7 Steps to Make Your Virtual Presentations Accessible

A woman giving a powerpoint presentation to a group of co-workers

By Devin Boyle

With the rapid rise of telework, the PEAT team recognizes it’s more important than ever to make sure virtual presentations are accessible.

These efforts allow all participants, particularly people with disabilities, to effectively engage with presented content. Below, you’ll find seven essential steps and related resources to help you create accessible presentations.

Before and During Your Presentation

Step 1: Research

Before hosting a virtual presentation, identify all accessibility features of the online platform you intend to use. The following websites discuss accessibility features for several commonly used platforms for webinars, virtual conferences, and other collaborative activities:

  •  Adobe Connect Google G Suite
  • Microsoft Teams
  •  Slack (keyboard accessibility, screen reader accessibility)
  •  Workplace by Facebook
  •  Zoom

Step 2: Need Sensing

When sending invitations to join your virtual presentation, encourage participants to share their requirements and accommodation needs to engage effectively in your event. For example, you could craft a request like this:

“We strive to host an inclusive and accessible presentation. Accessible materials will be distributed to participants in advance, and live captioning will be provided during the event. If you have questions about the accessibility of our presentation, or want to request accommodations, please reach out to [add name] at [add email].”

Step 3: Put Systems in Place

Before your live event starts, check off these critical to-do items first:

  • Adjust your platform settings to record your presentation. Though this may not be specifically requested, it’s helpful for everyone to access content after the live event concludes.
  • Arrange captioning for your presentation in advance (such as through the Federal Relay Service for government employees or another service provider).
  • Secure sign language interpreters—if requested.

Step 4: Create Accessible Materials

In advance of your presentation, create and share accessible slide decks and other presentation materials with the audience. Sending your materials ahead of time ensures that participants have access to electronic versions in case they encounter accessibility issues during the live event. Consider these resources for creating accessible presentations and documents in Word (or another software application for word processing):

  • How to Make Presentations Accessible to All
  • PowerPoint Accessibility
  •  Best Practices for Making Word Documents Accessible

Step 5: Prepare Speaker(s)

For a presentation to be fully accessible, speakers must understand how to use key features of the online platform and convey content in a manner that promotes accessibility. Participants with certain disabilities can absorb information better and more effectively engage in presentations when the speaker(s) follows recommendations for accessible communication.

We also suggest conducting a preparatory or dry-run session with the presenters in advance to verify their familiarity and comfort with the run of show and platform controls (e.g., screen sharing, muting/unmuting audio, etc.).

After Your Presentation

Step 6: Share Materials

After the event concludes, disseminate a recording of your presentation and the transcript to participants. This best practice enhances the accessibility of the information you shared and affords people with and without disabilities more opportunities to review and better understand the content you presented.

Step 7: Ask for Feedback

When sharing materials from your presentation, ask participants for feedback on the content of the presentation, its utility, and their experiences with the accessibility of your virtual event.

Additional Resources

  • Learn more about how to foster accessibility for all your digital materials (e.g., emails, PDFs, social media posts, etc.) by reviewing PEAT’s digital accessibility basics
  • Watch a recording and access PowerPoint slides from this recent presentation: “Creating and Hosting an Accessible Online Presentation”
  • Utilize additional tips for virtual meetings and presentations: “Accessibility Tips for a Better Zoom/Virtual Meeting Experience”
  • Use PEAT’s Buy IT tool when evaluating a meeting platform for purchase

Devin Boyle is a consultant for PEAT supporting efforts to ensure new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and X-Reality, are born accessible. She has more than 10 years of experience in policy analysis and development, stakeholder engagement, strategic communication, advocacy and partnership building.

Source: Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)

Reflecting on Accessibility, Ableism, and Chronic Illness During Pride Month

Accessibility poster for phighting words

By Mike Naple, Pulmonary Hypertension News

Pride Month, observed each June, is a time to celebrate LGBTQ history, community, and life through events and parades. Curiously enough, I marched in my first Pride parade years before I had the courage to come out and live authentically. While I think about that experience in San Francisco often, for many reasons, I’ve only attended a few Pride events since I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

Pride can be wonderful for many people in the LGBTQ community; however, that is not always the case for queer people who are disabled or chronically ill. Pride events, including parades, are not always accessible or inclusive, creating barriers to full participation for people who also wish to celebrate this month. Whether the activity is walking in a parade, observing as a spectator, or joining the fun at a party or other celebration, these all happen in venues that can be inaccessible.

Making Pride more inclusive of those of us with disabilities and chronic illnesses begins at the planning phase. Organizers should think about parade routes, parking, seating options, and amplified sound through the lens of how to make the event accessible to all.

For me and others living with PH, hot weather can trigger or worsen symptoms, and June is when the summer heat starts to turn up. It is harder for me to breathe if I’m outdoors when the thermometer reads 90 F. If I wanted to attend a Pride parade or event, I would consider what accommodations are being provided to help prevent heat exhaustion. Supplying things like shaded seating that’s easily accessible, fans, and bottled water would help me decide whether or not to participate.

Last year, we all had to make adjustments to allow for quarantining and social distancing protocols to limit exposure to COVID-19. Work, school, family reunions, holiday dinners, and many other events took place virtually instead of in person. This dynamic forced many businesses and event organizers — everyone from restaurant and bookstore owners, to local bands playing to their fans from their living rooms, to those organizing Pride activities — to get creative to engage their audiences.

One positive thing to emerge from the pandemic is the recognition that we can make events accessible by going virtual, and they will be just as engaging and successful. Virtual events also give people options for how they choose to participate. It doesn’t have to be just parades and crowded, in-person events.

Still, accessibility doesn’t always mean inclusivity. When Pride messages herald themes of diversity and acceptance of differences, I often question my place within the community because of my own issues with body image and experiences with internal and external ableism.

A portable oxygen concentrator is a mobility device I use as part of my treatment plan to improve my quality of life with PH. If I want to participate in a march, I bring it. I have worn my oxygen concentrator to climate and advocacy marches before. But I couldn’t picture myself wearing it to march in a Pride parade because of complicated feelings related to body positivity and not conforming to mainstream standards in the LGBTQ community.

Two years after my diagnosis, I attended a Pride event to listen to a presentation on healthcare data for older queer Americans. I spoke up during the Q&A session to inquire about care for older members of the LGBTQ community who are disabled or chronically ill. This spectrum of our community often gets lost, or considered as an afterthought, and the presentation was mostly silent on disability until I gave voice to that absence.

I think about life expectancy and pulmonary hypertension a lot. With a mix of hope and trepidation, I look ahead to growing old with my partner. I also worry about the kind of ableism and prejudice we could face should my PH become more severe down the road and we need to make some tough decisions about my healthcare.

Click here to read the full article on Pulmonary Hypertension News.

‘You Gotta Be’ — Inspiring performance of the Des’ree hit by 13 world-class artists from 9 countries

collage of performers with the text 'you gotta be' centered in pink and green colors

Artists include Mandy Harvey, whose performance on America’s Got Talent earned Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer; Raul Midón, a Grammy-nominee who devoted his life to music after being told that blindness would make it impossible; Kenta Kambara, an accomplished aerial performer and dancer who performed in the 2016 Rio 2016 Paralympics closing ceremony; Signmark, the first deaf artist to be signed to a major record label; and Aliènette Coldfire, who placed third in France’s Got Talent.

“Being a part of this team is another reinforcement to me that what’s within you is so much stronger than the barriers we face.” Mandy Harvey

Performing in the latest True Colors music video, released worldwide today, the cast of 13 artists from 9 countries presents a new take on the R&B classic, You Gotta Be, by Des’ree.

Says Des’ree, original recording artist and co-writer of You Gotta Be: “This is a truly powerful video – so invigorating and energizing, elevating the sentiment of the song and its message. The artists’ introductions at the end add even deeper resonance to their already inspiring performances.”

View the full line-up of artists here.

Directed and produced in Singapore by Creative & Music Director Dr Sydney Tan and Video Director Jasper Tan, the music video takes the viewer beyond the artistes’ performances into a variety of “day-in-the-life” moments.

Says Dr Sydney Tan: “All of us, regardless of who and where we are, wake up and start our days and have the opportunity to listen and look up, to participate in choices and be fully human. We have the ability, whatever our circumstances and our geography, to experience and celebrate the ordinary yet wonderful moments that life unfolds.”

The technical process of producing this music video involved countless Whatsapp, Messenger and Zoom calls, monitoring the time across time zones, and using Google Translate in real time to communicate across different languages – not forgetting the process of piecing together the audio and video performances across the globe. “The most important aspect of the process, though, was to develop a relationship with each artist, such that trust and freedom would allow them to perform and be themselves, with each person’s unique spirit and energy coming through in a real and palpable way,” adds Dr Tan.

In full agreement, Mandy Harvey says: “Even though we haven’t met in person…you can feel that every person put their heart into the entire process. Being a part of this team is another reinforcement to me that what’s within you is so much stronger than the barriers we face. This is a reminder to reach farther and dream bigger. My hope is that people are encouraged to try!”

Says Ichiro Kabasawa, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, presenter of True Colors Festival: “People everywhere have been going through such a prolonged period of uncertainty, isolation and fear. We chose this classic, You Gotta Be, for everyone, everywhere at this time, to realize the potential in ourselves; to choose to be bolder, stronger, wiser, whatever each day may bring. It’s a reminder that when it comes down to it, we’re all human, living together in our one world.”

And in this regard, this True Colors music video comes with options that make it widely accessible, including Closed Captions (for the Deaf) & Audio Description (for the Blind) as well as an accompanying video Transcript (for the Deafblind).”

For more information, please visit the True Colors Festival website.

True Colors Festival 2020/21

TCF is a long-running international festival of performing arts. We celebrate diversity and inclusion, and embrace the fact that we are One World, One Family. We choose the arts as our platform, for its power to move, inspire and heal. We know, as you do, that the lines of a song can open a heart, a musical note can make spirits soar, a subtle dance movement can convey all of human experience; and more.

As a festival, TCF brings people together to generate exchanges, innovation and creativity; and transform the way we relate to each other.

Presented by The Nippon Foundation, TCF brings diverse artists and audiences together through concerts, documentaries, music videos, film screenings, children’s programs, musicals, workshops and other activities. Since 2006, festivals have been organised in Southeast Asia and Japan, with more than 1,200 artists from more than 30 countries connecting with a global audience in almost 40 countries.

TCF invites you to journey with us, to enjoy, experience, share and spread our consciousness of being One World, One Family.

Follow True Colors Festival for updates: 

Facebook @truecolorsfestivalofficial | Instagram @truecolorsfestival | Join our mailing list

The Nippon Foundation (TNF) was established in 1962 as a non-profit philanthropic organization, active in Japan and around the world. Initially our efforts focused largely on the maritime and shipping fields, but since then, the range of our activities has expanded to education, social welfare, public health, and other fields—carried out in more than 100 countries to date. Together with our more than 20 partner organizations in Japan and worldwide, we are funding and assisting community-led efforts aimed at realizing a more peaceful and prosperous global society. To find out more about TNF, please visit http://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/.

Howie Mandel Opens Up About His ‘Painful’ Struggle with Anxiety and OCD

Howie Mandel on stage smiling away from the camera

By Aili Nahas, People

Howie Mandel has been living with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for nearly his entire life, but for America’s Got Talent judge, every day is still a struggle. “I’m living in a nightmare,” says Mandel, 65, who first exhibited symptoms of his OCD – repetitive and intrusive thoughts and fixations, often brought on by his debilitating fear of germs – as a child. “I try to anchor myself. I have a beautiful family and I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of,” he tells PEOPLE for one of this week’s cover stories. Wed to wife Terry since 1980, Mandel, who is dad to son Alex, 31, and daughters Riley, 28, and Jackie, 36 (who also suffers from anxiety and OCD), says the pandemic was especially triggering for his mental health.

“There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche,” he says. “But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was okay. It’s good to latch onto okay. But [during the pandemic] the whole world was not okay. And it was absolute hell.” Diagnosed in his 40s, Mandel didn’t open up about his conditions until 2006, and admits he grappled with the decision to do so. “My first thought was that I’ve embarrassed my family,” he recalls. “Then I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hire somebody who isn’t stable.’ Those were my fears.”

Mandel says he’s often used humor to get through the toughest moments. “My coping skill is finding the funny,” he says. “If I’m not laughing, then I’m crying. And I still haven’t been that open about how dark and ugly it really gets.” The comic, who got his TV start on the medical drama St. Elsewhere in 1982, says that his innate ability to find light amidst darkness has been life-changing. “Comedy saved me in a way,” says Mandel. “I’m most comfortable onstage. And when I don’t have anything to do, I turn inward – and that’s not good.” Today, Mandel, who says he still deals with bouts of extreme depression, acknowledges that the public might not understand the depths of his condition.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Concerned that returning to work will impact your mental health? Here’s how to set boundaries

mental health can impact work. Man sitting in front of computer working

By Cory Stieg, Make It

It’s no surprise that mental health has taken a hit during the Covid pandemic. A December survey from the U.S. Census Bureau found that 42% of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from 11% in previous years. But there are aspects of pandemic life — working remotely, staying home and opting out of social situations, for instance — that have made life and managing their mental health easier for some.

While many are struggling to balance childcare or feeling overwhelmed by isolation, others prefer the flexibility of remote work and telemedicine, and are grateful not to have to participate in social functions. If you are at all dreading going back to “normal life,” here are ways to deal, according to experts.

It’s normal to feel scared, but changes are healthy
In periods of stress — whether that’s a pandemic, economic turmoil or racial unrest — we make adjustments to manage the stressors that are within our control, David Rosmarin, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Center for Anxiety tells CNBC Make It. In the case of the pandemic, for example, many people started working from home and streamlined social interactions to avoid coming into contact with the virus.

“That’s a good, healthy process that we’ve all made those adaptations,” Rosmarin says. Over the past year, we have become very comfortable with our “new normal,” and might feel excessive fear or anxiety about returning to how things were before.

Eventually, some aspects of life will return to how it was before the pandemic, and these temporary solutions may not serve us anymore. “If you continue to use them, they actually get in the way of mental health, and could become problematic,” he says.

Recognize your anxiety
Anxiety is a condition of feeling “full of dread,” Margaret Wehrenberg, psychologist and author of “Pandemic Anxiety: Fear, Stress, and Loss in Traumatic Times,” tells CNBC Make it.

In order to alleviate the feelings of dread, people with anxiety often spend “an excessive amount of time scanning their world for a problem and trying to solve it,” Wehrenberg says. This can lead people to attach their worries to something that doesn’t necessarily warrant it or isn’t based in reality.

“Anxiety is a condition that looks for content,” she says.

Of course, the pandemic has given us ample reason to worry about our safety. But identifying moments when you feel symptoms of anxiety (e.g. restlessness, fatigue, irritability, worry or trouble sleeping) and labeling it as such can help you feel in control of what happens next.

Click here to read the full article on Make It.

‘Smart’ wheelchair wheel design that aids accessibility wins student design competition

‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

By , Thiis

An innovative wheelchair wheel design which aims to boost accessibility for wheelchairs users with a spinal cord injury has won a prestigious competition. Law firm, Bolt Burdon Kemp, which acts for people with spinal cord injuries, organised the Design the Change competition in collaboration with Cereba, a charity that helps children with brain conditions. The competition, announced last November, was set up to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries and how innovative designs that boost accessibility can make a real difference. UK-based university students were invited to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury, with the law firm stating that it was looking for a design which was both unique and practical.

Winner Thomas Salkeld, 23, a third year Product Design BSc student from Cardiff Metropolitan University, designed the ‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

Thomas wins £3,000, with an additional £2,000 being awarded to Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Part of Cereba’s work as a charity is to design bespoke equipment to meet families’ needs at its innovation centre, and as part of his prize, Thomas will have a week’s placement at the centre in Wales next year.

Thomas really impressed the judges by researching his design thoroughly and taking into account the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair.

He bought a wheelchair himself and found travelling in it exhausting, especially uphill. He spoke to several people who had sustained a spinal cord injury and who were also wheelchairs users and ran his prototypes by them for feedback.

Highly commended in the competition and also offered a week’s placement at Cerebra is Anna Lis, 21, a third year Product Design student at the University for the Creative Arts. Anna’s Superhuman Shoe and Ankle Foot Orthosis design provides support for people with drop foot, a common side-effect of a spinal cord injury.

The judging panel were impressed with Anna’s detailed research and the fact her shoe celebrates the support it offers, rather than disguising its specialist features.

Victoria Oliver, Head of the Spinal Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “We were blown away by the quality of the entries this year and it’s fantastic to see how much research went into everyone’s designs.

“A spinal cord injury is a life changing event that makes even the most mundane of tasks time-consuming, and innovative designs and products can really help make the world more accessible to the 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK.

“Thomas’s design showed real awareness of the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair and he went to great lengths to make sure his Smart Wheel design was practical, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.”

Winner Thomas Salkeld said: “I am ecstatic about winning the competition as designing to help people is my passion and what I wish to pursue in the future.

“The aim of my design was to really take into consideration what the users want and the problems they face every day in regards to their mobility in a wheelchair, then applying my engineering, design, prototyping and technology skills that were necessary.

“The aesthetics were designed to be functional but also pleasing to the eye, allowing the users to be proud of the product on their wheelchairs.”

Click here to read the full article on Thiis.

Workplace Accessibility: Striving For Equity

IBVI employee Emily Merced wearing a baseball cap and blue polo work shirt at work in warehouse with cart in front and many boxes stacked behind her

By CJ Lange, President & CEO, Industries for the Blind & Visually Impaired (IBVI)

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, its intent was to help make buildings, products and services more accessible to people with disabilities. But accessibility means a lot more than just ramps and properly coded websites — it means going beyond equality (treating people the same) to reach equity (giving people the same opportunity to thrive).

Conversely, the word disability is defined only by how you look at it, because behind it are thousands of capable people who are ready and willing to work. That’s why, at Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), our mission is to create meaningful employment for those with visual impairments. And that starts with accessibility.

Did you know more than 70 percent of people who are blind and visually impaired are unemployed? To further expand career offerings and opportunities—and help lower this percentage — IBVI provides employees who are blind or visually impaired with technology and tools to do their jobs well.

To accomplish this, we’ve equipped our three facilities throughout Wisconsin with the latest accessibility technology and software — including an investment in Oracle Cloud that we are customizing to be 100 percent accessible for our blind and visually impaired staff. Some employees use screen readers or image magnification while others take advantage of more subtle ADA measures like windows on doors and different textures on the floor that help them navigate our buildings.

These aids give our employees the tools (and access) they need to have fulfilling experiences and independent jobs. And because of these tools and advancements in accessibility technology, currently more than half of our staff is people who are blind and visually impaired.

Other initiatives to enhance accessibility are driven by our Education and Development Policy, which includes Individual Development Plans (IDP), tuition reimbursement and an on-site educational center for blind and visually impaired employees requesting additional assisted technology training.

We are vocal about our employees and their stories because they make us who we are. Celebrating our employees brings a sense of awareness that helps break down barriers for both the sighted and the blind and visually impaired in our local communities. But it also does something else — it inspires.

When you meet our employees, you’ll not only be amazed by the extraordinary things they’re capable of, you’ll be captivated by their remarkable stories of triumph, perseverance and courage. Machine operator Emily Merced survived hurricane Maria and started over more than 2,000 miles away with new-found independence. Tool kitter Easton Kons has achieved the career he’s always wanted and welcomes the challenges to come.

Blind employment doesn’t just give people jobs — it empowers them to be more financially independent and makes them feel like they’re a part of a team. I will say it time and time again: our employees inspire us and make us who we are — with their stories, commitment to excellence and drive to achieve remarkable things. By implementing changes at your company to make it more accessible, you’ll open your doors to extraordinary individuals.

To learn more about IBVI and our employees, please visit ibvi.org.

CJ Lange headshot
CJ Lange, President and CEO of Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. (IBVI)

Author Bio: CJ Lange is the President and CEO of Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. (IBVI) and the architect of a highly successful career in which he has innovated around technology, consistently implemented and executed strategies successfully and unified

the organization to create business opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. With keen insight for identifying new channels of business development and a talent for building and managing high-performing teams that fuel growth and create positive change,

CJ drives IBVI’s mission to create superior customer products and services and be a difference-maker in people’s lives.

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

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

By Joelle Goldstein, People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on People.

‘No One’s Ever Talked to Me About This Before’

Rach Idowu runs a newsletter called Adulting With A.D.H.D., in which she has described the difficulties she faced in receiving a diagnosis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

By Nicole Clark, NY Times

“When I was a kid, I had the sense things were more difficult for me,” Tiffany Bui recalled. It was hard for her to focus in school, and she was often forgetful. Throughout her life, she said, members of her family criticized these traits as faults.

In the fall of 2020, when she was a senior at the University of Minnesota, Ms. Bui, 21, was struggling with anxiety and depression. She visited the school’s health clinic, where she was prescribed an antidepressant, but her attention troubles persisted. When she later returned to the clinic, the doctor asked if she had considered that she might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or A.D.H.D.

“I started reading up, just doing some self-research about what A.D.H.D. looks like in women, and it was like, ‘Wow, no one’s ever talked to me about this before,’” Ms. Bui said. She wasn’t exclusively consulting medical websites; on social media, she saw posts from women talking about their experiences with A.D.H.D., which she said were “incredibly specific and so relatable.”

Ms. Bui was referred to a psychologist in Bloomington, Minn., where she sat for a neurological assessment sometimes used for diagnostic purposes, most often in children; it included word association tests, math problems and pattern-recognition exercises. Finally, following a lifetime of symptoms, Ms. Bui was diagnosed with inattentive A.D.H.D. (A.D.H.D. falls on a spectrum of three “types”: inattentive, hyperactive or combined type. Inattentive is used to describe symptoms like forgetfulness and other traits related to concentration.)

Ms. Bui’s story is not uncommon: Many women and people of color are only now learning, after years or even decades of difficulty, that they may meet the diagnostic criteria for A.D.H.D., thanks in part to a wave of creators on social media trying to spread awareness.

These creators are sharing webcomics (like Pina Varnel, 31, who is known as the A.D.H.D. Alien on Twitter), videos (Dani Donovan, 29, does so on TikTok, and Jessica McCabe, 38, on YouTube), newsletters (like 26-year-old Rach Idowu’s Adulting With A.D.H.D.), blogs (such as 36-year-old René Brooks’s Black Girl Lost Keys) and memes (“tell me you have A.D.H.D. without telling me you have A.D.H.D.”) that aim to help people identify symptoms and find community.

Dr. Lidia Zylowska, a psychiatrist and the author of “Mindfulness Prescription for Adult A.D.H.D.,” said that she had not observed an uptick in women of color being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. However, she noted, “there is an increasing trend in awareness in the A.D.H.D. field and the general public that people of color, and especially girls and women of color, maybe overlooked and not given the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment.”

Though medical researchers found, in a recent review of more than 300 studies, that A.D.H.D. was overdiagnosed (and overmedicated) in children under the age of 18, those diagnoses skewed toward certain demographics. White children are more likely to receive diagnoses and treatment for A.D.H.D. then children of color, as diagnostic models have long been based on research focused on young white boys.

Symptoms of the disorder may present differently in girls, and the emotional toll can be intense; one longitudinal study focused on girls and young women found that subjects who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. as children showed marked impairment 10 years after their diagnoses, including a high risk of self-harm.

“Eventually you hit a wall academically or professionally, and then you need to address all of these layers of built-up failed coping strategies,” said Leah Islam, 28. Mx. Islam had struggled with depression since age 13 but did not receive an A.D.H.D. diagnosis until turning 21. Their parents hadn’t supported their search for mental health care; it wasn’t until recently that Mx. Islam began discussing medication with their mother.

For some people, A.D.H.D. content represents a step toward identifying or explaining the ways they have felt different. It has also helped them advocate for their own evaluations; because A.D.H.D. is thought to be diagnosed in childhood, getting evaluated as an adult can be challenging (especially for people of color, who face implicit bias when seeking health care). People with A.D.H.D. are also more likely to be unemployed and therefore uninsured.

When Ms. Idowu, who lives in England, sought a referral for an evaluation through the U.K.’s National Health Service, her family’s general practitioner said that she didn’t match the profile of a person with A.D.H.D.

Ms. Idowu had read on Reddit about the difficulties of getting an evaluation and had come prepared with anecdotes from her childhood, as well as more recent workplace examples. She was given a referral, and nine months later she was able to see a specialist. Her most popular newsletter send details this process; some subscribers have told her it helped them navigate their own diagnostic processes.

A.D.H.D. has been diagnosed in 9.4 percent of children in the United States, according to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with rates rising in the past two decades. It is debated whether children grow out of it in adulthood, an attitude that is evolving as recent research shows diagnostic rates growing rapidly among white adults.

By adulthood, many without diagnosis or treatment have spent years feeling isolated or different. Dr. Courtney Pflieger, a private-practice psychologist who herself has A.D.H.D., said that people with the disorder often experience negative feedback as adults. “It really feeds: ‘What’s wrong with me, I must just be broken,’” she said.

Ms. Bui’s own symptoms went unnoticed for years because she was able to do fine in school. Like many others who aren’t diagnosed until adulthood, she was “masking” her symptoms — adapting to neurotypical behaviors and standards in order to fit in. (Masking forgetfulness, for example, might mean privately relying on a bulwark of organizational strategies — like setting phone alarms for every step of doing laundry.) She still doesn’t feel comfortable telling her family about her diagnosis.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Times.

Why Nike and its CEO are focusing on mental health

John Donahoe, CEO of Nike wearing a gray hoodie while seated in an interview

By John Donahoe, Yahoo! News.

John Donahoe is the CEO of Nike. When I was 28 years old, I got some advice that changed my life. It was 1988, and I was a consultant at Bain. These were intense years-long hours, little sleep, lots of travel, constant work, and trying to balance family life with a spouse and two young children. I was glad to be learning as much as I was, but I also remember feeling like I was barely staying afloat.

One day, during a training program for young consultants, a speaker came to impart some wisdom. I was half-listening at first, my mind drifting back to the office, when he asked us a question: How many of us wanted to be world-class at what we did?

Naturally we all raised our hands. The speaker laughed and said, well, that’s the intelligence test.

Then he explained. He said he spent years studying world-class athletes. (I’d always looked up to athletes and my ears perked up at this.) And he said that these top athletes all shared a unique trait: They take care of themselves.

He said for every hour they’re on the playing field, they train for 20 hours. They work out, they sleep well, they eat right. They look inward to learn their own strengths and weaknesses. And importantly, they are not afraid to ask for help — in fact, they view asking for help as a sign of strength.

“Michael Jordan has a bench coach, a personal trainer, a chef, and a mental coach. He wants to get help so he can get better,” the speaker told us. “But you businesspeople don’t take care of yourselves. You think not getting sleep is a badge of honor! And you want to be world-class? You think asking for help is a sign of weakness, not strength. I don’t get it!”

‘I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work’
I was rocked back. My eyes were opened. He was right. Like so many others, I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work, simply because I thought that was the only way.

As my career continued, I took his advice to heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some high-impact, challenging jobs over the years. And despite these leadership positions, I have always tried to keep perspective by taking care of myself and by asking for help.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.

Oscars nominee ‘Sound of Metal’ puts rare spotlight on deaf culture

Sound of Metal Actor Riz Ahmed arrives for the world premiere of The Sisters Brothers at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada

By , Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Paul Raci, nominated for an Oscar for playing a drug abuse counselor who has lost his hearing in “Sound of Metal,” said the most common response he receives from deaf people about the film is “how cool you show a bunch of deaf addicts.”

“That sounds a little strange,” Raci said in an interview, “but they’re just happy that you’re showing them in a light that makes them normal, like you and I. They have the same struggles.”

Advocates hope that praise for “Sound of Metal,” one of the best picture contenders at Sunday’s Academy Awards, and other films will lead to more movies featuring people with disabilities.

Hollywood’s under-representation of women, Black people and others has faced scrutiny in recent years. Movie studios and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that awards the Oscars, have taken steps to increase their presence in front of and behind the camera.

Activists have pushed to make those efforts also include people with disabilities of all types.

In the 100 highest-grossing films of 2019, just 2.3% of speaking characters were shown with a disability, according to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That percentage, far below the 26% of U.S. adults with a disability, had not budged in five years.

“Hollywood still has a long way to go,” said Lauren Appelbaum, vice president of communications at RespectAbility, a nonprofit group that advocates for people with disabilities.

The only deaf actress to win an Oscar was Marlee Matlin, for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God.”

This month, Hollywood stars, including Amy Poehler and Naomie Harris, signed a letter urging studios to hire disability officers to push for inclusion on and off screen. The effort was led by a talent agency that represents disabled artists and athletes.

“Sound of Metal” stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone, a drummer who suddenly loses his hearing. Four years into recovery from addiction, Stone goes to a sober-living community for deaf people that is run by Raci’s character, named Joe.

Raci, 73, grew up with deaf parents and said his first language was American Sign Language. Before “Sound of Metal,” he was working as a sign-language interpreter and acting at Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles, which incorporates spoken English and sign language in its productions.

The filmmakers encountered some criticism, including from the National Association of the Deaf, for casting two actors with hearing – Ahmed and Raci – in lead roles instead of deaf actors. Several others in the cast were deaf.

Ahmed has been nominated for best actor for his performance in the film.

Raci said his background in deaf culture helped him play the role, and he hopes “Sound of Metal” will open doors for deaf actors. “There’s plenty of deaf actors, tons of them that are talented, that deserve to work,” he said.

Also in the Oscars race are best documentary contender “Crip Camp,” about the disability rights movement, and short film “Feeling Through” starring deaf and blind actor Robert Tarango.

“People who have never known anything about the deaf-blind community come out of it feeling an actual personal connection,” director Doug Roland said. “That’s the power of cinema.”

RespectAbility connects producers and writers with people with disabilities to inform their portrayals and provides input on scripts. The group has worked with Walt Disney Co, Netflix Inc, NBCUniversal and others.

Appelbaum’s team consulted on a dozen projects in 2019, and 70 in 2020, she said. Some writers sent scripts back multiple times for feedback.

“More and more we can tell that the people we’re working with are asking us not just to check off a box that they had the script reviewed, but because they really want to get it right,” she said.

The increased interest “does give me hope that in the next few years we’re going to see a lot of other really great films,” she added.

Click here to read the full article on Reuters.

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  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021