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.

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

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

By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Biden admin says ‘long COVID-19’ could qualify as a disability

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Biden pictured with the american flag. The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

BY Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice rolled out guidance making clear that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

The guidance makes clear that long COVID-19 is not automatically a disability and that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”

The Administration for Community Living at HHS also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, the Education Department released a resource document including information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies when it comes to providing services and “reasonable modifications” for children and students for whom long-term COVID-19 symptoms qualify as a disability.

Finally, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long COVID-19, like information on employee benefits.

Most individuals who contract COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate within a few weeks of experiencing effects from the virus. However, some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus.

Research released by the nonprofit FAIR Health last month found that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least a month after being diagnosed with the virus.

Replay Video
The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice rolled out guidance making clear that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

The guidance makes clear that long COVID-19 is not automatically a disability and that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”

The Administration for Community Living at HHS also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, the Education Department released a resource document including information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies when it comes to providing services and “reasonable modifications” for children and students for whom long-term COVID-19 symptoms qualify as a disability.

Finally, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long COVID-19, like information on employee benefits.

Most individuals who contract COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate within a few weeks of experiencing effects from the virus. However, some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus.

Research released by the nonprofit FAIR Health last month found that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least a month after being diagnosed with the virus.

Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
French parliament approves COVID-19 passes for restaurants, domestic…
The White House announced the new resources on Monday morning, before Biden and Vice President Harris were slated to deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Then-President George H.W. Bush signed the sweeping civil rights act into law in 1990. Biden, who at the time was a Democratic senator representing Delaware, co-sponsored the legislation, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a wide range of settings, including places of employment, schools, community living and transportation.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

A More Perfect Union: Celebrating Inclusivity at Inauguration

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Amanda Gorman speaking behind podium at inauguration

By Natalie Rodgers

This year’s presidential inauguration was different than any other inauguration in the past. Not only did the United States swear in its first woman Vice President and introduce the world to the youngest inaugural poet, this year’s ceremony could arguably be one of the most inclusive ceremonies to date for people with disabilities.

While this may not come as a shock given President Biden’s early promises of disability inclusion throughout his campaign, the ceremony not only attempted to cater to the specific needs of varying disabilities, but also showed the country how we should be better considering this kind of inclusion in our day-to-day lives.

Before the ceremony had even begun, the inaugural committee made several livestreams available with different types of translations and accessibilities. This was to ensure that everyone could watch the inauguration live without feeling excluded from any part of it. The committee displayed these livestreams on the “Accessible Inauguration” webpage which offered live coverage accompanied by closed captions, audio descriptions, ASL translations and even Cued Speech transliteration. These kinds of resources were also made available for the children’s inauguration event that was hosted by Keke Palmer.

Unfortunately, the website did experience many technical difficulties that rendered some of the day’s events inaccessible such as incorrect captions and cut away shots to show the audience rather than ASL interpretations of the Pledge of Allegiance that was done by Fire Captain Andrea Hall.

But despite those cuts, Hall’s leadership through the Pledge of Allegiance proved to be just as integral and important to including disability in the narrative. In a conscious effort of inclusion, Hall led the Pledge verbally and through American Sign Language, a rarity for the Inauguration.

“I really just wanted to pay homage to the deaf and hard of hearing community,” CBS reported Hall saying, “The words of the pledge are significant not just for us, but for them as well.”

Hall’s signing of the Pledge of Allegiance was also an homage to her late father who was deaf and ensured that the Pledge was one of the first pieces she learned in ASL.

Other forms of representation throughout the ceremony were present, but more subtle. As Reverend Father Leo O’ Donovan prepared to lead the invocation, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt asked the crowd “Stand if you are able.” Advocates for disability inclusion have been trying to encourage the normalization of the sentence for years to include those in wheelchairs or with conditions in which standing was not an option. Though a short moment in the scheme of the event, many took to Twitter to show their appreciation of the phrase’s inclusion, crediting it as one of the most appreciated and notable moments for them.

Other more subtle forms of inclusion could be seen in the performances of the inauguration. After capturing the attention and appreciation of the world through her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman revealed that she has dealt with an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment for most of her life. Up until a few years ago, Gorman heavily struggled pronouncing words with the “r” or “sh” sounds and used poetry as a way to practice her speaking skills while expressing her thoughts.

“The voice I’m hearing aloud can’t pronounce Rs, can’t pronounce ‘sh.’ It kind of sounds a bit garbled,” Gorman told TODAY. “But I hear this strong, self-assured voice when I am reading this simple text, and what that told me is the power of your inner voice over that which people might hear with their ears.” While many credit Gorman’s poetry as a device for her to overcome her impediment, Gorman claims that she still struggles with her impediment at times and her condition better frames her identity as a storyteller.

Her inclusion in the inauguration is also reflective on President Joe Biden, who has also openly spoken of his own speech impediment, a stutter. President Biden, even with his new position still advocates for the normalization of speech impediments that has inspired others with similar conditions around the world.

Since the beginning of his campaign, President Joe Biden has promised for further inclusion and accessibility to an array of differing abilities. Though his inauguration was not the perfect model for what these changes would look like, it does show the kind of attention to inclusion that needs to continue to better unite the nation.

Sources: TODAY, CBS News, The Verge, CNN

Biden Plan Would End Subminimum Wage, Offer Stimulus Checks To More With Disabilities

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Joe Biden Giving a speech wearing Blue suit and tie

By Disability Scoop

In his first major undertaking, President-elect Joe Biden wants to do away with a decades-old option to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage while giving stimulus payments to more people in this population.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion proposal late last week to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout from it. The so-called American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 in direct payments to many Americans as well as funding to support vaccine distribution, reopen schools and support state and local governments while

(Photo Credit – Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

also extending unemployment benefits and expanding paid leave.

Notably, the plan would provide stimulus payments for adults with disabilities who are considered dependents for tax purposes. These individuals have been disqualified from the previous rounds of direct payments issued by the federal government since the start of the pandemic.

The proposal also calls for eliminating subminimum wage for people with disabilities.

Under a law dating back to 1938, employers are able to receive special 14(c) certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor allowing them to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

But many disability advocates have been pushing for years to end the practice, which they say is outdated and exploitative. Some states and cities have already banned employers from paying subminimum wage and, as a candidate, Biden pledged to support a phaseout of the program.

Read the full article at Disability Scoop. 

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. 

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

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.

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Disability Awareness Month

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Upcoming Events

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

Upcoming Events

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