RJ Mitte – Seizing Every Opportunity

LinkedIn
RJ Mitte collage with his cover image and several samll images of his work inclusing the cast from Breaking Bad

By Brady Rhoades

You might do a double-take when actor RJ Mitte, most famous for his role in the acclaimed AMC drama, “Breaking Bad,” gives you his take on disabilities.

“The best thing about being human is that the ability to overcome is amazing,” said Mitte, 28, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at age 3. “There’s no trick in life. Whether you’re 19 or 45, you can still set out and do what you wanted to do at 19.”

Second best thing?

“I believe if you have a disability, you have an asset. You’re coming from a different human condition.”

Mitte became a TV fixture with the debut of “Breaking Bad” in 2008 (the show ran for five seasons). “Bad” won 16 prime time Emmys and two Golden Globe Awards, among a slew of other accolades.

RJ Mitte at a red carpet event with three other individuals
Becky Curran (L), RJ Mitte (2nd R) and guests attend the 2017 Reel Abilities Film Festival at JCC Manhattan in New York City. (Photo by Jenny Anderson/WireImage)

Bryan Cranston portrayed a middle-aged chemistry teacher – Walter White – diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Driven by financial concerns and a shortage of time, he started cooking the purest crystal methamphetamine in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and making top dollar on his way to running an empire.

Mitte played Junior, White’s sweet, sarcastic and, ultimately, conflicted son.

For the role, Mitte had to exaggerate his Cerebral Palsy symptoms; unlike Junior, Mitte doesn’t use crutches or speak with a pronounced slur. However, the 28-year-old actor has faced many of the same medical and social challenges as his character.

“People with CP overcome hurdles every day,” Mitte told Brain&Life Magazine. “One thing I’ve learned from my disability is that when there is an obstacle, you adapt and grow. You can’t let that obstacle break you down and discourage you.”

When asked how Hollywood is faring when it comes to placing actors, directors and producers with disabilities in places of power and esteem, Mitte says he sees more opportunities than ever.

“You can’t make a movie now without the diversity talk, “he said. “You’ve got to say: ‘We need diversity.’”

And his view on what the industry’s doing as far as physical accommodations?

“Are the accommodations always there? No.” he said. “I try to make my own accommodations.”

But Mitte, who’s involved with SAG-AFTRA as a member of the union’s Performers With Disabilities Committee, says he’s seeing a change; a mutual effort.

“The key thing in everything is when both sides want it.”

RJ Mitte at a screening event, laughs while being interviewed
Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte is interviewed by Rachel McGrath, entertainment reporter at The Huffington Post. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

Breaking into Stardom

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Mitte was adopted shortly after he was born by Ray Frank Mitte Jr. and his wife, Dyna. He was a happy child who walked on his toes as a toddler – something doctors told his parents they would fix by the age of 4 if he didn’t walk properly by then.

A friend of Mitte’s grandmother recognized the signs of CP when he was 3 and urged the family to have him evaluated. After he was diagnosed, Mitte was then fitted with leg braces to straighten his limbs and used crutches throughout most of his childhood.

However, over time, his body became stronger through sports and exercise and he no longer needed any walking devices by his teenage years.

In 2006, Mitte moved with his family to Los Angeles, where his youngest sister, Lacianne Carriere, received an offer for a role in a film project. He became interested in film and took acting lessons, which then led to appearances on SHOWTIME’s “Weeds,” NBC’s “Vegas,” CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris” and a co-star role on ABC Family’s hit show, “Switched at Birth,” before being cast in his life-changing role on “Breaking Bad.”

RJ Mitte poses at the golden globes with the cast of " Breaking Bad"
Actors Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn and Betsy Brandt, writer-producer Vince Gilligan, actors R.J. Mitte and Aaron Paul celebrate winning Best Series – Drama for “Breaking Bad” in the press room during the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California. PHOTO / ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Mitte then reemerged on the big screen in “Dixieland” – his first non-handicapped leading role. Following that, he starred opposite Wesley Snipes in “The Recall” and was also seen in “Tiempo Compartido” (an official 2018 selection in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival).

In 2018, he starred alongside John Cusack and George Lopez in “River Runs Red,” and also guest starred on Starz’ coming-of-age television thriller, “Now Apocalypse,” which premiered in early 2019.

In 2020, he portrayed a disabled teen who seeks acceptance as a high school wrestler with Oscar winner Terrence Howard as his coach in “Triumph,” which was delayed because of the Coronavirus crisis. He also started shooting “Issaac,” a romantic thriller.

Most recently, Mitte turned to modeling as a celebrity face and model of GAP International’s “Lived in Spring” campaign, with his image appearing on mediums such as billboards, buses and life-sized posters in cities across the world from Tokyo to Dubai and across the U.S. He made his way to the catwalk, modeling in Men’s Fashion Week in Milan, Berlin and New York City for designers Vivienne Westwood, soPopular and Ovadia & Sons.

Cutting the Bullying

Aside from coping with his physical challenges, Mitte also faced his share of taunting and bullying as a child.

“I was verbally harassed, knocked down, and even had my hand broken,” Mitte told Brain&Life.  “Having CP made me a target for bullies, and I learned that kids with disabilities are twice as likely to be bullied as other kids.”

To bring awareness to bullying and prejudice, Mitte has engaged in public speaking and serves as the official ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners Hospitals for Children and partners with Shriners to spearhead its #CutTheBull campaign to advocate anti-bullying for children with disabilities.

RJ MItte speaks to an audience at a runway event
RJ Mitte hosts the Runway Of Dreams Foundation Fashion Revolution Event at in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Runway Of Dreams Foundation)

Mitte has involved himself wholeheartedly in anti-bullying, through #cutthebull.

“Everyone bullies, not just kids,” he said. “I find with bullies that removing yourself from the situation is sometimes best… because a bully wants you to fight, they want an adversary.”

And if that doesn’t work?

“I always recommend to talk to your peers, talk to your allies.”

Mitte used every defense in his arsenal when he was bullied as a youth.

“Did it end the way I wanted it to end? Not always. I asked bullies straight out: ‘Why do you want to hurt me? Maybe you need help.’” And Mitte stresses that, often, you can’t go it alone, and to prioritize your own health and safety.

A Dream Sequel

Mitte has projects in the works, but one project — a dream, really — is never far from his thoughts.

He’d like to see a sequel to “Breaking Bad” in which Junior follows in his dad’s footsteps. You might call it Heisenberg 2.0. Better, more enriching, maybe, more evil. The kind of follow-in-pops’-footsteps that you don’t want to encourage in real life, but you might want to watch on TV.

And in true Mitte form, he’s pitched it more than once.

There are, of course, doubts. Could people see Junior in such a dark role? How do we make that happen? How can we keep the plot seamless and still make you a villain? There are a million moving parts.

RJ Mitte poses in front of an El Camino
RJ Mitte attends the premiere of Netflix’s “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” at Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

At this point, here’s one more thing you must know about Mitte.

He’s not big on the word “can’t.”

“I grew up with can’t not being a choice,” he said. “You can’t what? No, you’re going to go do this.”

It’s what he tells people with disabilities who ask him about obstacles. “Before “can’t” can even get out of the starting gate, just start doing the thing you want to do.”

If “can’t,” as Mitte said, is a decision, then his dream-role is just a greenlight away from becoming reality. He wants it. He’s envisioned it. He’s never stopped pitching.

Walter White Junior, sweet and devoted son, breakfast connoisseur, as the baddest of bad guys? Drug lord? Killer?

You might do a double-take.

Look again, and imagine not what is impossible, but what is possible.

Whatever you do, don’t count

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

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

By Alice G. Walton, Forbes

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

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

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

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

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

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

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

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

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

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

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

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

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

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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

LinkedIn
Typewise hexagonal keyboard with blue keys in five rows

By sam.baldwin@typewise.app

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Typewise

How to Manage Anxiety as We Re-Enter the World

LinkedIn
Business man with face mask works on laptop computer

By Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
French parliament approves COVID-19 passes for restaurants, domestic…
The White House announced the new resources on Monday morning, before Biden and Vice President Harris were slated to deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

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

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

By Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A “healthy kind of selfishness” is also OK.

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

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

Click here to read the full article on USA Today.

Apple And Gallaudet University Team Up To Put Deaf-Friendly Businesses On The Map: Literally

LinkedIn
The Signing Ecosystem guide can connect users with Deaf-friendly businesses and travel tips.

By Laken Brooks, Forbes

Many iPhone users rely on Apple Maps to navigate every day. However, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals may experience obstacles when they try to use mapping technologies. Deaf users may find a new tourist spot or hole-in-the-wall pub on their phone’s map app, but these maps rarely tell Deaf users if these businesses are really Deaf-friendly. Most maps do not highlight information that Deaf people may need to know when they navigate to new places, such as if a business has staff who can communicate in American Sign Language (ASL).

Apple and Gallaudet University are breaking ground by exploring how Apple Maps can better serve Deaf travelers.

Gallaudet’s deep-rooted dedication to making a Deaf-friendly neighborhood make the university an ideal partner for Apple’s Maps Guides project. Gallaudet University is the most prestigious school for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing college students in the United States. The university is unique because it has designed its classrooms, its student study halls, and its dorm rooms with Deaf-friendly technologies and architecture. But Gallaudet’s Deaf community is also active in the surrounding community of NOMA and the larger Washington, DC area. And the university’s Signing Ecosystem maps are the first step in encouraging other tech companies to consider other disability-friendly mapping tools.

What is the Maps Guides Project? On the Apple Maps app, users can open up guides with sites that have been labeled by local community partners. These guides curate specific topics: the best museums in a city, free entertainment, LGBTQ+ sites, and more. Gallaudet has contributed to the Guides Project by labeling Deaf-friendly sites in DC so users can easily identify locations that use sign language or businesses that are owned and operated by Deaf individuals.

Before adding sites to the Signing Ecosystem guide, Gallaudet considered these criteria:

  • Is the location’s customer/audience base geared towards the Deaf community with ethical consciousness of our language, culture, and community resources?
  • Is the site owned and operated by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people, or does the site employ Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people?
  • Has the location embraced and found the significance, worth, and value of American Sign Language (and other signed/tactile languages), Deaf people, and Deaf culture?
  • Does the site show consideration and inclusion of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people in their workplace, audience, and community?

These criteria help Gallaudet highlight locations that are safe and welcoming to Deaf individuals. And these criteria can help Apple Maps become more accessible to Deaf people than ever before.

Bryce H. Chapman, the Director of Marketing at Gallaudet, has noticed that the Signing Ecosystem is already helping community members commute, shop, and study with more confidence: “We have developed a navigation system that will allow our students, alumni, and visitors to identify locations that are signing-friendly. This has already shifted some of our admissions and recruitment efforts; we are now able to share our guides with prospective students and their parents and families so they can quickly experience what it is like to live and interact here at Gallaudet and in its surrounding neighborhoods.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Fashion show — called ‘I Love Me and My Disability’ — will celebrate everyone, organizer says

LinkedIn
Trinity Jagdeo, center, with some of the models scheduled to participate in the I Love Me & My Disability Fashion Event this weekend in Vineland.

By 

The I Love Me and My Disability Fashion Event promises to be just that, an organizer said this week.

The show features 16 contestants — ranging from toddlers to young adults, all with disabilities — strutting up and down a catwalk in an array of donated fashions.

The charity event will be held Saturday at the Landis Theater in Vineland and will also be streamed online. It will benefit From We Can’t to We Can, a nonprofit started by a Cumberland County 20-year-old who has also created a comic book series four years ago featuring superheroes with disabilities. The goal, she says, is to highlight challenges these children and young adults face and overcome.

“In a world where they’re forced to look at their disabilities and what they can’t do, this is their time to shine, to show who they are,” said Trinity Jadgeo, 20, of Vineland who started the charity and created the comic books. “We have 16 contestants, ranging in all types of disabilities. It’s just an expression of being proud of who they are.”

Jadgeo also had a personal reason for starting her nonprofit. Her best friend Alexus Dick, 20, has a debilitating illness with no cure.

“I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing about it, knowing what I’ve witnessed with my best friend,” she said. “It opened my eyes about having a disability in a world that doesn’t cater to disabilities.”

Jadgeo said all of the clothes the models will wear Saturday were donated by local merchants. Food and beverages were also donated. Even though she bills the event as a contest, she said everyone who participates will be a winner.

Click here to read the full article on NJ.Com.

10 TikTok Creators You Should Follow This Disability Pride Month

LinkedIn
TikTok creators are using their platforms to celebrate Disability Pride Month

Very Well Health

During the month of July, many TikTok creators are using their platforms to celebrate Disability Pride Month—over 100 million videos so far have been tagged under #DisabilityPride. The hashtag uplifts posts created by a wide range of disabled people, sharing their lives online.

These celebrations honor the July 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. But nearly 31 years later, people with disabilities still face a number of barriers to equitable treatment, varying from physical hurdles to economic challenges. Misconceptions and biases about people with disabilities continue to exist. Some TikTok creators hope to challenge these notions by sharing their experiences candidly online. With everything from self-deprecating jokes to glimpses into their lives as disabled people, these 10 TikTok accounts are embracing #DisabilityPride and challenging others to do the same.

Andy (@theonewiththeservicedog)

TikTok creator Andy posts videos for her audience about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the other diagnosed illnesses she has. Through her posts, she educates people about some of the social and political barriers she faces. She even has an adorable service dog, Obi, that often makes an appearance.

Jay Johnson (@itsjaaayyy)

Jay Johnson is a 19-year-old creator growing her following on TikTok, where she posts makeup tutorials and get-ready-with-me style videos. For Disability Pride Month, she’s shared stories about her polymyositis diagnosis, which often leaves her fatigued and in pain.

Erin Novakowski (@wheelierin)

Comedian, writer, and disability advocate Erin Novakowski has amassed a huge following on TikTok with her funny, provocative content. Erin, who uses a wheelchair, posts makeup and lifestyle videos, but more often her videos are comedic while bluntly calling out the biased and negative comments she often receives.

Spencer West (@spencer2thewest)

Spencer West is a motivational speaker and advocates for LGBTQ+ and disability causes. After losing his legs as a child, Spencer now answers questions and corrects misconceptions about his own disability and about accessibility issues that the disabled community faces. He also frequently profiles restaurants, travel, and exercise routines.

Louie (@notlewy)

TikTok creator Louie posts trendy content, advocates for disability awareness, makes music, and creates comedy videos that are often about his arthrogryposis. Louie’s deadpan humor is a hit on the app, and his videos treat disability with a lightheartedness that acknowledges and celebrates difference.

Britt (@myelasticheart)

Britt posts content about living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Her videos are honest and emotional, explaining the ignorance and injustices that many disabled people face. But they also show moments of joy and hope that are often overlooked in mainstream depictions of people with disabilities.

Click here to read the full article on Very Well Health.

Roosevelt Island to Unveil New Memorial Honoring FDR Ahead of the ADA’s 31st Anniversary

LinkedIn
Roosevelt Island tram with group of tourists looking out over river

A testimonial to the former U.S. president, the memorial will be a tribute to diversity and inclusion

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) and the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) recently announced plans to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the unveiling of the FDR Hope Memorial, an immersive work of art commemorating former U.S. president and disability advocate, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“We’re proud to be able to add this experiential work to our robust offering of progressive art and it’s an honor to unveil such a significant and symbolic statue here on Roosevelt Island,” said Shelton J. Haynes, President & CEO of RIOC. “We are reminded every day, by our island’s name, that we have a legacy to uphold by continuing to represent how inclusion and diversity can prosper in New York.”

Located in a peaceful alcove in Roosevelt Island’s Southpoint Park, the memorial features two bronze figures depicting a meeting between FDR, in a wheelchair of his design, reaching out to greet a young girl who is also disabled by polio. The figures are set directly on a plaza of engraved granite in the shape of the Oval Office, surrounded by inclusive benches and inscribed pavers that document social progress in the treatment of disabled people.

“People are not defined by their disability, said Wendy Hersh, President of RIDA. “We at RIDA believe that anyone with any disability should strive to reach their goal and are able to reach their full potential – enabled, not disabled!”

FDR was diagnosed with polio in 1921, thirty years before the disease reached its peak in the United States. With his diagnosis, FDR became an advocate and role model for all who face life with disabilities. He brought awareness to accessibility for all and worked to pass legislation that would expand for decades, culminating with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

“The highly anticipated opening will be both a celebration of the collaborative efforts of many determined individuals and organizations to realize a significant and inspiring new place for Roosevelt Island as well as an affirmation of Roosevelt Island’s continued potential to lead as a model of inclusion and acceptance,” said Marc Diamond, Chair of the FDR Hope Memorial Committee.

Commissioned in 2010, this project realizes the vision of former RIDA president, Jim Bates, who was inspired by the example that FDR set for people with disabilities to achieve great things and help others. Artist Meredith Bergmann worked with Marc Diamond and others, to design a fully accessible space surrounding the monument that would convey its history and vision. This inspirational tribute will be unveiled with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday, July 17th.

“It was an honor to be chosen for this project, which celebrates FDR as an inspiration to the disabled — especially the island residents who’d survived polio and those who are dealing with post-polio syndrome, and celebrates Roosevelt Island as a beacon leading the movement to mainstream people with disabilities. As the mother of a young man who struggles with disability — our son Dan has a severe form of autism — the project has been deeply meaningful to me,” said Meredith Bergmann, the artist behind the memorial. “When I won this commission in 2010, I was told that the site would be between FDR Four Freedoms State Park and Cornell Tech University — neither of which existed yet. And now those plans have been fulfilled, providing a place where people can feel hope as they contemplate the effort and heroism that moves us forward to a better future.”

Guest speakers attending the FDR Hope Memorial unveiling will include Wendy Hersh, President of RIDA; Shelton J. Haynes, President & CEO of RIOC; Marc Diamond, Chair of the FDR Hope Memorial Committee; artist Meredith Bergmann and her son Dan; Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright; Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer; and Representative Caroline Maloney, among others.

Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright said, “I commend the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association and the late former President Jim Bates for the successful push to bring the FDR Hope Memorial to Roosevelt Island.  We were proud to have secured State funding, and the final dollars from an anonymous constituent donor for this memorial which honors the strength of those living with disabilities in overcoming struggle and adversity. Thank you to the sculptor Meredith Bergmann for bringing this FDR Hope Memorial sculpture to life!”

Council Member Ben Kallos said, “I could think of no better tribute to FDR and to ideals of diversity and inclusion than this monument. We should never take the protections offered to disabled Americans for granted, and we should also make sure we value and recognize the progress we have made on this as a nation over the decades. Roosevelt Island is honoring these ideals and living up to them and I am proud to be its representative. Thank you to Artist Meredith Bergmann and to RIOC for making the monument a reality.”

About Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC)

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) was created in 1984 by the State of New York as a public benefit corporation with a mission to plan, design, develop, operate, and maintain Roosevelt Island. With a focus on innovative and environmentally friendly solutions, RIOC is committed to providing services that enhance the island’s residential community. RIOC manages the two-mile-long island’s roads, parks, buildings, a sports facility, and public transportation, including the iconic Roosevelt Island Tramway. Additionally, RIOC operates a Public Safety Department that helps maintain a safe and secure environment for residents, employees, business owners, and visitors.

A chance to ‘amplify one another’: What is Disability Pride Month?

LinkedIn
When she was 9, Yu was in a car accident that paralyzed one of her arms and took her father's life. This Disability Pride Month she's focused on healing and self love

By Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY

For Tiffany Yu, Disability Pride Month is about recognizing her disability as an integral part of who she is. For Anthony Rios, it’s about accepting that his disability makes him different, not worse. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, a landmark law that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. In that same year, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day. Although Disability Pride Day isn’t nationally recognized, parades are held in a number of places nationwide, such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, San Antonio and more. In 2015, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July Disability Pride Month in celebration of the ADA’s 25th anniversary.

The month is a chance to honor each person’s uniqueness as “a natural and beautiful part of human diversity,” according to America’s Disability Community.

Rios, who is blind, said he grew up hearing his family and adults talk about his disability as if it were a disease or burden. When he was 10, he recalls his mother praying and asking God why her son was “cursed” with blindness. As he grew older and found friends within the disabled community, Rios said he learned to accept and thrive with his blindness.

Every July, Rios said he’s reminded that he doesn’t need the sympathy of others – just the acceptance of his disability.

“We don’t want your pity. We want your pride,” Rios told USA TODAY.

When she was 9, Yu was in a car accident that paralyzed one of her arms and took her father’s life. For years, Yu tried to hide her disability by wearing long-sleeve shirts and refusing to talk about the accident. She later developed post-traumatic stress disorder and took on the challenge of healing and accepting herself.

“So not only did I become disabled, I also lost a parent and experienced childhood trauma. I think that so much of my healing process has been really experiencing the full embodiment of who I can be and who I am,” Yu told USA TODAY. “So this month is about people with disabilities like me falling in love with themselves.”

Click here to read the full article on USA Today.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Lumen

Lumen

Verizon

Verizon

Leidos

Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021

Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021