US Eases Student Loan Relief for Those With Disabilities

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Graduation cap sitting on a pile of giant money coins next to a pencil holder in front of a blackboard

BY COLLIN BINKLEY, U.S. News

The U.S. Education Department is canceling student debt for more than 40,000 Americans who were previously granted loan forgiveness because of disabilities but later had their debt reinstated after they failed to submit certain paperwork, the agency announced Monday.

The action targets a loan forgiveness program that aims to help people with disabilities but that critics say carries overly burdensome rules. After being granted loan forgiveness, borrowers are required to submit documentation of their earnings for three years. If their earnings go beyond certain thresholds — or if they fail to submit documentation — they’re back on the hook for their loans.

Acknowledging the program’s challenges, the Education Department said it will relax the rules during the coronavirus pandemic and consider other changes to the reporting requirements in the future.

Until the federal government declares an end to the pandemic, more than 190,000 borrowers who are now in the three-year monitoring period will not be required to submit proof of their earnings, the agency said. Another 41,000 who had debt reinstated over paperwork issues will again get loan forgiveness, amounting to a combined $1.3 billion.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said borrowers with disabilities should not “put their health on the line” to submit earnings information.

The measure was a disappointment to advocates who have called for a total overhaul of the program. Student Defense, a Washington legal group, said the action helps a small fraction of borrowers eligible for the program. The group has urged Biden to automatically clear loans for all eligible borrowers, and to eliminate the monitoring period permanently.

Alex Elson, senior counsel for the group, said the new measure “is not a victory for students.”

“There are roughly 400,000 borrowers with disabilities who the Social Security Administration has already determined are legally owed debt relief,” he said. “The Department of Education knows exactly who they are but is choosing to do nothing for them.”

A senior department official briefing reporters said the agency is exploring permanent changes to the program, but that they would have to go through a federal rule-making process that requires months of negotiation.

The program was created to help people who are “totally and permanently disabled” and unable to generate significant income.

Borrowers are eligible if they can submit documentation of a mental or physical disability that has continued at least five years or is expected to last for that long. During the monitoring period, their incomes must not exceed the poverty level for a family of two in their state.

The program came under scrutiny in 2016 after a federal watchdog found that the income reporting rules were a major hurdle for borrowers. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that in 98% of cases in which loans were restored, it was because borrowers did not submit the right paperwork, and not because they were earning too much.

Click here to read the full article on US News.

The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome turns his winning moment into a growing movement for inclusion

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The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome races forward for inclusion

By Julia M. Chan, CNN

Chris Nikic’s journey to becoming an elite athlete began with a single step. What kept him going was a single recipe for success: get “1 percent better” every day.

“One percent — stick with that goal,” Chris says. “If you stick with that goal, (you) can succeed and be a successful person.”

Last fall, Chris showed the world the power of small but consistent improvement, setting a Guinness World Record as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, ending with a 26.2-mile marathon. But crossing that finish line was only the beginning.

Now, the 22-year-old Special Olympics Champion Ambassador from the Orlando area is on a mission to promote inclusion and highlight human potential.

Early hurdles

From birth, Chris faced a number of cognitive, physical, and sensory challenges, according to his mother, Trish Nikic. He underwent open-heart surgery at five months old and years of therapy to help with things like eating, speech, and balance.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle he encountered, though, was how other people perceived him.

“People treated me different,” Chris recalls. “They were telling me that I can’t do that or can’t do this.”

When Chris was eight, he and his family found a supportive and welcoming community in Special Olympics Florida. Inspired by his athletic older sister, Chris eagerly took to sports like basketball, golf, and track.

Their true benefits went beyond exercise for the growing boy. Athletics “gave him an opportunity to be socially included with others,” Chris’ father, Nik Nikic says.

Leveling up

As Chris got older, he became more sedentary while recovering from a series of ear surgeries. After Special Olympics Florida launched its triathlon program in 2018, Chris’ parents encouraged him to try it to get in shape and have fun.

“The first time he ever did a sprint with Special Olympics, he came in dead last,” Trish says. “But you know what? Chris was happy.”

Chris soon outgrew his first triathlon coach. Dan Grieb, the captain of a local triathlon club, came on board to help take Chris to the next level. In a year and a half of training, Chris went from the couch to a sprint 14-mile triathlon.

Chris set his sights on a half IRONMAN race scheduled for May 2020. When Covid-19 forced organizers to scrap the official event, Chris and his team held their own race. CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 followed Chris’ journey, ultimately ending with him qualifying to compete in the full IRONMAN competition in Panama City.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Next Big Thing: ‘Eternals’ Star Lauren Ridloff on Becoming Marvel’s First Deaf Superhero

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“I’m hoping that more people are going to be able to dream bigger,” says Lauren Ridloff of playing the first deaf superhero in a Marvel film. COURTESY OF ERIK CARTER

BY ABBEY WHITE, The Hollywood Reporter.

Being a superhero wasn’t part of Lauren Ridloff’s plan. The Eternals star wanted to be a children’s book author before an American Sign Language tutoring gig for the director of Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God led to a starring role in the show’s revival.

Theater, she says, is a “much more natural and inviting medium for deaf actors,” and the production came fully staffed with a toolbox ready to support its deaf and hearing artists. But coming off that critically praised performance in 2018, Ridloff wasn’t sure she wanted to keep acting. TV and movies weren’t a place she had seen herself represented growing up, instilling the idea that it couldn’t be part of her dream.

Yet, after scoring The Walking Dead as her first TV role, Ridloff found herself in demand. Now, she’s set to star in the Chloé Zhao-directed Marvel movie that will take her and deaf representation to marvelous new heights when it releases on Nov. 5.

During her transition from stage to screen, Ridloff says she’s felt like she wanted to prove she’s easy to work with, something that has led to her not always advocating for what she needed as an actor. But being on this massive Marvel production full of A-listers who “know exactly what they want” helped change her outlook.

Ahead of The Eternals’ anticipated release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ridloff about her journey from stage to screen, how working on a blockbuster as an emerging actor changed her perception of self-advocacy on set, and why the Eternals cast wasn’t sure what to expect in the final cut.

Your journey to acting was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. Before that Broadway break-out, what were your acting ambitions and how have those changed?

My goal growing up was to write a book. That’s why I studied English and creative writing in college, and that is a big reason I started teaching. I wanted to write children’s books. I felt that the best way to understand how a child thinks in their mind is to be with them all day. So I started teaching because of that. I didn’t dream of acting. I didn’t want to pursue acting. I had some acting experience — your basic high school play, or I was a part of a performance group in college, a dance group. I just didn’t see enough people on the screen like myself. Every once in a while, like maybe Marlee Matlin, I saw on the big screen, and then years went by, and you would see somebody appear on one episode of a TV show or another episode there. Acting on Broadway came so completely as a surprise to me. It wasn’t part of my plan.

And, yes, absolutely, my goals have changed since I’ve gotten into acting. When I was on Broadway, my manager was interested in pursuing and looking for other projects, and I told him to then I didn’t know if I wanted to continue acting. Maybe this was just a one-time thing. I wasn’t even sure if it was my thing. But then, when I saw the theater audience full night after night, and I saw the lines forming at the back door, I realized that my classroom just got a lot bigger. I made a bigger impact here. It seems like I can act, and I enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a character, which is very connected to reading and writing. When you write, you need to drop into that character and how it represents itself on the page. So I felt like it was a very natural leap into acting because of that.

Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

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Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

By Brandon May, Neurology Advisor

Strength training is associated with improvements in muscle strength, gait speed, balance, and gross motor function in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy, according to study results published in Clinical Rehabilitation.

Prior research on the effects of physical training on improving functional mobility and gross motor skills has been mixed. For example, some studies have found that with muscle strengthening, muscle strength improves but not function. Other studies have reported improvement in motor activity and functions such as gait. The objective of the current study was to review the most recent data on the effect of strength training on function, activity, and participation in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.

The meta-analysis included 27 randomized controlled trials which evaluated muscle strength training in children, adolescents, and young adults (age range, 3-22 years) with spastic cerebral palsy. In the pooled cohort of 873 patients, a total of 452 patients underwent strength training, while the remaining patients participated in a different physical therapy technique or were assigned to a control group with no physical therapy.

Researchers excluded 3 studies, yielding 24 studies in the meta-analysis. According to the researchers, there were significant standardized mean differences that were in favor of the strength training techniques vs other physical therapy techniques or control in terms of improvements in muscle strength at the knee flexors, muscle strength at the knee extensor, muscle strength at the plantar flexors, maximum resistance, balance, gait speed, Gross Motor Function Measure (global, D and E dimension), as well as spasticity.

A limitation of this meta-analysis, according to the researchers, was the high levels of moderate risk and high risk of bias among analyzed studies. Additionally, the studies in the meta-analysis did not assess the long-term effect of muscle strength training in this population. Given this limitation, the investigators noted that children with cerebral palsy should perform “high-intensity strength training regularly to maintain and ideally accumulate benefits over time.”

Click here to read the full article on Neurology Advisor.

Amy Purdy–Living Beyond Limits

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Amy Prdy collage of images including snowboarding and dancing witht he stars

By Brady Rhoades

If you were to read Amy Purdy’s medical history, you’d be introduced to a journey that, for many, could feel incredibly daunting.

If you were to check out her accomplishments as a snowboarding champion, a renowned motivational speaker, a dancer, an actress, a model, a podcaster, a New York Times bestselling author and a philanthropist, you’d be introduced to her toughness and will.

And if you watched her shredding the slopes on her way to medaling in the Paralympics or ball-rooming her way into America’s hearts on “Dancing with the Stars,” you’d start to see the big picture.

Purdy’s mantra? “Live beyond limits.”

“Live beyond limits became my mantra very organically. I personally never liked being told what I could or couldn’t do,” said Purdy, 41. “I always wanted to figure out what the possibilities were. Snowboarding, for example, felt impossible at first, and I could have just walked away but I got creative, made my own feet and figured out a way to not just do it again but to excel at it. I’m so grateful that I never gave up.”

The Fight of Her Life

Amy Purdy dancing with Derek Hough in front of live audience outside
Adaptive snowboarder, Paralympian, motivational speaker and actress Amy Purdy poses for a portrait while snowboarding. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Born in Las Vegas in 1979, Purdy was just 19 years old when she contracted bacterial meningitis. She was given a two percent chance to survive. She lost both of her legs below the knees, lost both of her kidneys and her spleen (she later received a kidney transplant from her father).

Purdy met the challenge head-on, weathering unthinkable surgeries and rehab, teaming with medical experts, designing her own prosthetic feet and legs (through trial and error, sometimes with chunks of wood) and never losing sight of her goals.

“There’s always going to be something preventing you from your goal, whether it’s a loss of legs or anything else, but you’ll never be happy if you surrender to circumstances,” she said.

Purdy’s immediate goal after her initial diagnosis was to snowboard again. After getting prosthetic legs, she achieved that. It turned out to be the start of big things.

Purdy eventually won a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics and a silver in 2018. She formed a non-profit organization — Adaptive Action Sports — along with her husband, Daniel Gale, who is also a competitive snowboarder, to get snowboarding included in the Paralympics. Adaptive Action Sports, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, targets those with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing). Their organization, founded in 2005, also trains athletes with physical disabilities to qualify for the U. S. Snowboard Team. Purdy believes part of her mission is helping others with health challenges.

Amy Purdy snowboarding
Adaptive snowboarder, Paralympian, motivational speaker and actress Amy Purdy snowboards at Arapahoe Basin. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
“It was an evolution from losing my legs, relearning to snowboard, helping others learn to snowboard and finally getting it into the Games.”

Purdy began snowboarding seven months after she received her prosthetic legs. About a year after her legs were amputated, she finished third in a snowboarding competition at Mammoth Mountain.

On Her Own Two Feet

In 2003, Purdy was recruited by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) as a spokesperson. At the time, she didn’t live far from the CAF headquarters, as she and Daniel had moved back to San Diego to pursue surfing.

In San Diego, she continued her pre-amputee profession as a massage therapist. She also started working for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer, as its Amputee Advocate.

On top of all that, Purdy has numerous television and film credits. In 2012, Purdy and her now husband Daniel Gale participated on the 21st season of The Amazing Race.

After nearly winning the first leg of the race, they were the second team eliminated and finished in 10th place out of 11 teams.

In 2014, Purdy was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” Paired with five-time champion Derek Hough, Purdy was the first double amputee contestant to ever appear on the show. Hough was, at the time, fresh from winning his fifth Mirrorball trophy and did not plan on coming back to the show.

Amy Purdy signs copies of On My Own Two Feet at Bookends Bookstore
Amy Purdy signs copies of On My Own Two Feet at Bookends Bookstore. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
However, he changed his mind when Purdy joined the show as a contestant. Purdy wowed judges from the get-go, and kept improving. She never received a score lower than 8. She received her first perfect score (40 out of 40) for her eighth dance, the Argentine tango, after having an intense back injury the week prior. She eventually made it the finale, where she finished as a runner-up to Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis.

In 2015, Purdy was featured in a Super Bowl advertisement for the Toyota Camry. The ad showed Purdy snowboarding, dancing and adjusting her prosthetic legs to a voiceover of Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech.

Purdy has penned a memoir titled, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life (HarperCollins), created a podcast (“Bouncing Forward”) and carved out a lucrative and inspirational career as a motivational speaker.

Among her accolades, along with two Paralympic medals, are being named one of ESPNW’s Impact 25 and one of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 visionaries and influential leaders.

Purdy says that healing is never a linear process; it’s full of ups, downs, twists, turns, setbacks, victories.

And it’s lifelong.

Moving Forward

After experiencing medical setbacks — including an injury to her popliteal artery — in 2019, Purdy has undergone 10 more surgeries, including amputation revisions on her left leg.

“Phase one of my journey was all the surgeries and trying to find stability with the injury and phase two is getting legs that I can live comfortably in,” she said of her latest plight. “Once they are comfortable, then I’ll be able to snowboard again.”

Amy Purdy poses with her husband
Daniel Gale (L) and his wife, paralympic athlete Amy Purdy, attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Meantime, she continues to move forward on myriad other projects. She continues, in other words, to live beyond limits.

“I’m currently excited to be planning the second season of my podcast “Bouncing Forward,” and I’m always looking for new ways to help others live their possibilities,” she said.

“I have a handful of projects I’m working on in TV that I can’t talk about yet and some that are online. With COVID, I went from doing many live speeches to doing virtual speeches, which has been fantastic, although I want to go to even a deeper and more immersive experience with my community.

I’ve been so grateful to connect with so many amazing people in real life and on social media that I’m really inspired to create ways to connect even deeper.

That’s what life is about: living, learning and growing, and helping others do the same.”

Click here to read the article in the digital magazine.

It’s Disability Employment Awareness Month – learn best practices for respectful interaction

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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme, selected by the U.S. Department of Labor, is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”

By Donald Thompson, WRAL Tech Wire

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme, selected by the U.S. Department of Labor, is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. By creating diverse, equitable and inclusive work cultures, we open the door for more people to do great work and move the country forward.

At this moment in our economic recovery, all industries are in need of great employees, yet people with disabilities are still twice as likely to be unemployed and also more likely to be underemployed compared to those without a disability. 26% of all American adults — or 61 million people — have a disability, but as of August 2021, only 35.6% of people with disabilities who are of prime working age (ages 16 through 64) are actively employed, compared to 76.8% of people without disabilities in the same age range.

In other words, there is a tremendous, untapped talent market of capable professionals who are ready to fill your open roles, once you commit to disability inclusion. It’s also important to point out that inclusion benefits the whole workforce, not only people with disabilities, since research shows that a robust disability inclusion program makes it easier for all employees to perform to their highest potential. And, companies that commit to disability inclusion have, on average, 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins than their peers.

How can you get started toward a more disability-inclusive culture? First, learn best practices for respectfully communicating and interacting with people who have disabilities. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to find the best ways to lead every one of your employees, but it’s not uncommon for people to feel uncomfortable and unsure as they begin to practice disability etiquette.

The overarching point to keep in mind is that etiquette is less about doing the right thing, because that can vary from person to person, and more about making individuals feel comfortable and respected. Two great resources I’ve consulted on my own journey to become a more inclusive leader are understood.org and the DC Office of Disability Rights. Below, I’ll share a few of their guidelines for disability etiquette and ways you can put them into practice this month.

Create a safe space for conversations

Employees are not required to disclose a disability and may fear that, when they do, they will be seen as unreliable or receiving special treatment. While you shouldn’t inquire about a disability if the person hasn’t openly shared it with you, you can create a space where employees feel supported and able to ask for what they need to be most productive. If you ask employees to self-identify their disabilities, conditions, invisible illnesses, learning differences, and more, make sure you also explain why their sharing is important — because you are committed to providing what they need for success.

Build a culture of trust and transparency by speaking and acting with empathy and by personalizing your leadership style to each person’s strengths and needs. Some employees may thrive with a regimented daily plan of tasks and priorities while others may thrive with flexible work schedules and self-set deadlines. Encourage each person to reflect on their own working style and name the things they need to be excellent.

Don’t make assumptions

People’s needs and preferences for treatment may differ, even among those with identical conditions. It may be tempting to assume you know what someone with a disability can or cannot do, but only they know that for certain. As a guiding principle, remember this phrase from the movement for disability rights: Nothing About Us Without Us.

Always start by asking the person for their input on what will help them be most productive. Sometimes, a simple adaptation to their workspace or work schedule can make a big difference in a person’s productivity as well as increase their feelings of belonging and trust.

Ask before you help

Should you offer to help an employee with a disability? If you’re not sure, ask them. As Rebekah Taussig writes in Time magazine, well-intentioned people can often overstep personal boundaries by offering assistance before asking if their help is necessary or even wanted. Respect each person’s bodily autonomy and privacy, and accept that they will ask for what they need. Even if you think you are trying to help, you should never touch a person or their assistive devices without their expressed permission.

Before you rush to assist someone with a disability, Taussig suggests you pay attention to the other person’s body language: “What signals are they giving you? What expression do you see on their face? Even if this isn’t intuitive for you, pay attention to their eyes — are they avoiding your gaze or looking toward you like they want to engage? If you really can’t tell, you can ask, but if someone says, “No thank you,” listen.”

Be gracious with yourself and others

As a forward-thinking leader who is trying to create an inclusive work culture, it’s common to feel like you may be judged for any slight misstep. You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t stop trying. Be open to learning, admit what you don’t know, and keep moving forward. By doing so, you will create a culture of trust for your employees and set the stage for real change.

When someone asks for an accommodation to perform their job, it shows they feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. And, you benefit from their increased productivity, collaboration, problem solving, and decision-making skills. By working together to remove barriers, you will enrich and improve the workplace for everyone.

If you aren’t already investing in disability inclusion as a strategic imperative, this month offers a great chance to start your engines and learn the business benefits of hiring more people who have disabilities. Reach out to my team at The Diversity Movement or our partners at Ablr, who can help you get started toward a more accessible, inclusive workplace.

Click here to read the full article on WRAL Tech Wire.

The Most Common Types of Learning Disabilities Found in Kids and Adults, According to Experts

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having learning disabilities just means your brain operates a bit differently.

By Madeleine Burry, Explore Health

If you have a learning disability, your brain operates a bit differently. Learning disabilities occur “when someone has an impairment in learning or processing new information or skills,” Ami Baxi, MD, psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, tells Health.

This can lead to difficulty with language, speech, reading, writing, or math.

Defining a learning disability is important—as is understanding what a learning disability isn’t.

A learning disability, or a learning disorder, is not associated with low intelligence or cognitive abilities, Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells Health. Nor is linked to a negative home or school environment, she adds. Instead, learning disabilities can be hereditary, or they may be brought on or exacerbated by psychological or physical trauma, environmental exposure (think: lead paint), or prenatal risks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Learning disabilities are often diagnosed in childhood, but not always, Romanoff says. Sometimes the disability is mild and goes unnoticed by parents or teachers. Other times it’s mistaken for a lack of motivation or work ethic. In some cases it isn’t diagnosed because kids grow adept at adapting, compensating, and seeking out situations to suit their strengths, Romanoff says.

Without a diagnosis, Romanoff notes, people will lack “answers as to why they have difficulties in certain areas academically or in their daily lives as they pertain to their relationships or general functioning.” That’s unfortunate, since there are ways to overcome the differences in how people with learning disorders organize and manage information, she says.

Here’s a look at some of the most common learning disorders, some of which you’ve likely heard of and others that don’t get as much attention.

Dyslexia
This learning disability “impairs reading and spelling ability,” Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Connecticut with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells Health. Estimates vary, but as many as 20% of people may have dyslexia, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, which notes that it’s the most common neurocognitive disorder.

People with dyslexia struggle to read “because they have problems identifying speech sounds and learning how these relate to letters and words (known as decoding),” Schiff says. As adults, people with dyslexia will tend to avoid reading-related activities, she says. “They may also have trouble understanding jokes or expressions like idioms—where they cannot derive the meaning from the specific words used.”

Dyscalculia
For people with dyscalculia, all sorts of math-related skills—number sense, memorizing arithmetic facts, and accurate calculations—are impaired, Romanoff says.

“Dyscalculia generally refers to problems acquiring basic math skills, but not to problems with reasoning,” Romanoff says.

Tasks that require working with numbers will take longer for people with this learning disorder, Dr. Baxi says. From calculating the tip to writing down someone’s digits, numbers and math-related tasks are ever-present in life, and adults with this disorder may see the impact in many areas of life.

A 2019 study estimates that between 3-7% of people have dyscalculia.

Dysgraphia
People with this writing disability have impaired writing ability and fine motor skills, Schiff says. They find it difficult to organize letters, numbers, or words on page or other defined space, she says.

Anything letter-related is a struggle for people with dysgraphia, Dr. Baxi says. Poor handwriting is common for people with this learning disorder, she notes.

“Dysgraphia in adults manifests as difficulties with syntax, grammar, comprehension, and being able to generally put one’s thoughts on paper,” Schiff says.

Other learning conditions to know
Some conditions are not classified as learning disorders or aren’t formally recognized in the DSM-V, the diagnostic guide used by mental health professionals. But they are still worth noting, since they may overlap or come up frequently for people with learning disorders.

Nonverbal learning disorders
With this kind of disorder, visual-spatial and visual-motor skills are affected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nonverbal learning disorders (NLVD) can affect social skills and play out as a struggle to decode body language and understand humor, Schiff says.

“Non-verbal learning disabilities are not considered learning disabilities. They are often signs of other disorders,” Dr. Baxi notes. While NLVD isn’t officially recognized, this cluster of symptoms is “recognized by neuropsychologists and in educational settings when it presents itself,” Schiff says.

Click here to read the full article on Explore Health.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021

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man in wheelchair with woman sitting next to him looking at laptop

The theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

NDEAM is held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. Browse our website for ideas and resources for employers, community organizations, state and local governments, advocacy groups and schools to participate in celebrating NDEAM through events and activities centered around the theme of “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”

The 2021 NDEAM poster is available now!

Plan NDEAM Observances

What can YOU do to celebrate NDEAM? There are lots of ways! Explore the ideas below designed for:

NDEAM every day

How about a plan for Every. Single. Day. of National Disability Employment Month? Start here with day one and plan for 31 days of NDEAM.

Source: dol.gov

Hispanic Heritage Month: Two Latinas are working together to create a pipeline of diversity in STEM

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young Hispanic woman in lab coat with technology equipment behind her

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, collectively known as STEM make up the fastest-growing and highest paid fields in the U.S. with diverse job opportunities in careers ranging from aerospace engineers, programmer to operations director, yet Latinas only account for 3% of the industry.

Unfortunately, many Latinas are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers and loose interest in these disciplines as early as middle school. This is why early intervention curriculums like the ones provided by XYLO Academy are key to increasing the representation of Latinas in the STEM workforce.

Getting to college is another challenge as underrepresented students face steep costs and challenges to higher education. According to a recent study published in the journal Education Researcher Latino college students drop out of STEM programs at higher rates (37%) that their white peers (27%).

Continual increases in tuition and fees have pushed the cost of college education beyond the means of most minority and underrepresented students. This is why IO Scholarships offers free access to scholarships and financial education so high school, undergraduate and graduate students can find life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Despite all the challenges, these two Latinas are working together to fix the leaking pipeline, providing scholarships, and creating STEM curriculums for women of color.

Gabriela Forter
Co-founder XYLO Academy

Gabriela Forter headshot

Born and raised in the California San Joaquin Valley, Gabriela’s first introduction to entrepreneurship was during a course with Professor Rostamian at UCLA in 2015. This class significantly shaped not only her academic interests but also her career path. Gabriela and Professor Rostamian have now launched XYLO Academy to scale this same impact. After spending two and a half years at Deloitte Consulting, Gabriela joined Facebook, focusing on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. She is confident that the most meaningful changes in society will come from advancements in disruptive innovations and seeks to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. She is committed to increasing diversity in STEM and believes that change starts with education.

“Our goal at XYLO Academy is to educate students on disruptive innovation and inspire them to pursue degrees and careers in STEM and with our partnership with IO Scholarships we are creating a pipeline for these students to have access to the best scholarships in STEM and realize their dreams.”

María Trochimezuk
Founder IO Scholarships

María Trochimezuk headshot

Her determination and hard work paid off as she won grants and scholarships to pay for her entire education. In realizing how time consuming and complicated the process of finding scholarships for STEM diverse students was, María Fernanda created IO Scholarships to make things much easier. She learned first-hand to find, apply for and win scholarships and became an advocate promoting scholarships nationwide.

“IOScholarships was inspired by my own experience as I was very fortunate to access scholarships to attend prestigious universities and realized that more could be done to support minority students especially now as STEM education becomes more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IO Scholarships. “IO Scholarships will not only help underrepresented students find scholarships, but level the playing field so all students have the opportunity to achieve their education goals.”

ABOUT XYLO ACADEMY

We are a group of passionate and skilled storytellers. We believe that students everywhere should have the power and ability to access a world-class education. We believe that technology and innovation, especially disruptive innovation, provides unlimited potential for the future. XYLO Academy introduces this space to students in a bold, story-telling format breaking down any barriers that impede equal opportunity to explore, learn and thrive in the 5 disruptive innovation platforms: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies, Robotics, Energy Storage and Bio Tech. We have diverse experiences and backgrounds across technology, product innovations and education. We are united in our passion to provide equal access to the study of technology and innovation. Our diversity is our strength, and our mission is our singular focus. XYLO – Unlimited space for learning and opportunity.

ABOUT IO SCHOLARSHIPS

Most of the scholarships featured on the IOScholarships website come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

In addition to providing scholarships, IO Scholarships website offers a free scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about IO Scholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

How companies can make their remote working inclusive for the deaf and blind

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How companies can make their remote working inclusive for the deaf and blind

By Jonathan Keane, CNBC

As remote working takes a greater hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, a wealth of opportunities can open up for people that may not have existed before.

For example, less of a focus on the office can draw more people with disabilities into the workforce.

But for companies, there are still a great deal of considerations to take into account when creating an inclusive remote environment for blind and deaf people.

Martin O’Kane of the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the U.K. said in the case of people with sight loss, they may often rely on public transport to get to an office. Remote working may now present a chance for employers, but it will put their commitments to inclusivity to the test.

During the pandemic, video calls became the lifeblood for many companies to keep operations flowing whether in team meetings or for recruitment of new talent.

Organizations like RNIB and the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Center at University College London have issued guidance to employers on best practices for remote working with people that are visually impaired or hard of hearing.

But these guidelines are ever-evolving with the rapidly changing future of work.

“If you’ve sight loss, you’re probably using types of technology that will allow you to read information so that could be magnification or it could be speech reading software,” O’Kane said.

“The key thing for an employer is that you make sure that whatever system you’re using is compatible with that software.”

A spokesperson for DCAL said the organization is in the process of “working out how we will deal with this blended way of working”.

“It is vital that the views of deaf people and their lived experiences are taken into account so that any improvements in tech are actually what deaf people want and need. Not what hearing [people] think they want and need.”

Tech tools
Technology tools, especially for communication and video conferencing, present ways for employers to keep their staff engaged but it’s not always a straightforward option.

Gilles Bertaux, the CEO of Livestorm, a French video conferencing and webinar platform, said it is currently making tweaks to its platform to better serve the visually impaired.

“In our online room meeting, we’re trying to meet the standards for blind people based on the ARIA specifications,” Bertaux said, referring to a set of standards for web accessibility from the World Wide Web Consortium.

“It’s mainly targeted at people who are visually impaired or blind. In practical terms, it allows anyone to navigate the Livestorm room with their keyboard. We’re going to work hard on it next year to improve it again.”

He added that its design team is also working on filters to boost the color contrast on calls that will make people and objects more discernible.

For staff that are deaf or hard of hearing, real-time captioning and subtitles on video calls is still a nascent but advancing technology with major platforms like Zoom and Google Meet implementing live audio captioning.

Simon Lau, vice president of product at Otter.ai, a transcription software company, told CNBC that live captions can help reduce so-called “Zoom fatigue” for people that rely on lip-reading while on calls.

Meanwhile, Josh Miller, CEO of video transcription firm 3Play Media, said that while technology in this field is improving, it can be “still pretty clunky,” but companies should not be afraid to test the tech out with their employees.

“I think there’s a hesitation to engage in these types of services because of the complexity and not necessarily because of the cost. It’s that unknown of how does this actually get implemented. One of the things that we’re really excited about is simplifying it,” Miller said.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

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!

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Air Force Civilian Service

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Disability Awareness Month

national disability awareness month

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Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022