—about seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them. Rowling came up with the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross. Over the next five years, she began to construct a framework for each of the seven books of the series. She moved to northern Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, married, and had a child. When the marriage ended in 1993, she returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, with her daughter and the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After several rejection by literary agents, she received one yes. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997.

Rowling has shared the role depression played in her success; at one point she contemplated suicide and suffered chronic depression. In a Harvard University commencement speech, she stated, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Source: jkrowling.com

Paul Orfalea – Founder of Kinko’s aka FedEx Office

Businessman Paul Orfalea founded what is now known as FedEx Office (originally called Kinko’s). He built Kinko’s from a single shop in Santa Barbara to a national chain with more than 1,000 locations and 25,000 employees. FedEx bought Kinko’s in 2004. It has been reported that Orfalea never carried a pen, often allowing others to handle correspondence for him because he didn’t like to read or write. He has dyslexia and ADHD, which he credits as the blessings that allowed him to see the world differently from his peers. “Lacking the ability to learn by reading, I embraced every chance to participate in life. I started businesses, like my vegetable stand. I skipped school to watch my father’s stockbroker at work. I learned early that I would only get through school with a lot of help from a lot of people. I learned to appreciate people’s strengths and forgive their weaknesses, as I hoped they would forgive mine.”

Sources: https://cagspeakers.com/paul-orfalea/

https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2008/06/post-2.html

Tommy Hilfiger – Fashion Designer, CEO/Entrepreneur, Tommy Hilfiger Corporation

American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger built an extraordinary and widely distributed fashion line from the ground up. The company made strides in the disability community by recently unveiling a clothing line geared toward people with disabilities. From a very young age, Hilfiger was equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit and an iconic eye for fashion. He wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until much later on in life, although he shared that he often felt embarrassed to reach out to people for help.

He quit school at age 18 and went on to work in the retail industry in New York City, where he began altering clothes for resale. He and his friends from high school started selling jeans and opened a store called the People’s Place, which became an instant hit. Eventually, the People’s Place went bankrupt when Hilfiger was 25. But, he picked himself back up and continued to focus on his designs before launching what would be known as the iconic Tommy Hilfiger.

Hilfiger recently partnered with the Child Mind Institute in a PSA titled, “What I Would Tell #MyYounger Self.” In the campaign video, he said, “As a child, I was dyslexic. I didn’t realize it until later on in life. I faced many challenges along the way. If you are facing challenges, the best thing you could possibly do is reach out to an adult because adults can help you somehow. I didn’t realize it at the time; I was embarrassed to talk to my teachers and family about it. But if something is bothering you, if you think you have a challenge, reach out to an adult and allow them to help you.”

Although Hilfiger struggled to read and write, he tapped into his creative strengths in other ways and diverted his attention to the world of fashion with a highly successful brand with estimated sales of $6.7 billion.

Barbara Corcoran – Founder of the Corcoran Group and Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank”

As a child, Barbara Corcoran often felt isolated and lonely due to her dyslexia. She struggled to read in the third grade and often found herself daydreaming about creative business ideas that were not related to the school curriculum. She struggled in high school and college, received straight Ds, and also experienced a ton of setbacks. She job hopped a total of 20 jobs, but never gave up on her quest to find her true passion and a career that she was passionate about.

One of the most life-changing moments of her career was when she decided to borrow $1,000 from her boyfriend, quit her job, and follow her dream of starting up The Corcoran Group, a small real estate company in New York City. Today, it’s known as the largest in the brokerage business.

Over the years, Corcoran—an American business woman, investor, author, and TV personality—has invested in over 80 businesses and is a highly recognized motivational and inspirational speaker. She is also the author of the bestselling book, Shark Tales: How I turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business.

Today, Corcoran does not view her dyslexia as an impediment. She has learned to use her dyslexia as an opportunity to push her creative entrepreneurial spirit even further, and to help others on that journey as well.

Steve Jobs – Co-Founder & Former CEO of Apple

You can thank Apple founder Steve Jobs for some of the world’s most innovative tech products that make today’s communication and connectivity a breeze.

Although Jobs grew up with dyslexia, he never claimed or publicly shared his disability. He struggled in school and dropped out after one semester at Reed College. But instead of giving up, he decided to think outside of the box in 1976 by conceptualizing the iconic Apple Computer in what was his parents’ garage.

According to Business Insider, 10-15 percent of the U.S. population are dyslexic, but only a few individuals acknowledge and receive treatment for it. Jobs’ disability served as a creative gift that allowed him to take risks and chances with his concepts for Apple.

In his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs discussed the power of trusting in your abilities and believing that the hard work, setbacks, and struggles that you experience today will eventually connect the dots and help you reach your full potential down the road:

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” Jobs said. “So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Monica Luhar is a creative copywriter, content writer, and former journalist. Her bylines have appeared in NBC News, KCET, KPCC, VICE, India-West, HelloGiggles, Yahoo!, and other hyperlocal, weekly, and national news outlets. She has covered topics ranging from diverse representation in the media, entrepreneurship, disability rights, mental health, and has reported extensively on the Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ and Latino communities. You can follow her on Twitter at @monicaluhar or view her writing at monicaluhar.com.

Steve Jobs Photo: Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs delivers the keynote speech to kick off the 2008 Macworld at the Moscone Center January 15, 2008 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

New Braille Keyboard Opens Many Doors

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Two hands reading a book in braille

With the popularity of the smartphone, many people within the visually impaired community have used the voice dictation feature to write a text message. However, within the last few weeks, Google’s Android makes talk to text the second way that people with visual impairments can communicate.

In the last few weeks, Google released a new braille keyboard on its Android 5.0 products—Talkback.

The keyboard will be available in braille grades 1 and 2 in English and will utilize a six-key system, each key representing one of the six braille dots. Each key will be numbered one through six and be combined into different number combinations to form words and sentences, allowing for words to be written on the smartphone entirely in braille. Deletion of words and spaces will also be possible in a simple two-finger swipe to either the left or the right.
As smartphones became more popular, many worried that using braille would soon become obsolete to the next generation with visual impairments. In some instances, braille keyboards could be attached to devices to write messages, but that would require carrying around a keyboard in addition to your cellular device. Talkback will not only make messaging easier and more compact for those with visual impairments but will also help advocate the importance of learning braille.

Talkback is only one of the many tools available to those with visual impairments for navigating smart technology through Android’s Accessibility Suite. To learn more about the product, click here or to learn how to set the system up on your device, click here 

Making Homes More Accessible

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Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband, Mark Leder, sitting in the living room of their home and smiling at the camera

By Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD

On June 13, 1998, my husband Mark Leder and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded bike trail in Granville, Ohio. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate. As he scanned the scene, he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. Instantly, I was crushed by a 7,000-pound tree and paralyzed from the waist down.

Coming home from the hospital in a wheelchair in July 1998 after my spinal cord injury, I realized how my home intensified my disability. My husband and I knew that we had to sell our home and find something more suitable.

Universal Design

Since the 1980s, architects, interior designers, and other design and building professionals have embraced the concept of universal design, which is a framework for creating living and working spaces and products to benefit the widest range of people in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Universal design is human-centered, accommodating people of all sizes, ages, and abilities.

Building the Universal Design Living Laboratory

My husband is 6’4″ tall while I am 4’2″ seated in my wheelchair. Our heights and reaches were factors in the design of our home so that we would both be accommodated.

In September 2004, we hired architect Patrick Manley to draw the house plans for our new home. Mark and I bought an acre and a half lot in December of 2006. We broke ground in September 2009, and moved in May 2012.

In addition to being accessible, universal design and green building construction principles were followed. Mark and I served as the general contractors of our home, named the Universal Design Living Laboratory. (www.UDLL.com) We received the highest levels of certification from three universal design certification programs, making our home the highest rated universal design home in North America.

Independent Living

The first noticeable improvement when I moved into our new home was the ease in navigating on the hardwood and tile floors. My shoulders were no longer strained as they had been on the carpet in my previous home. I realized that my carpal tunnel syndrome pain and numbness in my hands was lessened.

Living in the Universal Design Living Laboratory for the past seven years has given me a unique perspective. As a person who uses a wheelchair, I have learned the importance of space planning, and that small differences in the width of a door, the height of a threshold or the slope of a ramp can impact a person’s independence. Safety features like grab bars in the toileting area and shower have kept me from falling, and they make transfers easier.

Kitchen Design Keys

As others plan to remodel or build, they need to consider features that allow occupants independence. Universal design features in the kitchen include the overall design of the circulation pattern, cabinet design, countertop height, and appliance selection.

  • A minimum 5-foot turning radius throughout the kitchen allows a person who uses a wheelchair the ability to do a 360-degree turnaround. Power wheelchairs and scooters      may need additional space.
  • Side-hinged ovens are preferable to those hinged at the bottom, installed at a height that is easy to reach from a wheelchair.
  • Cooktop controls and the ventilation control panel at the front and at waist height make them accessible by all.
  • Multiple countertop heights, such as 40, 34, and 30 inches, accommodate a diverse population. A 30-inch countertop with knee space underneath works well for someone  who remains seated during meal preparation.
  • At least half of the storage space should be accessible from a seated position, including drawers and cabinet shelves.
  • Cooktops and sinks with knee space beneath make for user-friendly work areas.
  • A dishwasher raised 16 inches off the floor eliminates the need to bend down low.
  • A side-by-side refrigerator/freezer provides easier access from a seated position.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. To get a free chapter and learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory, visit UDLL.com. To contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking services, visit RosemarieSpeaks.com.

Changing the Landscape in Casting People with Disabilities

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Zack Gottsagen receiving an academy award for his movie, Peanut Butter Falcon

By Sara Salam

The entertainment industry has made strides in prioritizing diversity. During the 2020 Academy Awards, actor Zack Gottsagen, who stars in The Peanut Butter Falcon, became the first actor who has Down syndrome to present an award during the show. But there is still work that needs to be done.

Twenty-percent of the world’s population has some type of visible or invisible disability, making this community the largest minority in the world. Yet people with disabilities are systematically excluded from opportunities for social and economic mobility.

In an open letter to Hollywood studio, production, and network executives, the Ruderman Family Foundation invokes a call to action for more inclusive audition and casting practices.

Actors including Orlando Jones, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jason Alexander, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito and Mark Ruffalo have signed the letter. Also supporting the letter are several disabled actors and disability advocates, including Marlee Matlin, R.J. Mittle, and Ali Stoker, as well as creatives like Glen Mazsara and The Farrelley brothers.

While many beloved characters have a disability, opportunities for actors with disabilities are virtually non-existent. In fact, research shows that 95 percent of top show characters with disabilities on TV are played by actors without disabilities. Yet it is still the norm for able-bodied actors to play characters with disabilities.

Scripted broadcast programming added nine more series regular characters with disabilities for the 2019-2020 season in comparison to last year, a new report by GLAAD found. This means that the percentage of characters with disabilities has risen a full percentage point to 3.1 percent. While this is a record high, the report cautions the data, “still falls far short of reflecting reality,” as more than twenty percent of people in the U.S. have a disability.

Of the 879 series regulars on broadcast programming, GLAAD found that 3.1 percent (27 characters) have disabilities, in comparison to 2.1 percent (18 characters) last year. There are nine characters across all three platforms tracked (broadcast, cable, streaming) with HIV and AIDS, an increase from the seven characters counted last year and a substantial increase from the two counted two years ago.

One such program is Freeform’s new comedy series, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, which aired in January of this year. A neurodiverse actress and activist, Kayla Cromer, stars as Matilda, a high school senior who is driven to succeed and is on the autism spectrum.

Cromer was first diagnosed with ADD, dyslexia and dyscalculia when she was seven years old. Her diagnosis of Asperger’s came later, which is common, as women and girls are less likely to be diagnosed as being on the spectrum than men and boys. As none of her disabilities are visible, Cromer revealed she is neurodiverse publicly just last year.

“Even though I had learned to advocate for myself in life, I was scared to shine light on it professionally,” she said. “Having the support of my Everything’s Gonna Be Okay team helped me to embrace my disclosure. I feared being labeled and typecast. I want to explore and expand my craft into different genres, to play neurotypical characters too. My biggest dream is to train and join Marvel Cinematic Universe! I am determined to break stereotypes!”

With greater accessibility and opportunity, talented and high-profile actors with disabilities will emerge. Infusing the industry with this largely untapped source of talent promises to boost box office and network revenues while opening the market to an even broader audience, as evidenced by all previous diversity-oriented initiatives in entertainment.

Hollywood recognizes that it can’t ignore diversity, but still ignores that disability is part of that diversity.

Source: respectability.org

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I Feel Like a Tomato

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Fresh tomato isolated on white background

By Shelby Smallwood-Brill

As a woman who uses a rollator most days, sometimes it’s hard to explain to people that I’m kind of disabled, kind of not.

When curious little kids ask why I’m using a walker with wheels just like their grandma, I usually tell them I hurt my leg. It’s easier than explaining years and years of complicated mishaps and surgeries that lead to scar tissue on my spinal cord, which causes my legs to super tight all the time. Kids don’t want to hear that, and frankly neither do most adults.

Sometimes the wicked part of me wants to tell kids that I didn’t eat my vegetables when I was a kid, and now I walk like this – just to freak them out. The thought of it makes me laugh, but I’m not sure how well a joke like that would be received by parents, so I usually bite my tongue. If a child presses me for details, I usually say I was in a car accident (I wasn’t) or hit by a drunk driver (that’s a lie, too). Why? Because kids understand an accident and are able to move on once they understand why I’m using a walker. If I try to tell the truth, I can see their little eyes glaze over as their brain gets caught in a limbo state of not understanding, and with that, confusion about what they should say or do around me. Now that I think about it – that happens with grownups as well.

The human brain naturally puts people and things into categories to understand and process them efficiently. Craig McGarty discusses the importance of social categorization in his article featured in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. He discusses how we make sense of the world by using categorization. Social categorization influences how we view ourselves and those we interact with. We use social categorization to figure out relationships between people and groups, and how we fit in to those groups. We use categories to predict behavior, anticipate needs, figure out who will see eye to eye with us and who we’ll get along with.

So, when a kid is confused about why I need a walker, it’s because they don’t know what social category to put me in. You and me both, kid.

A tomato is technically a fruit but feels like a vegetable. When it comes to disability, I sort of feel like a tomato. I don’t use a wheelchair, so I don’t fit the classic image of a person with a physical disability, but I do walk with crutches or a rollator, so I don’t fit in with the 100 percent able-bodied group anymore.

Recently I came across the term, “spoonie,” that describes someone who relates to spoon theory. I love how this label helps sum up so much complex information in one word. Similar to “foodie” or “gamer,” you get it with one word.

Spoon theory was coined by Christine Miserandino back in 2003, and the term has been adopted by “spoonies” ever since to describe the physical and mental energy expenditure required to live in a physically disabled body. You start your day with a certain number of spoons, and you must plan your day accordingly. Wake up, 1 spoon. Go to work, 5 spoons. Pick up your kids, make dinner, help with homework… You get it – they take all of your spoons.

The frustrations of running out of spoons too quickly can be similar to counting calories or using a cell phone with a battery that dies too quickly. It doesn’t necessarily need to be spoons that represent your daily energy share – some people think of it in terms of money or points. Either way, you need to be smart and plan for the unexpected things that life throws at you. Living this way makes it hard to be spontaneous, even if that’s your nature. A friend who asks if you want to go to happy hour after work usually gets turned down because you haven’t allocated enough spoons for the added energy. If you were to go to happy hour, you wouldn’t have enough energy, for example, to get up the next morning and go to work.

What I appreciate about spoon theory is that it gives a visual representation of the concept of once your energy is spent, you’re done. Period. Sometimes that can be hard to communicate, and having a visual aid is helpful.

Although many scoff at applying labels to groups of people, I find that it’s a great way to grease the wheels of conversation and lead to a faster connection with others.

Labels are also great when you need to search for things that interest you online. Try searching for “disability” vs “learning disability” and you’ll see what I mean. Both human nature and Google love segmenting people into categories, and I’m fine with that.

Disabilities can be divided into broad categories like physical or developmental, for example, but once you try to get more specific, things get murky. As people with disabilities, we’re all like little snowflakes with our unique issues and circumstances that make us different than your average person without disabilities. I understand the spirit behind putting people first, and that labels are meant for jars, not people. However, as someone who doesn’t quite fit into any existing labels, I find myself wishing I had one. People who have a label for their disability have an easier time finding each other and becoming a supportive tribe.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way, right?

Source: thatzhowiroll.com

How to Successfully Work Remotely

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Woman's Hands Working From Home on Computer while looking at her iPhone

Suddenly thrust into remote work? Here’s how to cope – and thrive – as a telecommuter.

The past decade has seen the rise of remote work or teleworking for a number of professions, but with the coronavirus outbreak, many people who might never have left the comforts of a traditional office are suddenly thrust into remote life.

A number of companies throughout the U.S., large and small, have either asked or mandated that employees work from home, and as the outbreak continues to spread, there’s no sign of that slowing down.

Massachusetts-based biotech firm Biogen has asked its 7,400 employees worldwide to work from home after employees tested positive for the coronavirus. In Indianapolis, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly requested that all its U.S.-based employees work from home and restricted all domestic travel. And in the tech hubs of the Bay Area and Seattle, several companies, including Twitter, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and more, have asked employees to stay away.

Those experienced in teleworking have greeted the news with a virtual shrug, while others are working to adjust to their new realities. Consider the following advice if you’re new to full-time telework:

  • Adjust quickly to working remotely.
  • Build solidarity with your remote team.
  • Get savvy and connected with technology.
  • Look at remote work as an opportunity.

Adjust Quickly to Working Remotely

To those who are working from home for the very first time, comedian and author Sara Benincasa, who wrote “Real Artists Have Day Jobs,” offers this sound advice via email: “Strap in. You’re about to get to know yourself a LOT better.”

“What I’ve found is that regardless of perceived social cache or any so-called cool factor, your work-from-home job can be dismal or pleasant. That’s because so much of the work-from-home experience depends on YOU,” Benincasa says. “When you work from home, you are your only in-person co-worker and supervisor.”

Benincasa recommends establishing a routine, creating a dedicated workspace and taking periodic breaks. “Do not overdo the caffeine. If you need to write down everything you eat and drink each day in order to keep your caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake low, do it,” she says.

“Also, don’t drink during work hours, please,” she adds.

Isha Kasliwal is a senior developer at Twitch, the video live-streaming service and Amazon subsidiary, based in San Francisco. She and her co-workers were asked to work from home if possible, for their own safety, at least through the end of March. While Twitch has long had a fairly flexible work-from-home policy, Kasliwal says the prolonged experience of remote work is something new for many of her colleagues.

“I’ve had to make adjustments with regards to how I get myself ready in the morning, still getting semi-dressed for the day and not staying in pajamas all day,” she says, “and making sure that I set some time to take a walk outside during the middle of the day so I get fresh air and can get some steps in.”

Kasliwal says she doesn’t mind working from home temporarily but is looking forward to getting back to the office when she and her colleagues are able.

“I’m actually enjoying working from home because I don’t have to deal with commute times, which is great,” Kasliwal says. “But I do miss seeing my co-workers and the Twitch kitchen, which is amazing.”

While it might seem foreign to those who work independently or remotely full time, some people do actually like going into an office and spending time with co-workers. Kelly Hoey, author of “Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In a Hyper-Connected World,” says managing interpersonal relationships remotely can be an often-overlooked challenge in suddenly having to work from home.

Build Solidarity With Your Remote Team

“For managers, it’s important to keep some sort of routine for your team. There’s a structure to getting up, getting dressed and the community in the office. Some of your staffers might feel lost without it,” Hoey says. “If you usually have Monday meetings or Thursday lunches, for instance, try to arrange a video chat or brown-bag virtual gatherings. Check in with each other.”

She reminds managers to ask their employees if anything else has changed in their lives or routines due to the outbreak. For instance, if an employee’s child’s school is closed or if they’re suddenly caring for an elderly neighbor or relative, that might impact how and when they’re able to log in every day. And if a manager doesn’t ask, Hoey suggests employees communicate that information directly.

Hoey warns teams against simply using the same tools in the same way as they do in a traditional office setting. “If you’re using Slack or email in the office, many times you have that line of sight. You can look up and see if your colleague got your message, and if it came across the way you meant it,” she says. “Now that you’re remote, maybe now you leverage other, more personal technology – even hop on a call – to really connect.”

Get Savvy and Connected With Technology

And for all those conference calls and video chats that will suddenly be required? Hoey recommends setting up a dedicated video space with a neat background, good lighting and no distractions. After all, it might not just be fellow employees also in their pajamas on the other end of the call. Salespeople might need to speak with clients, managers might need to speak with board members and other stakeholders. Working from home is no excuse not to keep it professional. (At least from the blazer up!)

Continue on to U.S. News to read the complete article.

‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ Star Zack Gottsagen Takes Stage as First Oscar Presenter With Down Syndrome

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Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen speak onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Shia LaBeouf joined the actor to present the best live-action short prize at the 2020 Academy Awards on Sunday.

The Peanut Butter Falcon star Zack Gottsagen made history as the Academy Awards’ first presenter with Down syndrome at the 2020 Oscars on Sunday.

The actor, who received a standing ovation upon hitting the Dolby Theater stage, announced the nominees and winner of the live-action short film category alongside co-star Shia LaBeouf. The actor waved to the Dolby Theater audience before introducing the nominees.

Gottsagen then made the “Oscar goes to” announcement before LaBeouf announced the winner, presenting it to The Neighbor’s Window, which LaBeouf misread as “The Neighbor’s Widow.”

In The Peanut Butter Falcon, which stars LaBeouf, Bruce Dern and Dakota Johnson, a nursing home escapee, played by Gottsagen, chases his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

Sunday night was Gottsagen’s first time attending the star-studded ceremony. Though the actor didn’t receive any awards at the annual show, the Ruderman Family Foundation lauded the evening’s landmark event.

In 1993, the Academy awarded the documentary short subject prize to Educating Peter, a film that follows third-grade student Peter Gwazdauskas, who lives with Down syndrome.

Continue on to The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

Peter Dinklage Thanks ‘Game of Thrones’ Co-Stars for SAG Award Win

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Peter Dinklage accepts SAG Award

The actor also thanked his wife and the people of Northern Ireland during his acceptance speech for best male actor in a drama series.

Peter Dinklage took home the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series at the 2020 SAG Awards on Sunday.

The Game of Thrones star prevailed over fellow nominees Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Steve Carell (The Morning Show), Billy Crudup (The Morning Show) and David Harbour (Stranger Things).

Dinklage began his speech by joking that his nude statuette looked like it appeared on the HBO series. The win follows the final season of the acclaimed series.

“I would like to thank the people of Northern Ireland,” he said, “who put up with us for nine years.”

Dinklage then praised the show’s cast and crew. “I would also like to thank everyone at table nine and ten and beyond cause we put up with each other for nine years,” he said.

The actor concluded his speech by thanking his wife. “Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, who put up with me for more than nine years, but lived in a place far away from home, but made it home cause we were together,” said Dinklage.

Continue on to the Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article

Woman With Cerebral Palsy Pens Script For Disney

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Erin Feeney is smiling and giving a hand signal that all is good while seated in here chair at home

Erin Feeney, 28, wants to have a career in fairy tales. And so far, she has already paved a path to one of the known entities of fairy tales — Disney. Feeney just saw her first script for the Disney animated show, “Doc McStuffins” come to fruition in a cartoon entitled Ultimate Safari “Tail Spin.” The animated short premiered Monday on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. (For those not familiar, “Doc McStuffins” is an animated children’s series about a girl who fixes toys with the aid of her toy friends.)

Feeney’s two-minute interstitial shows Doc and her toy team helping a whirly bird named Topsy get back to her flock and perform the “Sunrise Spin.” The spot is also available in the DisneyNOW app and on the Disney Junior YouTube page.

“I can hardly believe it,” said Feeney who expressed her enthusiasm via her communication board attached to her wheelchair. Feeney was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. She communicates by pointing to words and letters on her board. Her father, Kevin, is her translator and is quick to spell out her messages by watching where she points.

He remembers Erin’s path to writing for the small screen started a few years ago after her short stories turned into a short film with actors who were people with disabilities, he said. That film grew into a feature that played in the Naperville Independent Film Festival in 2016 where some people who worked with Disney on Ice noticed. Shea Fontana, the writer of the Disney on Ice script, also wrote for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin attended that ice show and met Fontana, who subsequently invited Erin to submit some script ideas for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin submitted 10 ideas and two made the cut. One of them is “Tail Spin,” which took a few hours to write initially, Erin said. Some back and forth with producers and about five edits, and the script was complete in two or three weeks, her father added.

“Since it’s animation, it takes a long time to do all that stuff,” Kevin Feeney said.

After the process, Disney invited the Feeneys to Los Angeles for four days in August 2017 where they met some of the voice artists in a recording session. The Feeneys also made a visit to Disneyland.

“They were really nice and when we were eating lunch, Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) was recording in the building for another cartoon show, so we got to meet him — a real nice guy,” Feeney said.

After that, it was just a waiting game for the cartoon to be produced. And this week, the family was up extra early to see the premiere live.

“Erin has always had talent — a huge imagination,” Kevin Feeney said. “She loves the Disney stories, Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, those types of things. We’re reading the biography of Andersen, and she’s listening to the audio book of the life of Helen Keller.”

“I was a lonely kid, so I started watching the Disney movies and fell in love with the princesses,” she said. Her favorites (Snow White, Thumbelina and Cinderella). But she laughs saying “Elsa and Anna are cool.” (Get it? Because they’re both princesses from “Frozen.”)

“Erin’s dream has been to write fairy tales for kids all her life and in particular Disney stories, so we’re hoping that one of these days, she can make a career of that. But Erin wants to finish college first. And then go from there,” her dad said.

Continue on to The Chicago Tribune to read the complete article.

PHOTO CREDIT: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune