Eligible Voters With Disabilities Increase By Nearly 20%

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People voting at polling booths

As the November election draws near, new research finds that the number of voters with disabilities across the nation has grown exponentially and could make the difference in how races are decided.

There are an estimated 38.3 million eligible voters with disabilities in the U.S., according to a report out this month from the Rutgers University Program for Disability Research. That represents an 19.8% increase since 2008 and outpaces a 12% rise in voters without disabilities during the same period.

Moreover, the researchers noted that when people with disabilities and the family members they live with are factored, disability issues are significant to 28.9% of the electorate.

“The sheer size of the disability electorate makes it clear that people with disabilities and their family members have the potential to swing elections,” said Lisa Schur, a professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers and an author of the report. “While their partisan split is similar to that of other citizens, people with disabilities put a higher priority on health care and employment issues, so how candidates deal with those could be decisive.”

The report is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey and Census population projections for 2020-2021.

The new figures suggest that there are more potential voters with disabilities than there are Black or Hispanic voters in this country.

Researchers behind the report cited a surge in turnout among people with disabilities in 2018 and said turnout could be especially strong this year given the expansion of mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the full article. 

Convening in the Time of COVID-19: Disability Advocates Converge on Zoom for The Arc’s National Convention

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Business people working together on project in work studio

While this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business as usual for many businesses, it has also presented unexpected opportunities. Like many others, The Arc was forced to cancel and shift all in-person events starting in March.

When the time came to plan our annual convention—which draws people with disabilities, family members, The Arc’s chapter leaders, and allies together to learn, grow, and celebrate and advance disability rights—the choice was obvious: go virtual and give more people than ever before the ability to attend our flagship event. The best part? The event was free. In an era when time and money are short for many and screen fatigue is more prevalent than ever, it was important to The Arc to ensure this year’s programming was valuable, accessible, and affordable. A record nearly 3,000 people registered, surpassing previous in-person attendance almost threefold. The format also enabled more first-timers than ever before to participate.

The event featured speakers from a wide range of backgrounds: grassroots advocates, policymakers, The Arc’s chapter staff, and The Arc’s national office. Sessions covered everything from voting to police safety to community supports and organizational hardship in the time of COVID. Sessions were also carefully curated to be accessible through captioning, real-time American Sign Language interpretation, and accessibly designed slide decks and support materials. Between structured sessions, attendees had the opportunity to connect in more informal settings and share their knowledge and challenges with others facing similar circumstances. These new—and renewed—connections will provide networks of support as advocates, family members, and professionals prepare to dive into the coming year.

People with disabilities and those who support them are at a critical inflection point in our history. Existing budget crises, waiting lists, and other service delivery challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As we navigate the challenges of today and work to build a better tomorrow, The Arc is proud to provide ongoing resources and support.

As a benefit of this year’s online format, you can watch archived sessions from the event on-demand for free.

And, save the date for next year’s event which we expect to hold from September 27 – 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana!

Chris Nikic Shatters Stereotypes to Become First Person with Down Syndrome to Complete an IRONMAN

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Chris Nikic and Dan Grieb running past the finish line

As the sun barely began to rise at 5:52am on Saturday morning, 7 November 2022, Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic and his Unified partner and coach Dan Grieb, entered the water in Panama City at the start of the IRONMAN Florida triathlon.

Sixteen hours and 46 minutes later, as the nighttime darkness settled in, Chris crossed the finish line and made history of as the first person with Down syndrome to finish a full IRONMAN race.

Chris conquered a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 marathon run to complete the IRONMAN in a total time of 16:46:09. During the race, Chris suffered an attack by ants during a nutrition stop and fell off of his bike a couple of times. With blood dripping from his knee, he jumped right back on in a show of true sportsmanship and grit.

Chris’ achievement landed him on the Guinness World Records list. Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief, watched Chris persevere with great joy saying, “It’s an honour to welcome Chris into the Guinness World Records fraternity as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN, and I look forward to seeing what more is in store from this remarkable young man.”

To stay motivated during the long months of training, Chris and his father Nik developed the 1% better principle – get better, faster and stronger by 1% every day. According to Nik, IRONMAN is further proof that all things are possible with a plan and determination. “To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” he said. “IRONMAN has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership.”

“I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being who has goals and dreams just like everyone else,” said Coach Dan. “He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead.”

Continue on to the Special Olympics to read the full article

Photo Credit: Getty, Michael Reaves / Stringer

 

‘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

 

How A Trainer Moved Special Olympics Online To Engage Athletes

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A family smiling and gathered around a tablet computer

By Luke Ranker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

When the coronavirus pandemic hit North Texas, Fort Worth-area Special Olympics organizers were left wondering how athletes would cope with stay-at-home orders and the loss of their sporting communities.

Typically the spring and summer months are filled with Special Olympics events. The competitions thrive on close personal interactions that provide a social network for the athletes, their families and the volunteers. With the virus limiting gatherings, like all sports, Special Olympics had to get creative.

Enter Everett King.

“He was at the forefront of saying, ‘We need to do something for our athletes,’” said Dalton Hill, an associate executive director at Special Olympics Texas.

King had been a special education teacher in the Northwest school district when he started volunteering as Special Olympics coach in 2014. He quickly gained a reputation as being one of the most engaging and positive volunteers even before he became the full-time program director for the Fort Worth chapter last year, Hill said.

Hill said King “has a heart to serve” and stepped up immediately to brainstorm ways to engage athletes during the shutdown.

“The athletes want to be in an environment where they can just be themselves and have fun and interact with other people,” King said. “So once this pandemic started, it really was kind of hard on not just on the athletes, but on everyone — their coaches, families because this is something that a lot of us look forward to.”

Paxton Alexander is one the athletes who has grown attached to Everett’s coaching and camaraderie.

He had long been outgoing and considered everyone his friend, his mom Malisa Alexander said, but he rarely asked to go places with friends or meet up with other people. That changed when King asked Paxton, who has autism and is now 21, to join special Olympics during his sophomore year of high school.

Wrestling piqued his interest but he eventually moved on to football, becoming the quarterback. He quickly become obsessed with the game, his mom said.

“It kind of built this confidence in him that he could do more than he thought he could,” Malisa Alexander said.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the full article.

How the Child Care for Working Families Act Benefits Children With Disabilities and Their Families

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A child in a wheelchair at the park with his mother

By MK Falgout and Katie Hamm 

More than 1.1 million children under age 6 in the United States receive services for a disability,1 while 2.5 percent of parents of young children have a disability that affects their workforce participation.2

All families, including those with disabilities, benefit from access to affordable child care that will support their children’s development in inclusive and enriching environments. These programs also provide parents with the support they need to thrive. But the dearth3 of inclusive, affordable child care options causes job disruptions for parents of disabled children at twice the rate of those whose children do not have disabilities.4 This fact sheet highlights how the Child Care for Working Families Act provides a comprehensive solution to meet the child care needs of all families.

Families of children with disabilities and the current child care system

The current child care system requires additional public resources to reach all the families who need high-quality services. This lack of public investment results in a mostly private-pay system that marginalizes historically underserved communities.

  • Although 1 in 8 children ages 3 to 5 who is enrolled in an early childhood program has a disability or significant social or emotional challenges,5 nearly 1 in 3 parents of disabled children report that finding available slots is a primary difficulty in accessing child care, compared with 1 in 4 families with nondisabled children. 6
  • Nearly one-third of children with disabilities live in poverty,7 making most licensed child care options nearly impossible to afford.8
  • Children of color are underrepresented in early intervention9 programs through infancy and toddlerhood for reasons pertaining to disproportionate lack of access to quality health care.10
  • New data suggest that in all but six states, no more than 2 percent of children who receive a child care subsidy have a disability.11*
  • Children ages 3 to 5 who have disabilities are 14.5 times more likely to face suspension or expulsion than children without disabilities,12 due in part to the fact that only 1 in 5 early childhood educators and providers report “receiving training on children’s social and emotional development.”13
  • Child care workers, primarily women and disproportionately women of color, earn on average less than $12 an hour,14 and only 1 in 5 early childhood educators receives training on children’s social and emotional development.15 Both of these realities contribute to the inadequate support for providers caring for children with disabilities, given that nearly 10 percent of the early childhood workforce works mostly with children who have disabilities.16

The Child Care for Working Families Act benefits children with disabilities

The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) creates a new standard for inclusive and accessible child care by investing in communities historically underserved by an underfunded child care system dependent on parental fees to cover the high cost of care.17 Just as importantly, the CCWFA ensures that providers are appropriately compensated for providing quality child care. More specifically, the bill has the following benefits:

  • The CCWFA prioritizes policies and funding that serve disabled children in high-quality, inclusive early learning environments by:
    • Affirming the importance of child care in supporting children with disabilities by setting benchmarks that ensure the system provides care for children with disabilities alongside children without disabilities.
    • Investing in expanding the supply of high-quality, inclusive child care for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities.
    • Requiring states to consider the additional cost of providing high-quality and inclusive care to children with disabilities when developing child care provider payment rates, as well as requiring that parents of disabled children are consulted in the process of developing these rates.
    • Requiring states to provide training opportunities for child care providers so that they can learn how to care for children with disabilities and conduct developmental screenings.
    • Prohibiting the use of suspensions, expulsions, and adverse behavioral interventions in all child care settings receiving public funds.
    • Establishing a new funding stream to provide early intervention services in child care settings.
    • Allowing states to prioritize funds to construct or renovate child care, including for providers who are caring for children with disabilities.

Continue on to AmericanProgress.com to read the complete article and to view original sources.

Voting could be more difficult for people with disabilities in upcoming presidential election

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Americans queuing at a polling place

Voting is one of our most important civil rights, but it isn’t always accessible for paralyzed veterans and other people with disabilities.

Paralyzed Veterans of America has launched the “Access Your Vote” campaign to help voters plan ahead to avoid problems during a challenging year.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office about voters with disabilities, released on Nov. 2, 2017, found fewer than half of polling locations were accessible during the 2016 presidential election. This year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, things could become even more difficult for voters with disabilities, due to added cleaning and distancing protocols, longer waits, fewer polling locations and the risk of exposure to the virus.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to all government-provided services, programs and activities, including the opportunity to vote. However, PVA members have reported barriers to voting in previous elections such as inaccessible sidewalks, insufficient accessible parking and long lines.

“Voting is an important civil right that our veterans have fought to protect. It should be accessible and safe for everyone, including those with disabilities, and PVA is making sure that happens. It’s especially important to help voters make a voting plan in a year that’s complicated by a pandemic,” says David Zurfluh, U.S. Air Force veteran and Paralyzed Veterans of America national president.

PVA represents veterans with spinal cord injury and disease, such as MS and ALS, and is urging all Americans, especially those with disabilities, to make an individual voting plan now by visiting PVA.org/vote for state-specific information, early voting guidelines and a checklist for creating an individual plan.

“People with disabilities absolutely need access to their polls. This is a community of over 60 million Americans, and the only way to ensure our needs are met is to make sure we can cast our votes with reasonable accommodations safely and securely in all 50 states,” says David Zurfluh.

For in-person voting, PVA recommends visiting your polling place ahead of time, so there’s time to report potential problems to local officials.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

Wounded Army Corporal Inspires Boston’s Wounded Vet Run

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Vincent Mannion-Brodeur in his army uniform on the field

By Kellie Speed

When Jeff and Maura Brodeur received the devastating call that would change their life forever— that their only son had been critically injured in Iraq and may not make it—they never could have imagined how far he would come today.

U.S. Army Private Vincent Mannion-Brodeur was just 19 when he was deployed to Iraq where he served as a Parachute Infantryman in the B-2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Honor Guard.

On March 11, 2007, the Massachusetts native was checking a house for insurgents when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing his sergeant and leaving him with deep shrapnel wounds that ravaged his upper torso. In addition, his left arm was nearly blown off and he sustained a traumatic brain injury that required the removal of his cranium and part of his frontal lobe.

As a courageous recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Vincent, who retired as a corporal, became the inspiration behind Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, a motorcycle run that honors wounded veterans of New England.

“Ten years ago, Vincent was the first recipient of the Boston Wounded Vet Run, which was used to supplement a VA Special Adaptive Housing Grant he earned that took two years of paperwork to complete,” said Jeff Brodeur, Vincent’s father and an Army veteran himself, adding that Vincent will be honored once again this year at the tenth annual Boston’s Wounded Vet Run being held in September.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award

“He was in a wheelchair at the time so we used that money to put in new stairs and a new walkway. We used the funds raised to make modifications for accessibility to the outside of our home. It’s really nice to have him being honored again on the run 10 years later because it all started with Vincent and Andy (Biggio) who is the founder.”

Since Boston’s initial event a decade ago, the motorcycle runs have increased in popularity, now becoming available in major cities nationwide raising money to provide assistance to severely wounded veterans like Vincent to improve their quality of life. All proceeds from the runs go directly to veterans to assist with housing modifications or mobility and transportation needs, including wheelchairs and cars, along with other basic requirements.

After surviving a yearlong coma, lengthy hospital stays, 47 surgeries and years of rehabilitation to relearn the simplest of tasks—from walking and talking to eating and showering—Vincent and his family have become an inspiration. Overcoming all odds after being told he might never be able to walk or talk again, Vincent, who can often be found smiling, saying, “God bless America,” still faces lifelong daily challenges but that hasn’t broken his fun-loving spirit.

His parents, who are both veterans, fought successfully to become the first on the East Coast—and one of the first families in the nation—to have their son transferred to a private medical facility to continue his care, paving the way for many other wounded soldiers.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor

The Veterans Administration initially wanted to transfer Vincent to its Tampa trauma facility but his parents were concerned over the level of care he would receive. “Boston has some of the best hospitals in the nation and we won approval for Vincent to receive private care for his severe TBI at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital instead of having to go to a Veterans Administration facility,” said Jeff, an Army veteran and also the National President of the Korean War Veteran’s Association. “The polytrauma hospitals back then didn’t offer the specialized care that we knew Boston could provide.”

Their steadfast determination in finding the best care and rehabilitation for their son paved the way for the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, authorizing the Veterans Administration to, “establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.” The additional benefits offered to families of veterans now include a monthly stipend, health care coverage, and travel expenses (including lodging and per diem) while accompanying veterans undergoing care, respite care and mental health services and counseling.

Tank Crewmen Saved by One Soldier’s Cell Phone

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Disabled veteran sitting on a hospital bed with a prosthetic leg

By Elaine Sanchez

A year after his accident and the loss of his leg, Spc. Ezra Maes is still amazed at the circumstances that led to his survival. If you ask, he’ll credit his survival to a uniform belt, smartphone and “shockingly good” cell service.

What the 21-year-old soldier fails to mention is the sheer force of will it took for him to stay alive.

“If I didn’t help myself, my crew, no one was going to,” said Maes, now assigned to the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “I knew I had to do everything I could to survive.”

A year earlier, the Army had deployed Maes, an armor crewman stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, to Poland in support of a joint training mission called Atlantic Resolve. He served as the loader for the main cannon of an M1A2 Abrams tank, a massive 65-ton tank known for its heavy armor and lethal firepower.

Exhausted on the second day of a weeklong rotation in Slovakia, he and two other crew members fell asleep in the tank that evening. He was jolted awake a few hours later by the sudden movement of the tank heading downhill.

“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” Maes said. “But he shouted back that it wasn’t him.”

The parking brake had failed. The crew quickly initiated emergency braking procedures, but the operational systems were unresponsive due to a hydraulic leak.

The tank was now careening down the hill at nearly 90 mph. “We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said.

After a few sharp bumps, they crashed into an embankment at full speed. Maes was thrown across the tank, his leg caught in the turret gear. He then felt the full force of the tank turret sliding onto his leg. His initial thought was his leg was broken. His next thought was he needed to get free so he could assist Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, who was bleeding out from a cut on her thigh. The driver, Pfc. Victor Alamo, was pinned up front with a broken back.

“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Maes said. “I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”

Freed from the pressure of the turret, the blood poured out of his wound at an alarming rate, but with other lives on the line, Maes pushed his panic and any thought of pain aside. He pulled himself up and into the back of the tank to grab a tourniquet from the medical kit. Halfway there, he began to feel lightheaded from the blood loss.

“I knew I was going into shock,” he said. “All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here. Either I step up or we all die.”

Maes began shock procedures on himself — stay calm, keep heart rate down, elevate lower body — and cinched his belt into a makeshift tourniquet to slow down the heavy bleeding. He called out to Crump, who had staunched her bleeding with a belt tourniquet, to radio for help.

Maes’ heart sank when Crump said the radio wasn’t working.

But then he heard an incredible sound: his cell phone was ringing.

Maes’ phone was the only one that wasn’t broken and the only one with working cell phone service. With one leg cut and the other broken, Crump crawled to reach Maes’ phone and threw it down to him. He unlocked the phone and sent his friend a text. Help was on the way.

His last memory of that location was his sergeant major running up the hill carrying his leg on his shoulder. “I wanted to keep it, see if it could be reattached, but it was pulverized,” Maes recalled.

Maes, who had also broken his ankle, pelvis in three places, and shoulder, was rushed to a local hospital, his first helicopter ride, before being flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany and then on to BAMC. Between an infection he picked up overseas and nearly daily surgeries to fight it, he spent four months in intensive care.

“I feel super lucky,” he said. “My crew all does. So many things could have gone wrong. Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”

A year later, Maes is immersed in physical and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, BAMC’s outpatient rehabilitation center. Maes works out intensely with Candace Pellock, a physical therapy assistant. Against the backdrop of the hospital, he moves across the gravel on crutches with an ever-present smile despite the Texas heat and strain of balancing on uneven ground.

It’s all in preparation to receive his long-term prosthetic leg through a cutting-edge procedure called osseointegration. For this procedure, not unlike a dental implant, BAMC surgeons will implant a titanium rod in the bone of Maes’ residual limb, rather than a traditional socket, to attach the prosthesis.

While he was having a tough time emotionally before the accident, Maes now sees each day as a gift. It’s a second chance he’d like to share with others who may be having a tough time post-injury or trauma.

“When something like this happens, it’s easy to give up because your life won’t be the same, and you’re not wrong,” he said. “Life will take a 180, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Don’t let it hinder you from moving forward.”

At 21, Maes has a new attitude and a new lease on life. With combat arms in the rearview mirror and inspired by the CFI’s care, he plans to become a prosthetist and help others regain their mobility.

But what he doesn’t plan to do is switch his phone service.

As he puts it, “My cell phone saved my life.”

Source: defense.gov

One Warrior’s Illuminating Journey

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Michael Landry standing outside at a sporting event

The future looks bright for this veteran entrepreneur, who miraculously regained his once lost eyesight.

By Annie Nelson

Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Michael J. Landry Jr. was returning from his 5th combat deployment as a Field Radio Operator when he received orders to Okinawa, Japan in August 2014. He underwent an eye exam and was told his vision had changed but not to worry.

However in Japan, Landry noticed his vision was getting worse—so much so that his optometrist thought he was exaggerating his condition. It was then he was told that both of his corneas were shattered and he was legally blind in both eyes.

I spoke with Landry about his amazing journey, from regaining his sight to competing in the Marine Corps Trials to starting his own lifestyle clothing and music businesses.

Tell me about your journey to being able to see again?

I was medically evacuated from Okinawa in March 2016 and sent to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif. In Japan, I was still able to make out the outlines of objects because of the cloudy weather, but in California, I wasn’t able to see anything because it was so much brighter. I was fitted for hard-lens contacts until I received a corneal transplant in my left eye. The crazy thing was the eye transplant I received was originally blue! But then genetics took over and the eye eventually turned brown.

Due to my amazing doctor, the day after the surgery for the first time in two years, I was able to see the eye chart. Over the next 20 months, the vision in my left eye improved to the point that I was able to get prescription glasses, but only for the left lens because I was still blind in my right eye. Last February, I received the transplant for the right eye and today, I still have 12 stitches inside that eye but my vision overall is constantly improving.

You recently competed in the Marine Corps Trials—what events did you compete in and how did you finish? Are you going to the Warrior Games?

Yes, I competed in several events including track, shot put, discus, 100m sprint and powerlifting. For the powerlifting event, my doctor recommended to limit the weight because the excessive eye pressure could still cause damage. I was scheduled to run the 200m and 400m, but I pulled my hamstring during the 100m sprint. I ended up finishing first place in all events except powerlifting. I competed in the visually impaired category for field events, however, I did out throw every other competitor overall. I was also selected to compete in the Warrior Games and I’m looking forward to it.

What did the Marine Corps Trials teach you?

It taught me that I’m able to do more than I think. I’ve never competed in any of those sports before and it felt as if it came naturally. It also taught me that I need to learn to stretch better so I don’t get hurt!

You are a new entrepreneur. Tell me about your businesses and how you started?

The birth of One Life Clothing started when I was going blind. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true so I began sewing with the thought that in order to sew, you have to be able to see. Going blind at the age of 32 forces you to see life in a different perspective. Tomorrow isn’t promised and you never know what can happen so you should always enjoy the “One Life” you have.

My second business I actually credit with saving my life. I was going through a lot mentally and physically with the loss of my sight and was severely depressed. At one point I was contemplating suicide until one day my brother, who is a rap artist, called me to vent about his music career, or lack thereof due to bad business deals. To help him, I started One Life Entertainment Music Group, LLC. Thus far, we’ve released four solo albums and two compilation albums.

My non-profit organization, One Life At A Time Outreach, helps not only feed the homeless, but also provide necessities like clothes, toiletries and shoes.

Michael Landry portrait with children Makiya and Michael III
Michael with children Makiya and Michael III

What does the future look like for you?

Bright I would say. Losing your vision and gaining it back is a blessing on its own, no matter what life throws at me. I’ve already won because I can see again. I’m embracing the new me. Business-wise, I would love to get into government contract designing and making uniforms as well as getting my clothing line into stores.

What advice would you give other service members who are recovering from an injury or illness?

You have to embrace the new you. I know what it feels like to be completely alone and to be stuck in your own head, but you have to remember that you are here for a purpose. God will never give you a task that you can’t handle. We are all gifted—find your gift and get out of your comfort zone.

Continue to follow Landry’s journey at onelifeclothing.net and on onelifemuzik.com

Online Recruitment Platform to Connect Workers with Disabilities to Rewarding Careers

LinkedIn

The ISABLED Virtual Career Fair platform makes it easier to connect recruiters from leading companies and high-impact professionals with disabilities. They are are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. There are currently more jobs in the U.S than available workers to fill them, and companies are forced to explore more options to find talent to hire to help them grow their business.

Workers with different abilities (often referred to as workers with disabilities) are just one example of highly-skilled, but untapped segments of the population that more and more leading companies are seeking to recruit.

ISABLED, an online recruiting platform connects workers that identify as having a disability, with recruiters from leading companies who value inclusion and diversity in their workforce. The ISABLED platform allows job seekers and recruiters to connect and chat in real-time, from anywhere, and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

” The ISABLED Virtual Career Fairs are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. Instead of asking both sides to attend a job fair at a physical location, we bring the career fair to them. The ISABLED platform allows our employer partners to recruit nationwide in just a few hours, and job seekers have instant access to the very recruiters who are seeking to fill the open positions” Stated Kevin O’Brien, Managing Partner, ISABLED.

The ISABLED website will include content to connect workers with disabilities to job opportunities from a wide range of companies and industries. The website will include a job board and a virtual career fair platform. ISABLED will host 4 virtual career fairs each year, and companies can host standalone virtual career fairs for their company as often as they like.

The first ISABLED virtual career fair is set for July 25, 2019, and open now for registration.

About ISABLED:

ISABLED, a division of Astound Virtual has a laser-focus on connecting industry-leading companies with workers people with disabilities who seek employment. Through the ISABLED Recruitment Center (IRC), job seekers and recruiters meet and interact, in real-time, but from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance