Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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pink ribbon on a pink background with the text October is Breast cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer awareness month or National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins on Thursday, October 1 and ends on Saturday, October 31 2020.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with an average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer at 12 percent. There are about 300,000 cases diagnosed each year, with about 15 percent of those (40,000 people) dying from the disease each year.

A clearer way of looking at it and why it’s so serious is that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer, and 1 woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. Additionally, and contrary to what most people believe, breast cancer doesn’t just end with the female folks, men can develop breast cancer as well (although its rare).

Always keep in mind that screening for breast cancer begins at 40 years old (for average risk women) with annual mammograms, and that catching breast cancer early can save your life.

Why Go Pink for October?
Every October, the color pink shows up in full force. From lapel pins to NFL uniforms, people integrate pink into their wardrobes to support breast cancer awareness month. As an awareness campaign, it’s incredibly successful. But awareness is just the first step. From awareness, public health education and advances in research are possible.

Lydia Komarnicky, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and a member of the board of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, says wearing pink “reminds people of the importance of the month of October and to get a mammogram if you have forgotten. More importantly, I think the pink shirt, ribbon, hat, or merchandise of your choice honors those who have successfully beaten the disease, those who are currently battling the disease, and also reminds us of those that have succumbed to the disease.”

History Behind the Pink Ribbon or Breast Cancer Awareness
Charlotte Hayey, who had battled breast cancer, introduced the concept of a peach-colored breast cancer awareness ribbon. In the early 1990s, 68-year-old Haley began making peach ribbons by hand in her home. Her daughter, sister and grandmother had breast cancer. She distributed thousands of ribbons at supermarkets with cards that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Statistics You Should Know
• About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

• In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US, along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

• About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.

• About 42,170 women in the US are expected to die in 2020 from breast cancer. Death rates have been steady in women under 50 since 2007 but have continued to drop in women over 50. The overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1.3 percent per year from 2013 to 2017. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening.

• For women in the US, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.

• As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer in the US. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.

• Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2020, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.

• In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women. Overall, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower. Ashkenazi Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer because of a higher rate of BRCA mutations.

• Breast cancer incidence rates in the US began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7 percent from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk. In recent years, incidence rates have increased slightly by 0.3 percent per year.

• A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.

• About 5–10 percent of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69 percent. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8 percent; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.

• About 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

• The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older).

Source: breastcancer.org & smarthomeradar.com

Can You Hire a Deaf Employee When the Job Requires Phone Work?

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Two deaf individuals talking through sign language

By AnnMarie Killian

Imagine this: You are hiring for a job that requires phone work…but the person sitting in front of you is deaf/hard of hearing.

You may be wonder, can a person who is deaf/hard of hearing use the phone successfully?

The answer is yes.

And consider this: Companies and corporations are actively seeking out people with differences. Diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords—they’re real-life practices that today’s companies are required to implement. Diverse teams and inclusive environments produce an organizational culture that is beneficial to the bottom line.

Yet, at first glance, managers and human resources personnel may be reluctant to consider a deaf/hard of hearing person for a job because of presumed limitations.

They may be wondering:

  • If a person can’t hear in the normal range, how can they manage parts of the job that require audio communication?
  • If a person can’t hear in the normal range, how will they communicate?
  • If a person can’t hear in the normal range, can they really do the job?

And…

  • If the job requires phone work, can a deaf/hard of hearing person really handle that aspect of the job?

The reluctance from employers to consider deaf/hard of hearing for jobs that involve phone work often comes from fear of the unknown. If you’ve never met a deaf/hard of hearing person doing the work that you’re hiring for, you might hesitate or even refuse to consider hiring that person.

Technological advances have leveled the playing field in many professions. In many cases, deaf and hard of hearing people bring a different perspective to a job that a person with hearing in the normal range may not have.

You’ll find deaf and hard of hearing people in all kinds of jobs, even those that are considered “impossible” for a deaf/hard of hearing person to be employed in. Surgeons. Lawyers. Auto shop managers. Airplane mechanics. Pharmacists. Audiologists. Bartenders. Musicians. Restaurant servers. Firefighters. NASA launch team specialists.

Even at call centers—which require being on the phone all hours of the job!

For example, Dale McCord works as a Purchase Card Specialist and his job requires frequent phone contact with vendors. “In the past, I occasionally came across managers who were reluctant to hire me for jobs because of perceived ‘limitations,’” Dale explains. “I’m a loyal and hard-working person and today’s technology allows me to do my job very well.”

Dale also has some advice for those who hire: “When you hire a person with a disability, don’t doubt their ability to do the job—because they will often do the job twice as well.”

Today’s technology has made telephone communication accessible in a variety of ways, including captioned phones and videophones. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals can make and receive calls via Video Relay Services such as ZVRS and Purple Video Relay Services.

By utilizing a videophone, a deaf/hard of hearing person is capable of working via phone. The person on the other end of the line does not necessarily know the conversation is woven with two languages, facilitated by a qualified, highly-skilled interpreter.

Here are some frequently asked questions about using Video Relay Services:

How does a deaf/hard of hearing person use a phone with a Video Relay System?

Both ZVRS and Purple provide equipment and software that routes a phone call through a video relay system.  The deaf/hard of hearing individual accesses a phone conversation by watching a sign language interpreter on a video screen. The deaf/hard of hearing individual can respond via sign language (the interpreter will voice a translation) or by using their own voice. The conversation flows back and forth between a deaf/hard of hearing individual and a hearing person with an interpreter translating the conversation seamlessly.

Can a deaf/hard of hearing person answer an inbound call?

Yes, calls can be routed through a phone number assigned to a videophone.  A visual alert system will notify the deaf/hard of hearing person that a call is coming through. With the press of a button, the call can be answered.

Our network is extremely secure–will a videophone work with our network?

ZVRS and Purple can provide equipment that is encrypted and works with firewalls. The systems are ADA compliant and integrated within your network. Our teams work directly with network system managers to ensure secure connections.

Where can I find more information about phone solutions for potential deaf/hard of hearing employees?

Click here to access Purple Business Solutions

Click here to access Enterprise Solutions/ZVRS

Click here to access ZVRS

A passionate and people-centric leader, AnnMarie is vice president of diversity and inclusion for Purple Communications. She brings over 25 plus years of diverse experience in telecommunications, retail and fitness. As a Deaf individual, she is intimately familiar with the challenges of engagement and inclusion, which has influenced her professional aspirations. Recently, AnnMarie served as the vice president of operations responsible for leading key deliverables for increasing profitability, growing revenue and maximizing operational efficiencies.

Digital Accessibility: Why It’s More Vital Than Ever

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Headshot of Elizabeth Stephen

By Elizabeth Stephen, VP of Customer Engagement at Striata, The Americas

In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 achieved what years of lobbying and education has not—convincing organizations of the importance of making sure digital assets, like websites, emails and mobile apps, are easy to use and simple to navigate.

With the sudden upswing in digital demand and the almost overnight disappearance of physical interactions, it’s become clear how someone who cannot leave their home is forced to rely on digital channels, and how frustrating it is for them if those digital channels are not optimized for accessibility. This is a regular experience for people living with disabilities and COVID-19 has forced people to have empathy for those with the need for digital access.

Making online content more accessible means ensuring that all people can read and understand it—taking into account any disabilities they may have or assistive devices they could be using to access it. This includes those with disabilities such as impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing. In fact, stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 61-million (or 1 in 4) adults in the US have some form of disability.

The pandemic has accelerated the rate of digital transformation and with it, the need for digital accessibility. People with disabilities, who previously may have relied on physical interactions (when shopping, banking etc.), are now also being forced to interact via digital channels instead. It is therefore imperative that organizations consider this segment. They can start by assessing the accessibility level of all their digital content and changing the copy as well as layout/design where necessary. Taking these steps will not only ensure that digital content can be consumed and understood by all, but that it also complies with accessibility laws.

Some common accessibility standards include ensuring websites and emails are easily navigable on a mobile device or via keyboard only and creating PDF documents that can be read by screen readers by avoiding text with a poor color contrast.

Before the pandemic hit, while physical interactions were still acceptable and in-store visits more common, email was already a popular communication channel for many consumers and businesses alike. Now, with the recent, sudden, and unprecedented restrictions of movement imposed by governments across the globe, companies have been forced to adjust their communication or risk losing touch with customers.

It is not surprising that a large number of companies turned to email as the channel of choice to reach out to customers with information about their business continuity plans.

The result was a deluge of emails from brands wanting to make contact with customers and reassure them that new, digital ways of applying, buying and transacting would return things to business as usual. But if customers aren’t able to access those emails in spite of their disabilities, there can be no “business as usual.” Fortunately, a report from Level Access shows that 67 percent of US-based businesses felt compelled to implement inclusion to be truly inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Meanwhile, some 45 percent implemented a standard, organizational-wide approach to accessibility. They could do far worse than to start with email.
The pandemic has emphasized the undeniable value of these communications, and as the value of email is a channel for everyone, it makes sense for organizations to put energy into making email accessibility a key focus in their digital accessibility strategy.

Elizabeth Stephen is the VP of Customer Engagement for the Americas, overseeing all commercial business and channel management in North and South America. For the past decade, Liz has managed teams of sales groups both nationally and internationally. She has a true passion for helping customers identify their needs and consulting with them to help fill those needs. Since joining Striata, Liz has taken a keen interest in Customer Communications Management (CCM) and helping clients utilize digital communications to meet their CX goals.

Cultivating a ‘Deliberately Diverse’ Approach in Accounting & Advisory Fields

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A woamn working at a desk with a computer and a calculator

By Joanne Cleaver

Grant Thornton, the northern Virginia office of international accounting and advisory firm, had a problem.

The office is located in the Washington, D.C. metro, one of the most racially diverse areas in America, with an especially strong representation of Black professionals.

And, many of the firm’s clients were government agencies or top-tier suppliers to government agencies—two types of organizations highly attuned to racial diversity.

Carlos Otal, head of the office and managing partner for Grant Thornton’s public sector services and solutions practice, knew that clients expected more than a reflection of their own diverse staff. They expected Grant Thornton to live up to the diversity priorities it stated in its website and pitch materials.

But how would the firm foster diverse client engagement teams when the accounting and advisory profession was, and is, overwhelmingly white and male?

By cultivating a ‘deliberately diverse’ approach to assembling teams.

Otal “cracked the code” by figuring out the key dynamics of how diverse teams deliver on the diversity promise of better ideas and greater innovation to elevate client service. Then, he aligned the process of picking teams to ensure that no demographic dominated. That shifted the group dynamic: when each individual operated in his or her own strength, free from the expectation of representing their identity, the group quickly recognized each member’s strengths and contributions. Those strengths combined in fresh ways to bring clients new ideas and solutions.

Thanks to ongoing research by the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, accounting and advisory firms have a deep well of diversity best practices to draw on, from Grant Thornton and other leading firms. The AFWA’s reports illustrate to W/MBE’s how firms are pursuing diverse talent and suppliers.

The accounting and advisory profession lags when it comes to diversity.

Blacks are significantly under-represented in the accounting and advisory profession, at only 3 percent of employees. Hispanics comprise 6 percent of employees; Asians, 11 percent; and biracial employees, 4 percent, while Native Americans are virtually absent, according to the 2020 Accounting MOVE Project, an annual research and advocacy effort that measures and supports the advancement of women and women of color at CPA firms. It is produced by content firm Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., in partnership with the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance.

As accounting and advisory firms seek new avenues for growth, they are realizing that diverse talent drives innovation, and innovation is what clients want when they hire a pricey firm to guide them through new market and financial opportunities.

Otal’s lightbulb moment pivoted on changing the definition of “meritocracy.” CPA and advisory firms tend to believe that billable hours create meritocracy, in dollars and culture. But sustainable firm success is grounded in client relationship skills, business development and talent growth—characteristics that are not easily quantified and that often don’t fit into the billable hours construct.

As Otal worked with leaders in his office, the team realized early on that they needed to diversify the office’s talent pipeline from the bottom up and to change the culture at midlevel from the outside in.

And retention pivoted on changing how professionals defined success. “You can’t just say you want diversity,” Otal says. “You have to be intentional. We use metrics and data to tell you who is doing what. But then we spend a lot of time looking beyond the data. What are the impacts this person has made beyond the hours billed and the sales numbers? “

Otal realized that young professionals need to see a wider spectrum of leadership styles, backgrounds, and career paths. That’s how the office’s “bottom up” strategy intersected with its “outside in” strategy. Otal’s team sought midcareer recruits with a wider range of ethnic and personal backgrounds. The Alexandria office has now pulled ahead of national benchmarks for racial diversity.

“We’ve realized we have to be even more intentional about diversity when we have even more data. Sometimes you say, ‘It’s not if this person gets promoted. It’s when,’” says Otal. “So, what are we waiting for? Let’s go ahead and promote this person. We know we want to. When we’re intentional about diversity, it changes the dynamic. Then that changes the data,” he said, referring to employee demographics.

At Grant Thornton’s Alexandria office, greater racial and gender diversity changed the way teams collaborated and solved problems. And that showed young professionals that the firm was capitalizing on diversity—and that their own varied perspectives were essential for their career success.

This article is based on the 2019 CPA Firm Diversity Report. Find more trends and tools for working with leading accounting and advisory firms at the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance website: afwa.org/move-project/

SUNRISE MEDICAL announces three upgrades for the QUICKIE power portfolio: C-Me® expansion, the option to Tilt and Elevate and introducing the new SEDEO® LITE Seating System

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Q500 SEDEO LITE

In striving to meet the needs of more clients, Sunrise Medical is excited to introduce three upgrades to its QUICKIE power portfolio:

–C-Me – Elevate and Drive functionality on both the Q500 M and Q400 M.
–Tilt and Elevate combination – Customers no longer have to choose tilt only or elevate only.
–The SEDEO LITE Seat – One of the lightest seating systems to be introduced in North America. The Lite seat includes traditional back canes to mount JAY® and other off the shelf aftermarket backs at a fraction of the weight of other seating systems.

With C-Me, clients can achieve the independence they are looking for. Drive up to 3 MPH while elevated up to 12″ without needing to stop while transitioning. Highly popular on the Q700 M, and now also available on the Q500 M, and the Q400 M, clients will never have to compromise dependability for accessibility again. And thanks to a suspension that doesn’t lock out when you drive with C-Me, the ride is smooth and comfortable from start to finish.

The new SEDEO LITE seating system is an adjustable seat frame giving you a simple, sleek look. As one of the lightest seating systems in the market, the Q500 M equipped with SEDEO LITE seating has a starting weight of 266 lbs., making it a great solution for many hitch-mounted lifts. The traditional back canes are width-adjustable from 15” to 20” and easily fit JAY backs and most aftermarket back supports.

“We are excited to expand our popular features and options on the line of QUICKIE power wheelchairs with the addition of C-Me and SEDEO LITE on the Q500 M” said Jeff Rogers, Director of Power Product Management. “C-Me has been a highly demanded feature on other QUICKIE power wheelchair models and it only made sense to expand the feature to a smaller wheel base. With the addition of the SEDEO LITE, we have a full line of seating frame options from mild to complex clinical needs.”

Learn more about C-Me and the new SEDEO LITE seating system by visiting SunriseMedical.com.

About Sunrise Medical: A world leader in the development, design, manufacture and distribution of manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, motorized scooters and both standard and customized seating and positioning systems, Sunrise Medical manufactures products in their own facilities in the United States, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, China, Holland, and Poland. Sunrise Medical’s key products, marketed under the QUICKIE®, Sopur, ZIPPIE®, Sterling, JAY®, WHITMYER® and SWITCH-ITTM proprietary brands, are sold through a network of homecare medical product dealers or distributors in more than 130 countries. The company is headquartered in Malsch, Germany, with North American headquarters in Fresno, Calif., and employs more than 2,200 associates worldwide.

How Kindness Changed the Life of this Child with Cerebal Palsy

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Briella riding her scooter

By Paige Long 

“Now more than ever, during these uncertain times, we need to be more kind,” said Caroline Naif.

The Michigan mother of a determined 6-year-old living with cerebral palsy (CP) wants you to understand how kindness has made a difference in her daughter’s life.

“We are all facing challenges daily and life looks a little different for each of us, but we can and we will get through this if we work together, be patient and respect one another,” she said. Caroline’s daughter, Briella, was diagnosed with CP at 21 months old. This is the most common motor disability in children, caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance and posture. CP looks different in each individual, and in Briella’s case, her speech and leg mobility are affected.

“Briella was born six weeks early, weighing only 3 pounds and 11 ounces, and spent the first 24 days of her life in the NICU. By her first birthday, Briella wasn’t hitting all of her mobility milestones, and right away, we admitted her into physical and occupational therapies. Later, an MRI scan revealed Briella had Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, caused by a lack of oxygen, either shortly before or after her birth,” said Naif.

Doctors told Caroline that her daughter may never walk or talk on her own.

At three-and-a-half, Briella had Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, a life-changing lower spinal surgery to get rid of the spasticity and tightness in her legs to strengthen her mobility. This procedure also allows a more independent lifestyle. Briella took her first steps four months after her surgery.

“When you receive a diagnosis, you never know what to expect or how life will look down the road. Our family has gotten to where we are today by lots of research, faith, patience, inspiration and the friendships of other amazing warrior families through social media.”

Briella continues to become stronger and more independent with the physical and emotional support of Variety the Children’s Charity of Detroit – one of the international children’s charity’s 45 “tents.”

Briella, who has been a “Variety Kid” since age 2, received an adaptive bike, which she can pedal and steer by herself, rode Max the horse in the nonprofit’s equestrian riding program, and even modeled in the annual Variety SHINE Fashion show. Through Variety’s mission to simply serve Detroit-area kids, no matter the need, Briella’s never-give-up attitude has blossomed, and she took her first 100 independent steps without her walker earlier this year.

“Briella is a shining example of why Variety is committed to serving kids through programs that enable and empower mobility, confidence and independence. The support and services that Variety provides are simply life-changing, and we are proud to be a small step on Briella’s journey to walk,” said David King, President of Variety the Children’s Charity of Detroit. Briella’s story and involvement in Variety programs were recently featured in a national webcast by the clothing brand Justice.

Over the last 12 months, Briella also started talking in full sentences and began to read. Caroline is encouraged to see Briella’s communication and physical strength grow. “We are finally starting to hear her sweet voice, and it is priceless. She works so hard at school, in therapy and at home as we work toward her goals. My husband and I have seen the growth, and Briella is more centered and aware of her body, giving her less fear to tackle different movement and mobility challenges in physical therapy and daily living.”

Despite meeting challenges many kids her age will never have to consider, she continues on with determination and greets each obstacle with a smile. Briella loves to play, swim, ride her bike, go horseback riding, read books, work with arts and crafts, and attend school and physical therapy. Briella loves to play veterinarian with her stuffed animals and talks about someday being a teacher or working with animals.

“Briella has many goals to keep working towards as she grows from child to teen to adult,” said Caroline. “Ultimately, it’s getting her comfortable with daily living skills and having her involved in the process as much as possible, whether that’s helping brushing her own teeth, getting dressed or assisting with meals. We want Briella to be as comfortable and independent as possible, but at the same time, want her to be able to express her feelings and ask for help when needed.”

“Our world is starting to become more adaptive and inclusive for kids like Briella, but unfortunately, we still have a long way to go by making buildings, stores, schools, playgrounds- you name it- more adaptable and accessible for kids and adults who have mobility issues.”

Briella is a shining example of someone who has, and will continue to surpass expectations with unmatched determination.

You can follow Briella and Caroline’s journey on Facebook and Instagram at Briella + Me.

Jeanine Cook is the 2020 Winner of the Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award

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Jeanine Cook with her horse

Jeanine Cook, a principal member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Scalable Architectures department at the Computer Science Research Institute, has received the 2020 Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing.

The award was presented for her many achievements in computer science research in the areas of high-performance computing, performance characterization and modeling, hardware accelerator technologies, edge-computing, large-scale system monitoring and data analytics; her work in diversifying computer science for the disabled; and her teaching and mentorship of students while an associate professor at New Mexico State University. The award was presented by Richard Tapia at the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference.

Raised by her parents in Colorado, Cook’s father, a physics PhD., inspired his daughters in their love of computers from an early age. Her mother was a home maker whose own mother came from New Mexico while it was still part of Mexico. Jeanine chose to pursue a BS in Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. It was in her second semester at college that her life changed.

Driving home one night she fell asleep at the wheel and drove off an embankment. She broke her back and severely damaged her spinal cord. She soon realized that she had decisions to make on how to live her life. She made a critical decision to choose life, joy and positivity. She was lucky to have many friends who came to see her in the hospital and rehab facility to not only support her but to learn how to enable her to continue on her chosen path. Friends learned how to assist with her self-care, assemble and disassemble her wheelchairs so they could be transported and encouraged her constantly. The incredible outpouring of support and her very close family enabled her to continue her education.

“My friends changed my life. They stood by me and supported me when they really didn’t have to. Because they loved me and encouraged me, I was able to be happy and positive about my future,” said Cook.

Jeanine received her BS and continued with her master’s degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She decided to pursue a PhD program. While many of the East Coast Universities had very attractive programs, she realized that many of their campuses were not wheelchair accessible. She attended New Mexico State University and received her PhD in Electrical Engineering. She then joined the university as an associate professor. During her eleven-year tenure, she graduated eight PhD students and twelve Masters theses students. She was extremely successful in securing research funding, and in 2009 received the Presidential Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President George Bush and the Frank Bromilow Excellence In Research Award from the College of Engineering, New Mexico State University.

While teaching she also became involved in a wide array of diversity and inclusion programs focused on people with disabilities. One of her early lessons came from attending a diversity workshop in a hotel in Florida.

The hotel itself was not accessible which she discovered her first morning there. She ended up falling and had to be moved to a hotel down the road. This renewed her resolve to become even more involved to make sure that accessibility was part of diversity and inclusion in computing. She participated in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) as an external subcommittee member and was active in the Development of the CISE Strategic Plan for Broadening Participation. She was a leader in BPC programs focused on getting people with disabilities introduced to computer science at an early age. She developed and delivered workshops all over Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado—anywhere there were populations of disabled people. These workshops provided information on how to fund college, navigate campuses and pursue their academic careers. She has also been involved in capacity building work with AccessComputing and delivered talks at CAHSI (Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions). Additionally, Cook is a member of the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Informational Technology (CMD-IT) board.

After teaching for 11 years, Cook reached a turning point. She was feeling burnt out from the load of both teaching, raising money for projects and the research. A colleague from Sandia National Laboratory called to ask her to take on an additional project. She simply proposed, “Why don’t you just hire me?” Joining Sandia National Laboratory was a better solution for her physically and allowed her to enjoy her passion for horses and riding.

“My accident gave me a greater appreciation for life at an early age. I learned a lot about myself and other people,” Cook said. “Life is a daily struggle and nothing is easy except rolling downhill. The people in my life that embraced me, stood by and encouraged me when they didn’t have to gave me the ability to make the decision to not let the accident ruin my life or stop me from enjoying life.”

Seven Steps to Building a Disability-Inclusive Workplace

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A wheel listing the seven accessibility points mentioned throughout the article

By the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

October marks the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). While the past 75 years have seen groundbreaking developments, including the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, when it comes to disability inclusion in the workplace, there’s still work to be done.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) reports that, in June 2020, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 16.5 percent, compared to 11 percent for people without disabilities.

Many employers want to establish diverse workforces that include people with disabilities but don’t know how to do so. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) can help. EARN is a free resource funded by ODEP that provides information and tools to help employers recruit, hire, advance, and retain people with disabilities. EARN’s Inclusion@Work Framework, which was developed in collaboration with employers with exemplary practices in disability employment, outlines core components of a disability-inclusive workplace, along with a menu of strategies for achieving them. From disability-inclusive recruitment practices to effective communication, here are seven ways companies can foster disability inclusion at work:

Lead the Way

The foundation for a disability-inclusive work environment is an inclusive business culture. This begins by gaining buy-in from executive leadership. Examples of best practices for fostering an inclusive culture include:

  • Making equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities an integral part of the company’s strategic mission.
  • Establishing a team that includes executives with disabilities to support the recruiting, hiring, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities.
  • Conducting employee engagement surveys to gather input on whether the workplace environment is accessible and inclusive.

Build the Pipeline

Proactive outreach and recruitment of people with disabilities is the foundation of a successful workplace disability inclusion program. To build a pipeline of applicants, employers should work to develop relationships with a variety of recruitment sources. Best practices for disability-inclusive outreach and recruitment practices include partnering with local and state service providers (such as vocational rehabilitation agencies), participating in employer networking groups, attending career fairs for people with disabilities, and providing inclusive mentoring and internship opportunities.

Hire (& Keep) the Best

Building a disability-inclusive organization means not only attracting and recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities but also ensuring policies and processes across the employment lifecycle support the hiring, retention, and advancement of employees with disabilities. Companies should have effective policies and processes in place for job announcements, qualification standards, hiring, workplace accommodations, career development and advancement, and retention and promotion.

 Ensure Productivity

All employees need the right tools and work environment to effectively perform their jobs. Employees with disabilities may need workplace adjustments—or accommodations—to maximize their productivity. Examples of workplace accommodations include automatic doors, sign language interpreters, and flexible work schedules or telework. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), more than half of all workplace accommodations cost nothing to provide. Furthermore, JAN research has found that most employers report financial benefits from providing accommodations, including reduced insurance and training costs and increased productivity.

Communicate

Attracting qualified individuals with disabilities requires clear communication, both externally and internally, about your company’s commitment to disability inclusion. This can include internal campaigns, disability-inclusive marketing, and participation in disability-related job fairs and awareness events. Best practices for communication of company policies and procedures can include:

  • Incorporating disability imagery into advertising and marketing materials.
  • Informing local disability organizations about company sponsored career days.
  • Distributing information about relevant disability policies and priorities to subcontractors, vendors, and suppliers.

Be Tech Savvy

As technology continues to shift, so does the concept of accessibility. Being able to get through the physical door is no longer enough to ensure people with disabilities can apply and interview for jobs; a company’s “virtual doors” must be open as well. Furthermore, once on the job, employees with disabilities—like all employees—must be able to access the information and communication technology (ICT) they need to maximize their productivity. Examples of best practices for ensuring accessible ICT include using accessible online recruiting platforms, adopting a formal ICT policy, appointing a chief accessibility officer, and establishing clear procurement policies related to accessibility.

Measure Success

While policies and procedures are necessary to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, the ultimate objective should be to ensure effective implementation. Companies can take steps to ensure disability becomes part of their overall diversity goals and can encourage self-identification of disability by their employees to benchmark the impact of disability inclusion efforts. Examples of best practices for accountability and self-identification include providing training on disability-related issues, establishing accountability measures and processes for self-identification, and incorporating disability inclusion goals in appropriate personnel’s performance plans.

 

Visit AskEARN.org to learn more about creating a disability-inclusive workplace.

‘Run’ Hopes to Change the Conversation on Actors with Disabilities

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Director chair and movie clapper displayed in an empty room

Gaslighting and the fear that the person we’re closest to is lying always have been popular motifs in the horror and thriller genres — most famously depicted in 1941’s “Suspicion” and 1944’s “Gaslight.”

Features like 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” utilized disability to create an added air of helplessness to Joan Crawford’s character; it’s expanded out to the Munchausen narrative portrayed most recently in the 2019 series “The Act.” With the addition of disability, these tropes take on added poignance.

Carrie Sandhal, Associate Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explains the fear of being gaslit and disbelieved is a real concern outside of celluloid walls. From recent run-ins with the police involving the mentally ill or deaf to the historical associations of the insane asylum, able-bodied people watch horror as a means of distancing themselves, believing it can’t happen to them. Sandahl references a 2003 article written by disabled writer Harriet McBryde Johnson, “The Disability Gulag,” wherein Johnson writes about visiting friends of her in a nursing home. “[She] was mistaken for one of the residents,” Sandhal said. “There’s this feeling that we can always become trapped.”

Hulu’s upcoming feature, “Run,” treads this territory in its story of the teenage Chloe (Kiera Allen), whose relationship with her mother Diane (Sarah Paulson) becomes one of survival and uncovering buried secrets. It shows how the horror genre is one  of the few refuges for tales about disabled women — if not in giving them great stories, at least by putting them on-screen.

Director Aneesh Chaganty and Allen see “Run” as a thriller as opposed to a horror film, but the two genres go hand-in-hand from a disabled perspective, with Allen even telling IndieWire that if this was a horror feature Chloe would be a fantastic “final girl.” And even within the thriller vein, like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane,” the thrills are often left to the able-bodied audience, leaving the disabled audience to draw on real-life experiences to manifest an added layer of fear.

One of the posters for “Run,” inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, plays on the fear of inaccessibility, with Paulson’s character looking down from the top of a staircase at her daughter. It’s an image that gives Allen chills because as a wheelchair user herself, she has felt that terror. “When people consider things like accessibility, and other obstacles that are unnecessarily put before disabled people, I don’t think they [able-bodied people] see it as terrifying,” she said. “I’ve been trapped in a building because of inaccessibility. I’ve been picked up by strangers, in my chair, without my permission, because of inaccessibility [and] I’ve never seen a movie that portrays that fear.”

Because that terror is so specific, it was important for Chaganty to draw on Allen’s own experiences for the movie as well as examine his own privilege as an able-bodied person. “I spent a lot of time talking to a disability studies professor at Brown and she educated me on this concept of ableism [discrimination in favor of able-bodied people],” Chaganty told IndieWire. He said nearly every element of the script had Allen giving advice and input, even having her write down her thoughts, from a character perspective, in a series of journals. After these discussions changes were made — especially with regards to Chloe’s room, which Chaganty admitted was made purely from an able-bodied perspective and not necessarily from the mind of a teenage girl in a wheelchair.

The history of actual actresses with disabilities in this genre is rare. So rare, in fact, that Hulu’s advertising of “Run” emphasizes it’s been over 70 years since a disabled actress led a thriller for an American studio, that being actress Susan Peters in 1948’s “The Sign of the Ram.” It’s a statistic Chaganty is used to hearing in some form. When he debuted his feature “Searching,” starring John Cho, in 2018 he learned at a film festival that it was the first mainstream Hollywood feature to star an Asian American.

“We [he and co-screenwriter Sev Ohanian] realized that everything we make, there’s no reason for it not to have a win associated with it,” he said. “The idea that we can cast somebody….in any project that we make [who] traditionally doesn’t get a hero role or main character was something very important to us. Or at least to me, growing up, and not seeing an Indian-American or a South Asian person.” And while Chaganty says home studio Lionsgate was incredibly supportive of hiring the best actor for the role, regardless of ability, the director said there were several Disney stars who auditioned for the role of Chloe.

Ultimately, hiring an able-bodied name or anyone who wasn’t disabled was anathema to him and it compelled him to realize what a broad word “disabled” is in the acting community. It wasn’t until he started watching audition tapes that he realized how limited his own purview was with regards to a wheelchair user.

Continue on to IndieWire to read the full article

 

Selma Blair: A Beacon of Bravery

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Honoree Selma Blair speaks onstage during the 26th annual Race to Erase MS in Beverly Hills, California.

By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons & Samar Khoury

It began in 2011. Selma Blair didn’t know where it all came from—the overwhelming fatigue, anxiety, depression, neck pain, and severe vertigo.

She didn’t understand why that after she’d drop her son, Arthur, off at school, she was so exhausted that she had to get back into bed. She was puzzled by the sudden loss of feeling in her leg.

Selma would go to doctors seeking answers, but they dismissed her symptoms, believing her exhaustion and fatigue were the result of her becoming a new mother. As the constant pain continued, Selma began to self-medicate to dull the pain.

“When I first suspected that something wasn’t right with my health, with my brain, was when I was pregnant with Arthur,” Selma shared with DIVERSEability Magazine. “I really knew something was wrong when I ran into a UPS truck…literally. I mean, I just skimmed it, but I realized my perception was really off. That’s when I went to the eye doctor thinking it was just my eyes, but it was a perception coordination thing. I’d felt exhausted for years, but it really reached a point that I couldn’t deny it when I was first pregnant with Arthur, and certainly right after his birth.”

It wasn’t until 2018, when she was filming the movie After, that Selma finally got answers.

“When I was in Atlanta the first time shooting the beginning of the film, I had extreme vertigo on steps; I was walking with Josephine Langford down some steps, and I was like, ‘whoa, something’s really happening.’ I couldn’t feel my left leg or my right side and was having difficulty writing and texting, so I sent my manager a video telling him that something very strange is going on.”

Selma heeded the advice from a new doctor who urged her to get an MRI, during which she was in tears, frightened of what was happening to her body.

The results were undeniable: 20 lesions on her brain—it was multiple sclerosis.

Selma Blair looking stylish in long flowy formal gowm with one arm extended and the other balancing a cane
Selma Blair attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California. PHOTO BY EMMA MCINTYRE /VF19/WIREIMAGE

“I cried. I had tears. They weren’t tears of panic—they were tears of knowing I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control,” she said in an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. “There was some relief in that, ’cause ever since my son was born, I was in an M.S. flare-up and didn’t know. I was giving it everything to seem normal.”

The Journey with M.S.

Multiple sclerosis, or M.S., is a potentially disabling disease. It impacts the brain and central nervous system. It gradually affects the entire body. It causes the immune system to eat away at the protective covering of the nerves.

Having M.S. is an emotional, painful, and unpredictable ride, sometimes leaving people who suffer from the disease wanting to give up.

But, for Selma, that is not the case. “There’s no tragedy for me,” she told Vanity Fair. “I’m happy, and if I can help anyone be more comfortable in their skin, it’s more than I’ve ever done before.”

The 48-year-old actress is resilient, using M.S. as a way to fight, giving hope to others suffering from the disease, and being an advocate for people with disabilities.

Through her journey with M.S., Selma decided that she would open about her disease and not hold anything back from the press or social media. “This is my journey…and all are welcome here,” she writes on her Instagram page.

“It just made sense to be candid. At the time, I was in a long flare and was very symptomatic. It was all new to me, and I just didn’t want to bother playing any type of game of peekaboo,” she said.

This candidness is evidenced through her interviews, such as her appearance on Good Morning America, in which she appeared with a cane and her statement of wanting to make canes chic, which touched many viewers who witnessed the interview, many of whom have their own canes.

Selma poses backstage in hot pink pantsuit and heels, balncing with a cane and smiling
Selma poses backstage during the TIME 100 Health Summit at Pier 17 in New York City. PHOTO BY CRAIG BARRITT/GETTY IMAGES FOR TIME 100 HEALTH SUMMIT

Selma rocks her cane, viewing it as a great fashion accessory. When she first stepped out with a cane at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Selma turned heads, and prompted others to show the same courage. Twitter feeds were filled with praise for the star:

“The real winner of Oscar night is Selma Blair.”

“#SelmaBlair in tears as she attends the @VanityFair #Oscars party made me cry. I’ve often been walking on aid and exhaustion can just hit and you think, how am I going to do this? But you keep going. She is amazing.”

Selma was—an is—an icon.

Advocating and Raising Awareness

Selma aims to bear all and to help raise awareness for those suffering from this little understood disease and those who, like Selma years ago, have no idea they have M.S.

Selma shared her insights into the struggles that impact her not just as a woman but also as a single mother.

“One of the bigger things is honestly the fatigue. As a mom or anyone trying to do something primarily by themselves with a little tiny person witnessing everything you’re doing, it can feel unsustainable. Figuring out intricacies of neurological disorders is a constant reckoning of how to do better, when to sleep, what you can do, what is very emotionally triggering, you know. There are many layers of it that I now see, people with the disabilities are so busy in our minds.”

Through the sharing of her journey, Selma makes it her mission to help those struggling with M.S. and other disabilities. She credits others who have taken this path of openness and advocacy, such as Michael J. Fox, with inspiring her to do the same.

“I remember when I was younger and Michael J. Fox came out. I was

Selma in a sidewise angle smiling hoding on to her young son in a suit smiling
Selma and Arthur attend the 26th Annual Race to Erase MS Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. PHOTO BY AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC

such a humongous fan of his, and seeing him be so candid about something that seemed so far away from me at the time. I’ve kind of held his example, and I’ve learned that there is an intrinsic value in opening up some of your experiences to people, because the conditions we deal with are often very isolating and when there’s someone that’s out there that could possibly really shed a light on it and bring more attention.”

Her grace and humility as well as her willingness to be a light shining into the unknown darkness for people with disabilities is heroic, though she shrugs off such a label.

“I’m not a hero. I make no bones about that in my life. But I am very honored if my experience, my mess ups and my triumphs help other people,” she said.

For those who are struggling with the disease or for those who have recently been diagnosed, Selma offers some insight and advice:

“Some people said you’ll be better right away. Some said no, healing is not linear. It can take two years. I kind of have fallen in between all that, and I think I would tell someone, ‘Your whole mind can change. Try not to be afraid. I’ve learned so many things, and I pray that you continue to search for what can make you happy and calm. But it takes time. I’m just starting to feel like I’m learning now.’”

“Mommy’s Brave”

To 9-year-old Arthur, his mom is a hero, and he does not view her experiences negatively. “He says, ‘Mommy’s not sick. Mommy’s brave,’” Selma shared with People.

Selma’s commitment to Arthur has remained steadfast and honest. He has seen her face these challenges but remains extremely proud of his resilient mother.

Selma with cast of Cruel Intention onstage in a group photo
Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Molly McCook, Emma Hunton and Katie Stevens attend “The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Cruel Intentions” at Rockwell Table & Stage  in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images)

She stated, “He said, ‘I love when you come to school because you make the kids laugh and you answer all their questions.” She remains completely open about her struggles, even with Arthur’s classmates, explaining to them why she may walk differently.

“I explain what’s happening and that my voice doesn’t hurt, and we have really decent exchanges. I had no idea Arthur was proud of that. I thought ‘I’m probably an embarrassment,’ but to know I’m not was one of my proudest moments.”

Always Resilient

Selma’s resilience started at a young age. She was born outside of Detroit, Michigan, in the suburb of Southfield. Her interest in acting took hold at an early age, and she credits a high school English teacher, Mr. Toner, with pushing her forward, telling her never to give up, which would serve her well in years to come.

Moving to New York, she was torn between acting and photography.

“When I went to New York, the purpose was a toss-up,” Selma stated. “I didn’t know if I could be a photographer or an actress, but with acting, you can at least go to a class and do workshops, but it was hard to just be an assistant for someone without a lot of experience as a photographer and break-in, so they were both passions.”

Over the years, Selma has played many roles with more than four dozen short and feature films. Her most favorite role was her first major picture, the 1999 film Cruel Intentions with Selma starring opposite actors Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Reese Witherspoon.

“It was kind of the dream come true first job. After studying in New York, I went to LA, and my first major part was in a real studio film. And while I had done a few small roles before that, that was really my first substantial role with stars that I had loved and they were basically my contemporaries, but, of course, they are already established actors. I laughed and laughed and laughed, and that’s when I kind of realized I really loved what comedy could be and how it could feel.”

Shining Light, Bringing Hope

Selma’s journey is one of inclusion, a journey that many have been on and, sadly, many more are just beginning. Through her candidness, she is willing to share her triumphs and defeats with the world to help others learn, to be a pathfinder for those suffering from the debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She is a hero of advocacy.

And through it all—her slurred speech, aches and pains, exhaustion, and much more—Selma handles it all with a smile, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “…Take this opportunity to be the best you can be, to help your days along,” she said.

For Selma, there is no tragedy—only positivity. “I don’t know if I believed in myself or had the ambition before my diagnosis,” she said to Vanity Fair. “And oddly now I do, and I don’t know if it’s too late.”

This is her journey and all are welcome.

Celebrating the ADA: NEW EPISODE of A World of Difference featuring Sen. Tom Harkin

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ADA-30 Years logo

“A World of Difference,” is a show that celebrates and supports the families of children with learning and developmental disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism.

This new episode celebrates the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and features retired Senator Tom Harkin, who was responsible for authoring and sponsoring the act.

The episode also features an interview with Haley Moss, Florida’s first openly autistic attorney. Click here to view the episode.

Produced by Beacon College, America’s first accredited college dedicated to educating neurodiverse students, “A World of Difference” fills a gap in TV programming by exploring a wide range of neurodiversity issues.

In honor of October being “National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” the next episode of “A World of Difference” will feature Bank of America’s assistant vice president of accessibility, Jhillika Kumar and Carolyn Jeppsen, founder of BroadFutures, a national organization that helps learning disabled job candidates.

The episode will be available for viewing on Beacon College’s Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube channels – and for listening through A World of Difference: The Podcast later this month.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Verizon

Verizon

Robert Half