Bumble Is Driving Powerful Change for Disabled Women Like Me

LinkedIn
Bumble founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd at the Fast Company Innovation

The trailblazing social network Bumble has had a busy, history-making month, one that proves the female-focused company’s strategy is poised to shape the future of social media.

First, Bumble rolled out a new policy on body shaming in an effort to “create a kinder and more accepting internet for everyone.”

Their updated terms and conditions explicitly prohibit “unsolicited and derogatory comments made about someone’s appearance, body shape, size, or health. This includes language that can be deemed fat-phobic, ableist, racist, colorist, homophobic or transphobic.”

Users who engage in body shaming, either in their profile or through the app’s chat feature, will receive a warning and repeated violations will result in a permanent ban. To illustrate the prevalence of body shaming, Bumble also released a video featuring disabled users talking about times they were shamed for their bodies.

As a disabled woman, I’ve regularly experienced body shaming on the internet; in fact, the taunts and mocking has steadily increased over the years. People have made fun of my appearance, called me things like “ugly” and “blobfish” and even used my photo in last summer’s cruel new teacher prank on TikTok.

While I mostly just roll my eyes at these comments now, they still hurt because it’s another reminder of just how embedded ableism is in our culture. And it’s also one of the reasons I’ve avoided joining dating apps altogether — I don’t need yet another place to be bombarded by body shaming and ableist rhetoric.

That’s why I was thrilled to see the disability community represented in Bumble’s video. In a world where we continually view disabled bodies as “less than” and unworthy, this ad is the societal pushback we need in 2021. We need to normalize disabilities and disabled bodies and Bumble is taking a much-needed step in that direction.

Bumble user Alex Dacy agrees. The social media influencer, who has spinal muscular atrophy, appeared in the video and was excited to be a part of such a pivotal moment for disability representation, especially coming from a large company like Bumble. The conversation around disabilities and body shaming is long overdue and Dacy is happy to see Bumble leading that conversation.

Read the full article at CNN.

Registries of Disabled People Debated in Police Reform Talks

LinkedIn
a woman and a girl are sitting on the couch

Some police departments around the country are expanding the use of voluntary registries of disabled people to include those with mental illness.

Victoria Mitchell wishes police would have had the full picture of her son’s struggles with mental illness and reacted differently before an officer shot and killed him last year in Ansonia, Connecticut.

Her son, Michael Gregory, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attempted suicide several times. He was in crisis when he was shot on Jan. 2, 2020, while charging officers with a knife, after telling them they were going to have to shoot him.

Mitchell, a nurse who cares for people with mental illness, supports some parts of a proposed statewide law enforcement registry of people with disabilities including mental illness. The idea is being studied by the state’s Police Transparency & Accountability Task Force as a way to alert officers about someone’s disability and avoid deadly use of force.

“Maybe had something like that had been available, they would have proceeded differently — knowing that he’s not in his right mind,” she said. “They could have called someone in to de-escalate the situation.”

The Connecticut proposal would be a major expansion of voluntary registry programs already in place at a large number of police departments across the country, which are primarily aimed at helping officers find people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who go missing and get them back home.

A smaller number of departments have added people with autism and bipolar disorder in efforts to improve their interactions with people with developmental and mental health disabilities, in response to public outcries about shootings by police.

Since 2015, nearly a quarter of the nearly 6,000 fatal shootings by police in the U.S. have involved mentally ill people, according to a Washington Post database of police shootings.

Advocates for disabled people, however, said there are significant problems with the registries including further stigmatizing people with disabilities and privacy concerns.

Read the full article at ABC News.

Here’s What Nike’s First Hands-Free Sneaker Means For People With Disabilities

LinkedIn
Hands free nike shoe design

On Monday, Nike announced the release of its first-ever hands-free sneaker, called the GO FlyEase. Available in three colorways, the style is an advancement of the brand’s FlyEase series, which was originally designed to improve the lives of athletes with disabilities, using zippers and straps rather than laces.

Monday’s release takes that design a step further, with technology that allows wearers to step into their shoes without a single adjustment or closure point. Like the original FlyEase, the GO FlyEase sneakers were designed to make the act of putting on and taking off shoes for the one in four people who have a disability easier. “Usually, I spend so much time [getting into] my shoes,” said Beatrice “Bebe” Vio — a fencer and Paralympic winner, who walks using prosthetic legs — in a press release. (Vio tested the shoe for Nike.) “With the Nike GO FlyEase, I just need to put my feet in and jump on it. The shoes are a new kind of technology, not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone’s real life.”

But while the GO FlyEase hands-free sneakers appear to be a gamechanger for people with disabilities, many assumed that the sneaker was nothing but a comfortable alternative to traditional, lace-up footwear. Rather than innovative, users on Twitter called the design “lazy” and “weird.” In turn, those who recognized that the GO FlyEase shoes could positively impact the lives of many people defended it.

“Before anyone jumps to criticize [Nike’s GO FlyEase sneaker] for its ‘laziness,’ instead think about how THIS is what accessibility can look like, and how this could benefit people with disabilities,” tweeted I’m Not Wearing Pants. Others joined in below her post, sharing reasons for why they believe the GO FlyEase sneakers are inventive, telling firsthand stories about people who could benefit from hands-free shoes. “I have a family member who was in a bad car accident,” tweeted Buckaroo Vito. “Their range of motion is so bad their partner has to tie their shoes for them. These shoes, if they made a range of styles, would be great for them!” Before long, the post by I’m Not Wearing Pants had over 199,000 likes and more than 39,000 retweets, most of which mirrored the sentiment.

Continue to the original article at Refinery.

Is the Beauty Industry Glossing Over Disability?

LinkedIn
Close up image of a black woman in a wheelchair doing her makeup

As marketing moves to be more inclusive, people with visible disabilities are still largely missing from mainstream beauty ads. Teacher and advocate Xian Horn discusses the changes she hopes the industry makes next.

Growing up a biracial Asian girl with an X in my name who had Cerebral Palsy and walked with two adapted ski poles for support, I never expected to see myself represented. I identified strongly with other women, but I was too niche and, for the most part, I liked that. My family cultivated the best in me, so I grew up believing my disability was an

(Getty Images. Design by Bella Geraci)

asset. My mom, an art director for Estée Lauder and Avon, always said, “There’s always going to be someone smarter than you, prettier than you, taller than you, and that’s OK, just be you.” But not everyone receives that level of support, and the beauty industry has long touted a perfectionist, no-flaw standard free of wrinkles and stretch marks. Perhaps it is this vantage point that the industry struggles with marketing the beauty of disability. The beauty industry created a fantasy that society still feels pressured to make a reality.

It was in 2006, after this Dove Evolution video was viewed by millions, that I noticed mainstream advertising imagery that included plus-size and older women with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Two years later, I got excited when a photo of a plus-size model with her belly exposed went viral. This is also when I realized no beauty company had focused on disability.

In 2010, a friend helped me film a 1-minute pitch to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in my mother’s living room in which I asked the otherwise inclusive brand to start also including people with disabilities. Once on YouTube, the pitch’s visibility expanded, with people around the world watching and sharing its message. I received letters of support from people in the Philippines, Australia, Japan, and all over the U.S.

Read the full article at Allure.

LUCI Reimagines Modern Mobility through Wheelchair Smart Technology

LinkedIn
woman dressed in all yellow seated in a LUCI wheelchair

LUCI, a company that is reimagining modern mobility, today announced the release of its premier product also named LUCI.
It’s a first-of-its-kind hardware and software platform that uses sensor-fusion technologies to allow a power wheelchair to “see” its environment, giving riders unprecedented stability, security and cloud connectivity.
LUCI mounts onto a power wheelchair between the power base and the seat, to help users avoid collisions and dangerous drop-offs while maintaining personalized driving control.

Through cloud-based capabilities, LUCI can also monitor and alert users and caregivers of low battery, possible tipping scenarios, and other important updates regarding the chair and the user.

Tipping over in a wheelchair is a common, treacherous reality, which often leads to trips to the hospital and expensive healthcare bills. In fact, 87 percent of wheelchair users reported at least one tip or fall in the past three years. Wheelchair accidents were the cause of more than 175,000 ER visits in 2010 — the last year the data was tracked — and 30,000 of those were significant enough for admission into the hospital.

“Wheelchair users were left behind when it comes to most innovative technology,” said Barry Dean, CEO and founder of LUCI, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, whose daughter Katherine, 19, has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair her whole life. “We realized no one else was working on this problem in a meaningful way so my brother Jered (Dean, CTO of LUCI) and I set out to create a solution for Katherine. What started as a labor of love among family members has ultimately created a safer, more stable way for people with disabilities to navigate their world and stay connected to loved ones. Today, we’re excited to launch LUCI and continue collaborating with researchers, universities and other companies using our open platform to move the industry forward together.”

The LUCI team spent the past two and half years collaborating with clinical professionals and logging over 25,000 hours of user testing to develop an invention to help people with physical disabilities drive safely, precisely and independently. LUCI’s R&D efforts have already resulted in a total of 16 patents (eight pending).

“When we started tinkering with my niece Katherine’s chair, we had no idea where this journey would lead,” said Jered Dean, CTO, who has spent two decades in design and systems engineering, most recently serving as director of the Colorado School of Mines’s Capstone Design@Mines program. “From developing advancements in millimeter-wave radar technology to collaborating with engineering leaders from Intel® RealSense™ Technology group to maximize the application of some of the world’s smartest cameras, I’m incredibly proud of the unprecedented work our team has accomplished to solve the challenges our customers face.”

LUCI’s technology combines stereovision, infrared, ultrasonic and radar sensors to offer users these critical features:
● Collision avoidance: LUCI is designed to prevent wheelchair users from running into objects (walls, people, pets, furniture, etc.) as they navigate their daily lives. It does this by smoothly helping to navigate the chair in coordination with user steering inputs based on obstacle detection in the driver’s surroundings.
● Drop-off protection: It doesn’t take a large drop-off to tip a wheelchair (less than three inches in some cases). LUCI helps users avoid tipping by recognizing steps or drop-offs and smoothly helping the chair continue on a safer path.
● Anti-tipping alert system: LUCI monitors the steepness of a ramp or the ground users are driving on and provides an audible alert if it becomes a tipping danger. In the event that a chair tips over, LUCI sounds an alarm and can be configured to quickly alert other individuals, such as a caregiver or loved one, of the exact location of the rider and the tipped chair.
● Cloud-based communications and alerts: The MyLUCI portal allows users to view their data and share it with loved ones or clinicians. LUCI can be set up to alert others of specific events, such as the user’s location if their battery gets dangerously low. LUCI also now works with Hey Google and Amazon Alexa so users can interact with MyLUCI using their voice. MyLUCI portal is available as mobile apps for both iOS and Android™ phones, as well as for desktop with the Web Portal.
● Secure health monitoring: LUCI users can choose to share their heart rate data with their team using either Google Fit* or Apple Health- Kit from day one. Based in Nashville, with R&D headquarters in Denver, Colo., LUCI was founded by Barry and Jered Dean—two brothers who were driven to innovate from personal experience and committed to create change for people living with disabilities.

For more info, visit luci.com.

“What started as a labor of love among family members has ultimately created a safer, more stable way for people with disabilities to navigate their world and stay connected to loved ones.”
— Barry Dean, CEO and founder of LUCI.

2 Blind Brothers Launch Clothing Company to Raise Money Toward Finding a Cure for Blindness

LinkedIn

New York brothers Bryan and Bradford Manning lost their vision due to a rare genetic eye disorder. Their new clothing brand, Two Blind Brothers, is funding research for a cure.

What would you do if the world around you started disappearing? When Bradford Manning began to lose his vision at about 5 years old, “panic and anxiety set in,” he tells PEOPLE. Two years later, a doctor diagnosed Manning with Stargardt disease — a rare genetic eye disorder that can cause blindness. Manning’s younger brother, Bryan, would soon be diagnosed with the same condition.

Growing up with the disease came with its many challenges and awkward moments, the brothers note:

(Image credit: Courtesy Two Blind Brothers)

meeting a new friend and immediately forgetting what they look like, constantly squinting to see what a teacher writes on the chalkboard, not being able to drive.

It can be super isolating,” Bryan, 30, says. “People can’t see your visibility, so you deal with people who make comments or do things that can really hurt if you aren’t willing to own up to who you are.”

The New York brothers have dedicated their lives — and work — to finding a cure for eye diseases like theirs. In 2016, they founded the clothing brand Two Blind Brothers, which simulates the experience of shopping while blind. All profits benefit organizations like the Foundation for Fighting Blindness that research prevention, treatments, and cures for degenerative eye conditions.

Read the full article at PEOPLE.

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

LinkedIn
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

 

3 Ways Elevating the Narrative on Disabilities Leads to Business Success

LinkedIn
A woman in a wheelchair, going down a hallway

By Sheryl Snapp Conner of Entrepreneur 

In a recent column, I introduced Ric Nelson, a 37-year-old disability advocate in Anchorage, Alaska. Nelson has cerebral palsy and requires full-time assistance to manage his physical needs. Despite his challenges, he’s dedicated his career to advancing programs and understanding of the disabled in Alaska (which ranks third in the U.S. for the strength of its programs) and throughout the U.S.

After graduating in the top 10 percent of his high school class, Nelson secured associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Small Business Management and Business Administration on scholarship, followed by a master’s degree in Public Administration.

Nelson serves on multiple boards and has testified in Washington D.C. toward advances in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Appointed in 2007, After six years’ service as a committee member of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education (GCDSE), he was elected as the program chair for two years and hired as a staff member from September 2015 until September 2020 as the program’s Employment Program Coordinator.

Most recently Nelson has assumed the role of Advocacy and Outreach Specialist for The ARC of Anchorage, one of 600 U.S. locations for The Arc of the United States, an organization launched by parents of people with developmental disabilities in the 1950s and headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The Covid-19 recession has hit the disabled particularly hard, Nelson says. The disabled have lost nearly 1M jobs between March and May of 2020. Complicating factors include jobs that ended due to the extra risk of immunocompromised conditions and the predominance of lower-level positions in industries that have been most heavily hit. With DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion) becoming one of the highest priorities for this year’s end and the seasons to follow, what do businesses need to know and do to support the disabled from here forward?

In an interview, Nelson reinforced the need for self-advocacy among the disabled and the need for greater awareness and education of the businesses and communities they serve. Public perception is tantamount, he says, to avoid the creation of further problems by the very solutions we attempt to create.

For example, he notes the extreme difficulty (and even impossibility) of having a savings account when government programs assume any earning potential should be used to reimburse the cost of Medicare needs.

“The cost to Medicare of a full-time assistant may be $100,000, regardless of the person’s activities,” Nelson says. “But if a fully-employed disabled person makes $50,000 or $80,000 – a rarity in itself – and loses their qualification for Medicare funds, they can’t go to work without suddenly incurring this debt.”

Other issues include the right to continued health care benefits if they marry, or to put away retirement savings or to maintain equivalent benefits if they move to a different state. Many of these issues require continued advocacy to state and federal agencies.

Continue to Entrepreneur.com to read the full article. 

Collettey’s Cookies Founder Helps Others with Disabilities

LinkedIn
Collette Divitto holding a bag of her cookies

By Kellie Speed

After applying for numerous jobs and receiving countless rejections, Collette Divitto did what not too many young ladies her age might do after college – she decided to start her own business.

Born with Down Syndrome, Divitto has now made it her personal mission to beat all odds and help others with disabilities.

The Ridgefield, Connecticut, native and disability activist graduated from Clemson University’s three-year LIFE program in just two years. Shortly after that, she moved to Boston in search of employment. “I went on about nine interviews and would have a cup of coffee with the CEO and talked about their company, but days later I would always get an email saying it was great to meet you in person, but that I was not a good fit,” she told us in a Zoom interview.

No stranger to facing rejection over the years, the headstrong Divitto knew she would have to reinvent herself. With her mother (and biggest cheerleader), Rosemary, by her side, they developed a marketing plan to do what Collette has always loved doing – baking cookies.Collette holding a tray of cookies

“Collette had a teacher back in high school, who said that she could make baking a profession because she is the best student in the class and helps everyone else in the class,” Rosemary said. “I would always tell Collette I would help her as best as I could to have the life she wanted, but it was Collette who has to do all of the work. She had a mantra that she used to say to herself all the time growing up – ‘I deserve the best for me’ – and that has helped build her confidence, be clear about what she wants, and set herself up to work hard to achieve it.”

After learning the basics of baking in high school, Collette began creating new recipes to have her family taste test. The standout was one filled with chocolate chips, rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked to a golden perfection. Originally dubbed “The Amazing Cookie,” it’s now one of her best sellers.

Collette posing with a plate of cookies and a glass of milkToday, she has a thriving online cookie business known as Collettey’s Cookies (Click here to visit her website) that serves up everything from her personal favorite (and the now famous) crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, chocolate chip cinnamon cookies to the popular chewy peanut butter cookies.

With 13 employees and three interns in her Boston kitchen, the Collettey’s team bakes twice a week and ships to customers four to five days a week. “In four hours, they make and bake between 2,000 to 3,000 cookies,” Collette said. “Some of these cookies have to go right into storage containers to avoid getting too hard too fast if not stored immediately, so there are extra precautions they have to take with each cookie along with all of the sanitization requirements.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Collette decided to create a specialty gift package for essential workers and first responders. The response she received was so overwhelming that she wanted to give back as well. She decided that for all cookies ordered, she would personally match the number of cookies in each order. Right now, she is wrapping up filming for a TV show that will feature select entrepreneurs like Collette, who have faced major challenges in life but were successful in overcoming them.

Collette, who loves chocolate, is in the process of perfecting yet another cookie – this one made with espresso and dark chocolate. She first tested the recipe with milk chocolate and cocoa powder, but determined “it wasn’t rich enough.”Collette holding a cookie in front of a large tray of cookies

Today, this big-hearted young lady is setting out to prove to the world (one cookie at a time) that with a positive attitude and determination, you can do anything. “I would say to people with disabilities do not focus on your disabilities,” she said. “You need to focus on your abilities. Do not give up on your dreams. Do not let people bring you down, and my favorite saying is, ‘No matter who you are, you can make a difference in this world.’”

Luckily for Collette, she has already done just that.

Rehiring the Smart Way: Mainstreaming Disability in Recruiting Strategies

LinkedIn
A woman in a wheelchair accepting a pen and paper from a fellow employee

By Tamala Scott

As we envision a return to normal following the pandemic, many businesses find themselves in a position of having to rehire staff to ramp back up to pre-COVID productivity and revenue.

While traditional sourcing strategies—such as online job boards, newspaper ads, staffing agencies— may secure employees in the short-term, your recruiting strategy may be missing the mark in reaching a valuable yet untapped resource—job seekers with disabilities. This article will shed light on the multiple advantages that businesses gain from hiring people with disabilities, beginning by dispelling three of the most common myths that deter businesses from actively recruiting jobseekers with disabilities. We also offer a few key strategies on how to get started on your inclusion journey.

Cost. The first and perhaps most insidious myth is that hiring people with disabilities is a costly practice. The Job Accommodation Network has surveyed nearly 3,000 employers since 2004 to ask them about their accommodation practices and costs. Nearly 60 percent of all of those surveyed have reported reasonable accommodation costs of $0 for their employees with disabilities, while the remaining respondents report an average cost per individual of $500 or less. The same study also lists numerous cost-saving benefits for providing a streamlined and comprehensive reasonable accommodation strategy, including employee retention, increased employee productivity and improved workplace safety.

Productivity. Another misconception is that employees with disabilities are less productive than their peers. One of the country’s leading disability-inclusive employers, Walgreen’s, conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of its disability hiring strategy within its distribution centers. Among the three areas the study examined was the productivity, safety and turnover among its staff with and without disabilities. The study concluded that Walgreens’ employees with disabilities typically outperform or perform at the same level as their colleagues without disabilities, while also experiencing less safety-related incidents and remaining in their positions for longer.

On a macro-level, disability-inclusive companies are also proven to perform better than their industry counterparts. A landmark study conducted by Accenture in 2018 shows that businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusion within their workforce outperform their industry peers and are better able to respond to business challenges.

Difficulty finding talent. The labor force with disabilities has historically been—and remains—underemployed relative to the overall national labor force. The unemployment rate among jobseekers with disabilities is 1.5 times that of jobseekers without disabilities. Despite recent data showing a narrowing employment gap between graduates with and without disabilities, graduates with disabilities report that they are more likely to get part-time or temporary positions and earn on average less than their peers without disabilities. Qualified talent is out there, but due to the barriers to employment, many of these jobseekers with disabilities remain invisible to employers that could benefit immensely from their skill.

For the first time in history, business leaders are realizing that hiring jobseekers with disabilities is not simply the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do for their business. Despite that, many businesses get stuck trying to figure out where to start in their disability inclusion efforts. Here are some achievable steps to getting YOUR business started on a path to a stronger and more inclusive diversity strategy:

Create a group of champions. As a first step, establish a core group of passionate individuals within your business that are willing to dedicate time and resources toward advancing your initiative. This group should include people from a variety of different departments and leadership levels within the company so that there are as many diverse perspectives and skillsets represented as possible.

Cultivate buy-in. Creating a disability-inclusive workplace requires that changes be made to an organization’s culture, operations, recruiting and hiring practices, and many other facets. Now that the business case has been made, your champions need to create an airtight pitch and messaging campaign to inform staff and leadership at multiple levels of the “how” and the “why” to have a disability-inclusive workplace.

Develop partnerships with local and national disability organizations. Once your internal support is secured, the next step is to seek out the expertise from local and national disability agencies to familiarize yourselves with the local disability community and find that aforementioned talent. Establishing your business as a disability-inclusive employer to the surrounding disability community is an important step toward getting individuals with disabilities to join your team.

Start small. It is important to keep an eye on the big picture and how to fold disability inclusion into multiple facets of your organization, but it is even more important to start small to develop a sound strategy that can be scaled in the future. Start small and aim for small wins before scaling.

Thinking about starting a disability hiring initiative? Contact The Arc@Work.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Lumen

Lumen

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Verizon

Verizon