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.

FREE Online Class Series on Fighting Diabetes with Food

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group of women enjoying plant-based foods together

Learn how plant-based foods can help improve blood sugar, lose weight, control blood pressure, and more at a free online class series!

Join doctors, dietitians, nurses, chefs, health coaches, people who have reversed their diabetes, and other experts for ongoing live and on-demand classes.
 
 

Topics include:

🍅 A Nutritional Approach for Diabetes

🍅 Grocery Shopping and Recipes for Success

🍅 Maintaining a Healthy Heart, Eyes, Nerves, and Kidneys

🍅 Keeping Up Success in the Long Run

🍅 And more!

Live classes are every Tuesday for eight weeks from 3-to-4 p.m. ET (12-to-1 p.m. PT) starting Sept. 7th.

Register today: Fight Diabetes With Food (pcrm.org) 

Your Supplier Diversity Starter Guide

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Businesswoman shaking hands with disabled business owner

By: Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

There are some common misconceptions regarding supplier diversity (SD) programs and how to get started the right way. Among those are the costs associated with a new SD program as well as the quality of services received and the product. However, studies have shown that a properly organized and managed program can not only increase a company’s ROI, but still create ample competition amongst qualified suppliers.

With that being said, supplier diversity does not mean ‘hand out’ or ‘give me’ program. The suppliers must still be inventive, tech-savvy and proficient enough to be able to compete for your business.

So, how do you get started? Here are our top 4 tips:

  1. Preparation

Preparation is key to any successful endeavor. Beginning your supplier diversity program is no different. Is their support from the top echelon of the company all the way to the bottom rung of the structure? Take a step back and self-evaluate for a moment to make sure you’re the right company to begin a supplier diversity program. Is diversity and culture something reflected already currently reflected in your business and values? Next, identify where a lack of support exists and then determine how to bolster enthusiasm, or at least, understanding and expectations in those areas. Supplier diversification is going to be a boon to every area of your business, so highlight the reasons why this decision should and is being made.

Also, talk about how each team can assist in making the transition a success so that there isn’t confusion regarding expectations or the roadmap that’s been chosen. This might look like new training procedures, unconscious bias programs, securing cross-functional ownership of the process and communication with stakeholders. Also, don’t forget to establish your baseline spend with diverse suppliers — this is critical to keeping track of your progress as things move forward. We’re going to touch on this again in the Evaluation step.

  1. Identification

A common question from and challenge for companies beginning their first supplier diversity program is, “How do I find quality, competitive diverse suppliers?” The answer is simpler than you’ve believed and actually quite easy. There are multiple avenues one can use to find suppliers who from underrepresented groups. For example, tapping into groups that cater to diverse suppliers in your area like a local chamber of commerce, minority business council or diverse supplier organization.

Of course, some great organizations to start your search would include, but are not limited to, the National Minority Business Council, Inc., Disability:IN, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and, of course, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. They focus on advocating and expanding opportunities for their respective underserved communities. Another great option is, once you find a supplier in your area, ask them what organizations or groups they are a part of or partner with, so that you can increase your network. Also, if someone in your network has a diverse supplier program already that’s thriving, seek assistance. Finally, publicize your efforts to be more diverse and this will most certainly attract suppliers to you and your program.

  1. Integration

Don’t fall into the trap of failing in organizational change management. Integrating new processes or partnerships can be rocky. The seeming contradiction to remember here is that sometimes the fastest way to hit the end goal is take things slowly and at a measured pace. Be prepared to repeat steps and recommunicate with as well as reeducate teams and stakeholders about their commitment to common goal. Very few steps in your process are going to be one and done scenarios.

Identify a key member, hopefully someone trained or reeducated in diversity, equity and inclusion, to head up your new program and be in charge of not only implementation but tracking as well. Recruited other like-minded individuals to the new department as well to help bolster these new efforts. Be prepared to make a technology investment along with these personnel changes to help streamline your process through analytics, supplier tracking or further training. You might also consider supplier development in your integration plan.

  1. Evaluation

The most important step to any implementation is evaluation. By measuring where you are against where you started and where you wanted to be, it becomes easier to assess what is working and what could work better. This might look similar to the processes already in place in your organization: assessing how well the supplier has overall met your requirements. Did the cost, service, quality and capacity of the needs met for your organization add up in a satisfactory fashion? How much contribution was made to innovation, mitigating risks and losses, as well as sales and marketing growth? What was the savings? Was there an impact to your engagement with customers or the markets you serve? Using these questions and any qualifiers you already use as a guide can help you better assess where your program is and where it can go.

Worthwhile change takes time, effort and intentionality. Be steadfast in the process, and you will see the fruits of your labor. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as the saying goes, and neither will the best parts of your program be built all at once. Continue to work as a team and communicate openly about questions or ideas. Together, your program can take your business one step closer to your goals.

Val Kilmer On Surviving Throat Cancer: ‘I Want to Share My Story More Than Ever’

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Val Kilmer On Surviving Throat Cancer: 'I Want to Share My Story More Than Ever'

By Kara Warner, People

The film is co-directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo and produced by Kilmer, his son Jack, 26, and his daughter Mercedes, 29. Scott, Poo, Jack and Mercedes all spoke to PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

“Now that it’s more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever,” Kilmer says in the documentary, which is an intimate look at the Top Gun star’s personal and professional life, including his cancer battle and recovery.

Val received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and features a treasure trove of Kilmer’s personal video footage from behind the scenes of his most popular films, along with vulnerable, candid moments from the star about coping with his physical limitations in the documentary. His son Jack also reads Kilmer’s words to narrate much of the film.

“I obviously am sounding much worse than I feel,” Kilmer says in the film, his voice thin and raspy.

“I can’t speak without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat,” he adds, and now has his meals through a feeding tube. “It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me.”

Filmmakers Scott and Poo tell PEOPLE they were inspired to pursue making the documentary with Kilmer after learning about the actor’s extensive personal film archive and getting to know the man himself.

“We approached him three years ago,” says Scott. “I’d worked with him on his Cinema Twain project and when he couldn’t tour the play Citizen Twain, he was touring a film of the play, so I was working with him on that and some other projects too, archiving his footage.”

Poo respects how open Kilmer was to collaborating with them and showing all facets of his personal and professional life.

“He doesn’t have the vanity that you would expect from someone of his fame and celebrity. There was never any of that kind of artifice or protection that people who are really famous have to put up around themselves,” she says. “It’s humbling to be around that.”

Click here to read the full article on People.

Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten

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Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

By Lori Brown and Shannon Murray, Fox LA

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas – Midlothian police officers and firefighters helped make the first day of kindergarten special for a little boy who is facing some challenges this school year.

Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

Then at Mountain Peak Elementary, classmates and teachers gave him a warm welcome.

Last week, Michael’s mom, Brittany Denison, made a plea on social media for kids to be kind and asked parents to educate their children about people who are different.

Michael was born with a rare condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. All of the bones in the lower half of his face are smaller than they should be just like the boy Auggie in the movie “Wonder.”

“We’ve had multiple instances where people have used the words scary, monster or weird and that’s really uncomfortable,” she said. “When you’re in a room with Michael for two minutes you understand immediately that he is just the same as every other kid.”

Midlothian’s fire chief said as the story spread on social media, his firefighters knew they wanted to do something to help. So they reached out to the family and school to coordinate the special escort.

“My name is Dale, I am the fire chief,” Dale McCaskill told Michael. “We heard you might be a little nervous going to school your first day so we are going to give you a ride on the fire truck.”

Michael’s mom said when she made that plea on social media she had no idea it would lead to so much support in both the community and from people all across the world.

“To see him smile like that, that was once in a lifetime. That was amazing, unforgettable,” she said after dropping him off for his first day. “He’s an extraordinary kid so I wanted him to have an ordinary year. But I can’t imagine this will be an ordinary year for him anymore. The welcoming experience of the kids being outside, the waves and the smiles, that’s what you want for your kid to be welcomed with open arms.”

She hopes that it creates an even bigger conversation for all families and all students about accepting each other despite differences and standing up for one another.

Click here to read the full article on Fox La.

Google, Stanford are teaming up to cultivate greater neurodiversity in the high tech workplace

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Google announced the launch of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program for neurodiversity..

By Sam Farmer, The Hill

When a leading technology company and a leading institution of higher learning partner with each other to make things better for an unfairly marginalized segment of society, there is cause for celebration. Particularly if you are a neurodiverse individual (autistic, for example) aspiring to a career in technology. The cloud industry is growing rapidly and Goggle is a key player with their Google Cloud services. To their credit, they have chosen to proceed in a way that is mindful of inclusivity and of the talents that people with autism bring to the table, and they have wisely decided not to go it alone in meeting the challenge.

As such, Google recently announced the launch of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program. The program’s purpose is not merely to hire but also to support more autistic talent in the Google workforce. To that end, they are collaborating with experts from the Stanford Neurodiversity Project which advises employers on opportunities and success metrics for neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. Stanford will also coach applicants and provide support not only for them but for their colleagues and managers as well, once they join the Google Cloud team.

The Stanford Neurodiversity Project works toward the establishment of a culture that values the capabilities of neurodiverse people and empowers them to develop their identity and daily living skills. It trains talented individuals for successful inclusion in the workforce and seeks to disseminate its methodology on a global scale. The end goal, which is also that of the Neurodiversity Movement in general, is to reveal the strengths of neurodivergent individuals and leverage these strengths to increase society’s capacity for innovation and productivity.

The Google/Stanford partnership makes perfect sense, considering that products that are intended for use by everybody everywhere, including the Google Cloud services, are best designed and built by as wide a diversity of people as possible. The Google Cloud team is therefore optimized when neurodiverse and neurotypical people work side by side. Ideally, the team would reflect diversity in other respects as well (race, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, etc.).

Rob Enslin is the President of Global Customer Operations for Google Cloud. In the company’s formal announcement of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program, Enslin speaks of Google’s intent to train and empower as many as 500 Google Cloud managers and others involved in hiring processes “to work effectively and empathetically with autistic candidates and ensure Google’s onboarding processes are accessible and equitable.” He added that the Autism Career Program also aims to “break down the barriers that autistic candidates most often face,” citing the traditional job interview as a common impediment to an autistic candidate’s efforts at getting his foot in the door, because of the lack of accommodations which would enable the candidate to showcase his strengths. For example, allowing for more time for the interviewee to respond to a question or permitting him to answer the questions in writing. No unfair advantage in this case. Rather, the elimination of an unfair disadvantage.

As an autistic individual, I can attest. Back in my high school days when I took the SAT’s, my verbal score took a beating as a result of time running out well before I could finish. Many reading comprehension questions toward the end of the verbal portion went unanswered. In retrospect, it was foolish of me to decline the offer to take the test untimed, choosing instead to be evaluated on the same terms as my classmates. Had I chosen the untimed option, I would not have been granted an unfair advantage. I rejected a necessary accommodation and paid the price on a high stakes exam.

Conversely, I had a music history professor in college who, out of the kindness of her heart, remained in the classroom with me until I completed her exams, sometimes long after time had expired and everybody else had left, no matter how long I took. As a result, I was able to prove the true extent of my knowledge of the topics the exam questions raised. Her flexibility and understanding meant the world to me, knowing that I worked significantly slower than most and that she could have enforced the same expectations equally for everybody in her classes but instead chose to exempt me. I felt understood and valued at a time in my life when I often felt misunderstood and marginalized.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

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Animated photo of the human brain. meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ.

By Alice G. Walton, Forbes

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Homeless Man With Arthritic Hands Rebuilds His Life After Discovering Keyboard App For Easier Typing

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Typewise hexagonal keyboard with blue keys in five rows

By sam.baldwin@typewise.app

A formerly homeless man with a severely deformed hands has been able to rebuild his life after discovering a new way to communicate, thanks to a novel hexagonal smartphone keyboard made in Switzerland.

Russ Miller, 36, from Ohio, was first diagnosed with the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis when he was just 26. The condition attacks the body’s joints, making it progressively more difficult for him to do everyday tasks.

“My hands are deformed. They’re not shaped properly and I can’t bend them like everyone else can. Recently my thumb has stopped working, so I can’t bend it,” said Miller in a letter to the company. “I can no longer use normal computer keyboards and it’s hard for me to even hold a pen anymore.”

Russ’ condition led to a downward spiral which resulted in him living on the streets in Florida for 4 years—but in 2018, he started trying to turn his life around.

“I was trying to get help and get myself out of my situation. I had a phone, but I struggled typing on keyboards… So I started looking for alternative smartphone keyboards that might enable me to type again. I found Typewise by accident.”

Russ attributes Typewise smartphone keyboard with enabling him to “get his life back” by empowering him to communicate with people, and therefore get help, get an apartment and even get a job:

“I was able to communicate a lot better than talking, because my voice is kind of monotone so people don’t understand me very well. And because I was able to start typing on my phone again, I was able to use social media to reach out to an organization that helps people with disabilities.”

It’s the hexagonal layout of the keyboard that Russ finds a whole lot easier. “I can move my fingers around and not mess up as often.”

“Now I have a part-time job where I take care of dogs and cats; Tuesdays and Thursdays. I can’t work full time, because of my physical issues but at least I have something to do and something to look forward to.”

The company making the smartphone app, which has a popularity rating of 4.5 stars, had been unaware that their unique keyboard design could help people with reduced dexterity, until they received Russ’s letter.

Continue on to The Good News Network to read the complete original article.

Photo Credit: Typewise

How to Manage Anxiety as We Re-Enter the World

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Business man with face mask works on laptop computer

By Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

Since the pandemic, all of our lives have changed abruptly. For many, this sudden change led to life circumstances that were vastly different than how we’d lived before.

People across the globe have experienced great challenges including loss, grief, fear, stress, economic destabilization and the psychological impact of monotony.

Despite all of the difficulties, some have benefitted and enjoyed the changed circumstances – including a slower pace of life, more time with family and loved ones at home, new hobbies, less commuting, more sleep and fewer demands of planning and decision making.

Now that restrictions are easing and people are beginning to return to work and school, there is a whole new set of anxieties about what the near-future holds.

For example, those who struggled with social anxiety before the pandemic have had less opportunity to practice engaging with others, which has only increased their social anxiety. People’s anxieties about re-entry include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear of becoming sick with coronavirus, even if they’ve been vaccinated;
  • Self-consciousness and/or fear of engaging in-person with people;
  • Fear of being in public;
  • Uncertainty from a shifting of relationships and concern about who remains their friend;
  • Overwhelm with a flood of personal and professional decisions that were on hold, and
  • Worry about returning to an unhealthy, overly-scheduled life.

Fortunately, most of us now have opportunities to move more slowly and with more say in how we operate with the changes to come.

The following three steps might help you determine what is your unique, best path forward:

Reflect: Assess What You Want to Keep/Let Go – Give yourself time to reflect upon how you want to proceed in the coming months. Journaling and conversations with a trusted friend, colleague, family member or therapist can help you determine what you value and what you want to prioritize in your days. Ask yourself and answer, “What have I enjoyed and valued since the beginning of the pandemic, and what of this do I want to maintain?” Perhaps you want to ensure you continue spending time playing the guitar, baking, painting, or enjoying whatever hobby you cultivated during the pandemic. You might also want to continue monthly Zoom meetings with friends or family in another country or state. Maybe you want to ensure that you continue to have a couple of unstructured hours on the weekend or weeknights to relax. Then, consider and answer the following – “What do I want to let go of that did not serve me well during the pandemic?” Perhaps you have been eating or drinking too much or spending too much time on the computer.

Also, consider writing down what you know you need or want to do, but are scared to do – such as socializing in-person, going back to the lab, or traveling by plane. Acknowledge what you’re afraid of or nervous about with non-judgmental acceptance.

Act: One Step at a Time – Once you’ve taken time to reflect, you can begin to think about what you want to commit to personally and professionally. Even if you’re anxious about that activity or responsibility, gently encourage yourself to take a first step. Anxiety is fueled by avoidance, and the longer one avoids something, the scarier it seems. So do go forward and make plans to meet in-person with a friend, but don’t overextend yourself with too many commitments too soon. Going slowly is also important to help you titrate discomfort. While some discomfort is okay and helps to rebuild the “muscle” of returning to work in-person, commuting or socializing, too much anxiety can inhibit growth and thus thwart your efforts. Enjoy the luxury of choice where you have it, and move slowly and intentionally forward toward your goals and priorities.

Communicate: Your Feelings and Boundaries – When you know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do, you can more clearly communicate this with your friends and colleagues. Practice assertively sharing what you are most comfortable doing for your safety or mental well-being. If you are nervous about returning to the lab, consider speaking to your PI to learn what protocols are in place to ensure a safe work environment and what choices you have to balance work in the lab with work from home. If people invite you to a large gathering, and you prefer to start with a smaller group or an activity in a less crowded environment, let them know that you want to see them, and articulate options that would be most comfortable to you.

Overall, be gentle with yourself as yet again you adapt to change; and, remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support as needed.

Source: National Institutes of Health (oitecareersblog.od.nih.gov)

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

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

BY Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
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The White House announced the new resources on Monday morning, before Biden and Vice President Harris were slated to deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

LeAnn Rimes is still dealing with the mental health impact of ‘traumatic’ childhood stardom

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Rimes has also overcome her personal drama playing out in the public eye.

By Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY

LeAnn Rimes celebrated the 25th anniversary of her album “Blue” this month. But the singer and actress, who became the youngest person to win a Grammy at age 14 for the album, rarely reflects on that time in her life in order to “maintain (her) sanity.”

“I can look back and recognize, I think, how much I have survived,” she told USA TODAY ahead of the second season of her mental health podcast “Wholly Human” (out now on iHeartRadio). “The traumatic parts of it kind of outshadow and outweigh the success and all the accomplishments, so it’s nice to kind of look back and have a have a balanced view of both sides of things.”

Rimes, 38, is “still dealing” with the mental health impact of achieving stardom at such a young age.

“I always joke about this, but it’s not really funny… There was never anyone for me to really call on and say, ‘Hey, how did you get through this?’ Because most all of us that start at that age are dead or still really shaken by the whole experience,” she said.

“I feel like probably one of my greatest accomplishments has been surviving childhood stardom and thriving past it and finding my own healing and my own healing journey because not everyone is so fortunate.”

Rimes has also overcome her personal drama playing out in the public eye. She and husband Eddie Cibrian made headlines when they went public as a couple in 2009. The pair met while they were both married to other people and her husband’s ex, Brandi Glanville, aired details about their family dynamics as a cast members on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

When family situations get stressful, Rimes believes it’s important to have open, honest conversations: “(Try) to do it from a place of loving kindness and understanding and not communicating when we’re triggered and in such a heightened state of arousal. I think that’s super important.”

She hasn’t always been a “boundary queen,” but with time she’s come to understand the importance of setting firm boundaries.

“I think… really knowing when to walk away and give people space and take space for yourself, I think those are all key pieces to family unit survival and communication,” she said.

Rimes said sometimes it’s best to take a break – even when it comes to family.

“There’s a lot of things that are very unhealthy in our society that we’re made to think,” she said. “Just because people are family doesn’t mean that you can’t take a break. I think that’s really important for everyone’s mental health is to know that that is an option.”

A “healthy kind of selfishness” is also OK.

“One of the biggest things that I’m learning for myself is that selfishness is not selfish,” she said. “No one is served from you putting everyone else’s needs before yours. This is something I’m continuing to learn… selfishness is important and self-care.”

Rimes practices self-care in a variety of ways, including a morning routine that involves lymphatic drainage techniques like gua sha on her face, meditation and workouts.

Click here to read the full article on USA Today.

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

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021
  3. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022