‘Framing Britney Spears’ Doesn’t Bring Up Disability and That’s a Problem

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Britney Spears is physically able-bodied, beautiful, and successful. It’s not what disability narratives have historically prized throughout the years.

Everyone has an opinion on Britney Spears, even if you think you don’t. Since the pop star’s infamous series of erratic decisions starting in 2007 — which led to her being placed in a conservatorship for the last 12 years — there have been numerous opinions stated about whether Spears is a prisoner or being protected. This week, FX’s “The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears” sought to lift the veil on what many people have heard about Spears and her confinement, but one word was noticeably absent throughout the hour-long broadcast: disabled.

Last year, as the #FreeBritney movement started up, disabled rights advocate and writer Sara Luterman brought up Spears’ conservatorship with regards to disability rights issues in The Nation. A conservatorship, as Luterman lays it out, is “generally imposed on people with a documented disability who are determined, by a judge, to be unable to care for themselves.” A conservator determines how the conservatee spends their money, takes care of themselves day to day, and anything else falling under a wide swath of things deemed necessary.

As Luterman points out, “Guardianship is most commonly used on young adults with intellectual disabilities and older adults with dementia. It isn’t clear how many people are under guardianship in the United States, but in a 2013 report, the AARP’s ‘best guess’ was 1.5 million Americans.

Yet within “Framing Britney Spears” the topic is never couched with regards to disability. Instead they make it clear that conservatorships are usually reserved for those who are elderly. The distinction is pertinent, as elderly doesn’t always mean disabled — but too often disabled always means elderly. The series also limits their discussions to #FreeBritney allies or those with legal connections to conservatorships, and never does it solicit the opinions of disabled rights advocates.

And this is disturbing, because there are elements of Spears’ life that definitely sound troubling — but when you factor in the more nefarious ways conservatorships control a person’s medical and, especially, sexual and reproductive health, it’s reminiscent of the numerous ways those with disabilities have been controlled and prohibited from being considered actual people.

Read the full article at Indie Wire.

European Space Agency announces call for ‘parastronauts’ with disabilities

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The European Space Agency is diversifying its astronaut pool with its first call for astronauts that is open to candidates with physical disabilities.

In this call for new astronauts, the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade, ESA announced that it plans to accept four to six career astronauts (who will be permanent ESA staff) and about 20 “reserve astronauts,” who could fly for shorter missions to destinations like the International Space Station.

As part of this call for astronaut applicants, ESA Director General Jan Wörner revealed during a recent news briefing that the agency is aiming to bring its first “parastronaut,” or astronaut with physical disabilities, on board, according to SpaceNews.

As part of what it calls the “Parastronaut feasibility project,” “ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as crew members on a safe and useful space mission,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it will open up this opportunity for one or more applicants.

For this parastronaut, who would be the first astronaut with physical disabilities selected not just by ESA but in history, the agency is “looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware,” ESA added in the same statement.

ESA consulted with the Paralympic Committee to determine exactly which physical disabilities would work consistently with space missions, according to a New York Times. Currently, the agency is accepting applicants with leg amputations, significant differences in leg length or who are very short (typically, space agencies have a height minimum for astronaut candidates), according to the Times, though the agency hopes to expand this opportunity to others in the future.

After being recruited, astronaut candidates chosen as part of this project would work with the agency to determine what physical accommodations they might need to fly to space.

Continue on to Space.com to read the complete article.

What To Look For In A Disability Organization

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There’s an important question that may get too little attention in the world of disability services, activism, and culture. If we really care about people with disabilities and disability issues, we should all do better than just tossing pocket change in every fundraising bucket we see, or signing up for every walkathon a coworker’s kid puts in front of us.

But how do we choose which disability-related causes and organizations to support? Some criteria are the same for any kind of charity or organization seeking voluntary support. Look for sound, transparent finances and accounting practices. Make sure they use funds to further an important mission rather than simply enriching top executives. Support organizations that give regular, readable reports of services provided, advocacy accomplishments, and goals achieved. Look for strong oversight by a genuinely representative Board of Directors or similar governing entity.

These are basic tips for choosing any charity or cause, for donations or for volunteering. But what other qualities should we look for specifically in disability organizations? Here are some criteria and questions to ask, and why they are important:

  • Medical research and treatment

This is the most traditional and well-known type of disability organization. Their goals are mainly to fund medical research into treatments and cures for specific disabling conditions, and in some cases to help provide some of those treatments to people with those conditions.

The closest thing to an original is the March of Dimes, started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to find a cure for polio. But the model continues, with some modernizing alterations, in the March of Dimes itself and in other legacy organizations like the Multiple Sclerosis SocietyMuscular Dystrophy AssociationUnited Cerebral Palsy Association, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Notably, many of these organizations are better known to the general public for their fundraising events, and less for the work they do.

  • Direct services

Most disability organizations provide at least some personal and material assistance directly to disabled people and their families. For some, direct service is the main focus. Services can include funding for adaptive equipment, paying for certain high-cost medical procedures, or enriching experiences like support groups and summer camps. In local chapters and offices, direct services may also include one-on-one information, counseling, and advocacy assistance to address disabled people’s everyday needs, concerns, and barriers.

Read the full article at Forbes.

The First Blind Man to Climb Mount Everest and Other Inspiring Athletes Star in Super Bowl Ad

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Erik Weihenmayer

Guaranteed Rate, one of America’s top 5 retail mortgage lenders, announces that the newest ad in its national brand campaign, Believe You Will, will air during this year’s Super Bowl.

The 60-second spot will feature some of the Believe You Will campaign’s ambassadors, including Dustin Poirier, who recently defeated UFC legend Conor McGregor, and Ryan Newman, who will be racing to win his second Daytona 500 next week, marking the one-year anniversary of his infamous, fiery crash.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the most iconic sporting event in the world,” said Guaranteed Rate President and CEO Victor Ciardelli. “Our new Believe You Will campaign is authentically us. We are a mortgage company that believes ‘We Grow For Good’–the more we grow, the more good we can do. We believe people are amazing and can do anything they want in the world; they just have to believe they can.”

Guaranteed Rate’s ad, as well as the entire Believe You Will campaign, was produced by the company’s in-house creative team. The Believe You Will campaign’s ambassadors were identified based on their personal stories and philosophies, which connect directly to the idea that incredible goals can be attained through the power of positivity and belief.

“At Guaranteed Rate, our core values are rooted in the power of belief and positive thinking, to achieve audacious goals,” said Guaranteed Rate Chief Marketing Officer Steve Moffat. “To share that philosophy, we found remarkable stories of people who believed in their abilities to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. We hope that people around the world will be inspired by these stories and will believe that they too can achieve great things.”

The spot airing during the game highlights several of the campaign‘s inspiring ambassadors, including:

  • Dustin Poirier, who believes he will regain the UFC lightweight title after having just defeated the legendary Conor McGregor in a vicious 2nd-round TKO on January 23.
  • Ryan Newman, who believes he will win his second Daytona 500, one year after being in one of the sport’s most shocking crashes ever.
  • Erik Weihenmayer, who believed he could defy the odds to become the first blind person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.
  • Rose Namajunas, who believed she could rise above extremely tough circumstances and become a UFC champion.
  • Seth Jones, who believed that even though his dad was an NBA veteran, he could forge his own path to become an NHL All Star.
  • Starr Andrews, who believes she can accomplish her dream of being an Olympic figure-skating champion in Beijing.
  • The voice of the ad and the entire Believe You Will campaign is motivational speaker and coach Dr. Eric Thomas, known to many as “The Hip Hop Preacher.”

Guaranteed Rate rolled out its Believe You Will campaign after a year of momentous growth for the company as it met record-breaking consumer demand and launched various high-profile sports sponsorships. Well known for its title sponsorship of the Chicago White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field, the company sponsored a wide array of sporting events in 2020, from mainstream sports like NASCAR, IndyCar, MLB and NHL, to more niche sports like professional bass fishing, figure skating, bowling and lacrosse.

To preview Guaranteed Rate’s Believe You Will Super Bowl ad, please visit:
rate.com/about-us/purpose and follow the company on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook @GuaranteedRate and #believeyouwill.

About Guaranteed Rate Companies

The Guaranteed Rate Companies, which includes Guaranteed Rate, Inc., Guaranteed Rate Affinity, LLC, and Proper Rate, LLC, has more than 9,000 employees in over 750 offices across the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, Guaranteed Rate Companies is one of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the United States, funding over $73 billion in 2020. Founded in 2000 and located in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., Guaranteed Rate Companies has helped homeowners nationwide with home purchase loans and refinances. The company has established itself as an industry leader by introducing innovative technology, offering low rates and delivering unparalleled customer service. 2017 marked the launch of Guaranteed Rate Affinity, LLC, a mortgage origination joint venture between Guaranteed Rate, Inc. and Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in residential real estate franchising and brokerage. In 2020, the company launched Proper Rate, LLC, a mortgage origination joint venture between Guaranteed Rate, Inc. and @properties, one of the nation’s largest residential brokerage firms. Collectively, the Guaranteed Rate Companies have earned honors and awards including:Top Lender for Online Service for 2018 byU.S. News & World Report; Best Mortgage Lender for Online Loans and Best Mortgage Lender for Refinancing by NerdWallet for 2021; HousingWire‘s 2020 Tech100 award for the company’s industry-leading FlashCloseSM technology; No. 3 ranking in Scotsman Guide‘s Top Retail Mortgage Lenders 2019;ChicagoAgent Magazine‘s Lender of the Year for five consecutive years; Chicago Tribune‘s Top Workplaces list for seven consecutive years. Visit rate.com for more information.

SOURCE Guaranteed Rate

Ken Ross: “I want to see a disabled person who’s as famous as Brad Pitt on screen”

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The film producer Ken Ross on how having a son with Down syndrome inspired him to promote inclusion in the industry.

Award-winning film producer Ken Ross is calling for more people with disabilities to be seen on TV and film screens all around the world. “If we never give individuals these roles, we’ll never move forward. We don’t need to change people to be the part we want them to be, and we don’t need to be worried about casting someone with a disability,” he says. “You would never ask someone to ‘black up’ to play Nelson Mandela – so why would you ask an actor to ‘impersonate’ someone with a disability?”

Ross has spent the past two decades working with the UK government, the NHS, Bafta and various other institutions to promote greater diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities. And although much has changed for the better (the Baftas and Oscars both recently revamped their diversity requirements, and actors such as Tommy Jessop, who has Down syndrome, are increasingly gaining industry-wide recognition), there is still serious work to be done. Ross says: “We need to get sales agents feeling more comfortable screening films that have people with disabilities. And we’ve got to see people writing their own stories, too.”

Today, despite Covid-19 preventing many TV and film projects from getting off the ground, Ross, who is also a real estate investor, has been screening calls from producers and directors keen to cast more actors with disabilities, among them George Clooney, who is talking to Ross about improving opportunities for people with Down syndrome across the industry. Ross’s last two projects, Innocence and My Feral Heart, both of which star actors with the condition, won various international awards, with Innocence in the running for an Oscar this year.

“Producers call me up and say, ‘Look, I’ve had a part written for this actor after I saw him in your film and was blown away,’” explains Ross. Creating jobs for people with Down syndrome in the film industry is great for both spreading awareness of the condition and showing that it can be seen in a positive light, he adds. “When statistics show that only 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid work, it makes sense to create jobs in the film industry, where you can reach an audience of millions and encourage people to think a little bit more about how they can include others.”

Why TV Writer Katherine Beattie Stopped Hiding Her Disability: ‘We Need Disabled People In All Levels’

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By Allison Norlian for Forbes.

These days, work looks a lot different for Katherine Beattie. A producer on CBS’s hit procedural drama NCIS: New Orleans, Beattie and the rest of her colleagues had to adjust their storytelling to fit Covid-19 protocols.

They now meet remotely to produce each episode of season 7 versus being on set. They are also shooting in fewer locations, with fewer action scenes, and mask-wearing is mandatory. The most significant change for Beattie, who has worked on the show since its inception in 2014, is not traveling to New Orleans to shoot.

Adjusting has been an arduous task for almost everyone involved – but not necessarily for Beattie, who has spent her entire life adapting to a world not built for her.

Beattie was born with cerebral palsy, a group of movement disorders impacting muscle tone and posture. CP happens as the brain is developing before birth and affects how a person’s brain communicates with their muscles. CP affects everyone diagnosed differently. For Beattie, having CP means tight muscles and getting tired quickly. She didn’t need mobility aids for much of her upbringing, but she has used a wheelchair full-time for almost eight years in her personal life. In her professional life, though, she’s only used a wheelchair for four years.

That’s because, for a while, she hid her disability.

Beattie, 34, grew up in Los Angeles County and was tangentially involved in the entertainment industry. Her

(Image Credit – Forbes)

father, who worked in politics, would often take political candidates to screenings of The Tonight Show, and sometimes Beattie and her twin sister would tag along.

Beattie loved being backstage and meeting the celebrities. At this point, she knew she wanted to work in television in some capacity, but it would take years before she realized she wanted to be a screenwriter. She eventually decided to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and majored in their Radio, Television, and Film program.

Through a contact at The Tonight Show, Beattie landed an internship at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After graduation, in 2008, Beattie was offered a job at the show in their human-interest department. She assisted the producer with all non-celebrity segments. Beattie loved her coworkers and working for the show, she says, but she quickly found herself dissatisfied.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Meet Amanda Gorman, who made history as youngest inaugural poet

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Amanda Gorman stands behind podium smiling with two fingers pointing up while reading her poem

By Tamar Lapin

Originally posted on the New York Post.

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Harvard graduate from California, made US history on Wednesday as the youngest person ever chosen to write a poem for a presidential inauguration.

The Los Angeles native captivated viewers during President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony with her moving rendition of “The Hill We Climb,” a work about unity, healing and perseverance.

“When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” Gorman began her inaugural poem.

She continued: “And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

Mindful of the past, Gorman honored previous inaugural poet Maya Angelou by wearing a ring with a caged bird — a tribute to the writer’s classic memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — gifted to her by Oprah Winfrey.

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted Winfrey, a close friend of the late writer.

Gorman replied: “Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in.”

“Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”

So how did Gorman get here? At just 16, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and her first poetry book, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” was released a year later in 2015.

In 2017, she became the country’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

Gorman, who graduated in May from Harvard University with a degree in sociology, has read for official occasions before.

Having seen perform at the Library of Congress, First Lady Jill Biden asked Gorman late last month to write something to recite on Wednesday.

Gorman had completed a little more than half the work on Jan. 6, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an effort to stop Biden’s win from being certified.

“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman told The Associated Press last week.

She referenced the deadly riot in her work, saying: “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”

“And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman also found commonality with Joe Biden, as both her and the president battled speech impediments.

“Writing my poems on the page wasn’t enough for me,” she told “CBS This Morning.”

“I had to give them breath, and life, I had to perform them as I am. That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

Read the full article on the New York Post

People with disabilities desperately need the vaccine. But states disagree on when they’ll get it.

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By The Washington Post

For weeks, Wendy Lincicome has been asking the same question. She asks it on the phone. She asks it in emails to state officials. She cares for an epileptic blind man with cerebral palsy 24 hours a day, and when he is asleep, she types her question into Google.

“When will people with disabilities get the coronavirus vaccine?” Tens of thousands of Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities — who are two to three times as likely to die of covid-19 — are waiting for an answer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said health-care personnel and residents of long-term-care facilities should be first in line, in phase “1a.” Disability advocates say guidance should be interpreted to include all people with disabilities who receive long-term care, whether in large institutions, smaller group homes or in settings like Lincicome’s, who is paid to live with a North Carolina man who has round-the-clock needs.

But as guidance from the federal government has been translated into vaccine distribution plans made by states, those with disabilities have been downgraded to lower priority status.

D.C. as well as MarylandAlabama and many other states are leaving people with disabilities who live in large institutions and group homes out of their Phase 1a plans, instead moving them to 1b or 1c. In Indiana and Rhode Island, group homes have been pushed to Phase 2, with the likelihood that vaccinations are months away.

Most states make no mention of disabilities in their vaccine plans, leaving people like Lincicome panicking and confused about how long they and those for whom they care will have to wait.

She is terrified that the man who relies on her, 33-year-old Sloan Meek, could end up as another case of a disabled person being allegedly discriminated against in a hospital after falling ill with covid-19. Without her help, or the help of a computer, Meek is extremely limited in what he can communicate to medical professionals.

“They don’t look at Sloan and see what I see,” Lincicome said. “They don’t see the guy who just recorded an album or has an annual Christmas carol concert. They see a wheelchair, and somebody who is laying in their bed all day.”

By North Carolina guidelines, Meek may not qualify for the vaccine until Phase 2, because he doesn’t live in a home with other individuals with disabilities. If Meek lived in Tennessee, according to its state plan, he’d be a part of the very first wave of vaccinations because of the level of care he receives. Though some state plans would count Lincicome — a caregiver known as a “direct support professional” — as a health-care provider to be provided for in Phase 1a, most have no public plans for caregivers in her role.

The lack of consistency is the result of a lack of guidance from the CDC. Other than acknowledging those with Down syndrome should be prioritized along with people with high-risk medical conditions, federal recommendations for vaccine rollout make no explicit mention of any other disabilities.

A CDC spokesman said states could request that intermediate-care facilities, the large, often government-run institutions for the disabled, receive vaccinations through the same pharmacy partnership program as nursing homes. Decades of reform efforts have closed many of those institutions, moving people with disabilities into small group homes or other living situations integrated into their communities.

But despite an estimated 70,000 people living in group homes, the CDC recommendations do not include them, leaving states to decide where inline those residents, and their caregivers, should fall.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration complicated those choices even more by instructing states to begin vaccinating people with high-risk medical conditions and adults 65 and older.

Read the full article at The Washington Post.

Why Disability Issues Should Be A Higher Priority, Even Now

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By Forbes

Disability issues in particular risk being sidelined even more than they usually are. Despite some notable recent success in bringing disability policy to the attention of politicians, disability is still widely regarded as a niche concern.

The phrase “Everything that’s going on” has rarely been so potent. Presidential Election results have been openly challenged in Congress. The Capitol building itself has been physically attacked by a wild but disturbingly directed mob. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be escalating everywhere.

So it may be tempting for elected officials and political strategists to set seemingly specialized concerns aside in 2021 and focus just on a few of the perceived “fundamentals” that are understood to affect “everyone,” rather than narrower “special interests.” Conventional wisdom might suggest that with American democracy literally teetering on the brink, matters like Social Security rules, disability rights laws, and even health care eligibility should be put not just on the back burner, but in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.

This would be a mistake – morally, practically, and politically. Disability issues are far more important and relevant than most people realize. They also offer ground for some tentative returns to a semblance of political bipartisanship, and restoration of faith in society’s ability to do things better. Here are five reasons why disability issues shouldn’t be set aside right now.

The disability community is a large constituency, not a tiny special interest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61 million adults in the U.S. have some kind of disability – that’s 26% of the adult population, or 1 in 4 adults. 13.7% of adults have a mobility disability. 10.8% have cognitive or intellectual disabilities. 5.9% of adults have hearing impairments. And 4.6% have vision impairments. These are all minorities in the numerical sense, compared with the whole U.S. population. But they are all substantial minorities.

We should also count families and friends of disabled people too, as part of a more broadly-defined disability community or constituency. It’s a common mistake to assume that non-disabled spouses, siblings, adult children, and work and school buddies always have the same views and priorities as actual disabled people. But they are at least potential and often genuine allies on disability issues.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Amazon Billionaire Gives ‘Transformational’ Gifts To Disability Nonprofits

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MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott said she gifted more than $4.1 billion to nonprofits in just four months.

Multiple nonprofits serving people with disabilities are receiving an unprecedented and unexpected influx of cash as part of a massive wave of donations from the billionaire ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Easterseals and 22 of its affiliates across the nation said it received $162 million from MacKenzie Scott. Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries International said it received $20 million and additional funds were given to 46 of its affiliates.

The contributions represent the largest either of the groups have ever received. Both of the nonprofits are over 100

(Image Credit – Disability Scoop)

years old.

The money is part of a blitz of donations from Scott who announced in December that she gave over $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across the nation in the preceding four months.

Scott signed the Giving Pledge in 2019, a commitment to give the majority of her wealth to charity.

In a posting on Medium, the philanthropist cited the pandemic, which she described as a “wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and said that she “asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis.”

Read the full article at Disability Scoop.

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