IOScholarships Provides Free Access to STEM Scholarships

LinkedIn
female grad student wearing her graduate robe and holding cap in her hand

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students recently announced the launch of its search engine website. The technology has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find STEM scholarships.

IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Continual increases in tuition and fees have pushed the cost of college education beyond the means of most minority and underrepresented students. Even though STEM occupations have outpaced all other job growth, African Americans represent only 9% of STEM workers, while Hispanics comprise only 7% of all STEM workers.

“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 and more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships. “Students should think about finding scholarships like it’s a part time job.”

The majority 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 IOScholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and also posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

IOSSCholarships promo poster with diverse students in the background

In addition to providing scholarships, the new IOScholarships website introduces 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 IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

Dyslexia: The learning disability that is overlooked

LinkedIn
child with dyslexia, Joey Harrington, 13, sits with his computer at his home in New Paltz.

By Helu Wang, Yahoo! Sports

By the time Joey Harrington was in kindergarten, his mother, Kathy, realized that he was struggling with reading and writing. While his teacher at Wallkill Central School District said he would outgrow it, his reading scores kept going down. He was not identified as a child with special needs until five years later.

“I got so frustrated. I knew something was wrong,” Harrington recalled of the troubled journey that her family has gone through.

Even though Joey continued falling behind in reading and experiencing meltdowns, the school never evaluated him further, said Harrington. After the family had paid $2,600 for a private psychological evaluation, the district finally identified him as a special needs student when he was in fifth grade. The results showed he has dyslexia with language and learning disorders.

Many families across the region shared similar experiences: children showed signs of reading delay as early as in kindergarten, but they are not identified as special needs students until several years later.

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities in the country, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. It is a learning disorder that involves difficulty in reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. The organization estimates about one in five children have learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Dawn Prati of Wallkill, a pediatric nurse practitioner who has helped families navigate the process, said one of the biggest challenges they face is children not being identified early. Many children with dyslexia do not benefit from typical reading support programs that are offered by schools, she said.

“Some people say you cannot diagnose dyslexia until third grade, which is not true. There are indicators before that,” said Prati. “The problem is that there is a period when the brain develops in kids when they are in kindergarten and they are attaining those building blocks. It’s super important to give them what they need to learn.”

Learning disability overlooked
Janice Vincenzo had trusted the school would do the best for her daughter until she found her then tenth-grader reading at a first-grade level. Her daughter had been identified as a student with special needs at third grade and was offered accommodations, including being assigned to a smaller learning group and offered extensions for testing, Vincenzo said, however, the accommodations covered up her daughter’s actual needs. In 2019, more than a year after Vincenzo requested her daughter to be evaluated, the Wallkill School District finally paid for a private evaluation.

“I didn’t realize it for many years that the accommodations they gave her in effort to help her succeed never allowed them to pinpoint what her diagnosis was,” said Vincenzo.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Sports.

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

LinkedIn
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.

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

LinkedIn
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.

STEM Internship Opportunities for Diverse Students

LinkedIn
female mentor with male student pointing to graph on board

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find STEM scholarships and internship opportunities. IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Statistically speaking, minorities tend to be underrepresented in STEM fields. That’s why corporations often create internship opportunities for minorities entering the industry.

“As the job market is becoming more competitive in addition to GPA and personal achievements, employers want to see applicants who have completed one or more internships,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships.

Below we’ve highlighted some of the many internships for minorities in STEM fields

Facebook Software Engineer Internship

The Software Engineer Internship is available to undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing a degree in computer science or a related field. Interns will help build the next generation of systems behind Facebook’s products, create web applications that reach millions of people, build high volume servers, and be a part of a team that’s working to help people connect with each other around the globe.

Microsoft Internship Program

For Women and Minorities this program is specifically designed for undergraduate minority college freshmen and sophomores interested in a paid summer internship in software engineering. Students must major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or related disciplines.

Minority Access Internship

The Minority Access Internship Program has internships on offered in the spring, summer and fall to college sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduates, and professionals. Interns receive pre-employment training and counseling on career choices as well as professional development, with the possibility of full-time employment after graduation.

Google Internships

Google offers rich learning experiences for college students that include pay. As a technical intern, you are excited about tackling the hard problems in technology. With internships across the globe, ranging from Software Engineering to User Experience, Google offers many opportunities to grow with them.

The majority of the scholarships and internships 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.

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 IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com.

IOScholarships Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

LinkedIn
two diverse tech students in classroom reviewing work on computer screen

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind free scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students announced it was granted its Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification as a validation of its status as a minority-owned business.

The certification verifies that IOScholarships, LLC meets the criteria which requires a business to be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by racial or ethnic minorities who are also U.S. citizens.

“Getting our MBE certification was a natural step for IOScholarships as we continue our ongoing commitment to minority students. We look forward to working with our sponsors and partners to continue helping underrepresented students go to college debt-free.” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships.

Most of the scholarships featured on www.ioscholarships.com 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 IOScholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and also posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities. The platform also offers a blog with financial education information and a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

IOScholarships is proud to join the National Scholarship Providers Association an organization that offers tools, resources, professional development, and networking needed to administer a successful scholarship and student support program. In 2019, NSPA awarded $4,275,054,382 to 827,327 students.

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

‘No One’s Ever Talked to Me About This Before’

LinkedIn
Rach Idowu runs a newsletter called Adulting With A.D.H.D., in which she has described the difficulties she faced in receiving a diagnosis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

By Nicole Clark, NY Times

“When I was a kid, I had the sense things were more difficult for me,” Tiffany Bui recalled. It was hard for her to focus in school, and she was often forgetful. Throughout her life, she said, members of her family criticized these traits as faults.

In the fall of 2020, when she was a senior at the University of Minnesota, Ms. Bui, 21, was struggling with anxiety and depression. She visited the school’s health clinic, where she was prescribed an antidepressant, but her attention troubles persisted. When she later returned to the clinic, the doctor asked if she had considered that she might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or A.D.H.D.

“I started reading up, just doing some self-research about what A.D.H.D. looks like in women, and it was like, ‘Wow, no one’s ever talked to me about this before,’” Ms. Bui said. She wasn’t exclusively consulting medical websites; on social media, she saw posts from women talking about their experiences with A.D.H.D., which she said were “incredibly specific and so relatable.”

Ms. Bui was referred to a psychologist in Bloomington, Minn., where she sat for a neurological assessment sometimes used for diagnostic purposes, most often in children; it included word association tests, math problems and pattern-recognition exercises. Finally, following a lifetime of symptoms, Ms. Bui was diagnosed with inattentive A.D.H.D. (A.D.H.D. falls on a spectrum of three “types”: inattentive, hyperactive or combined type. Inattentive is used to describe symptoms like forgetfulness and other traits related to concentration.)

Ms. Bui’s story is not uncommon: Many women and people of color are only now learning, after years or even decades of difficulty, that they may meet the diagnostic criteria for A.D.H.D., thanks in part to a wave of creators on social media trying to spread awareness.

These creators are sharing webcomics (like Pina Varnel, 31, who is known as the A.D.H.D. Alien on Twitter), videos (Dani Donovan, 29, does so on TikTok, and Jessica McCabe, 38, on YouTube), newsletters (like 26-year-old Rach Idowu’s Adulting With A.D.H.D.), blogs (such as 36-year-old René Brooks’s Black Girl Lost Keys) and memes (“tell me you have A.D.H.D. without telling me you have A.D.H.D.”) that aim to help people identify symptoms and find community.

Dr. Lidia Zylowska, a psychiatrist and the author of “Mindfulness Prescription for Adult A.D.H.D.,” said that she had not observed an uptick in women of color being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. However, she noted, “there is an increasing trend in awareness in the A.D.H.D. field and the general public that people of color, and especially girls and women of color, maybe overlooked and not given the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment.”

Though medical researchers found, in a recent review of more than 300 studies, that A.D.H.D. was overdiagnosed (and overmedicated) in children under the age of 18, those diagnoses skewed toward certain demographics. White children are more likely to receive diagnoses and treatment for A.D.H.D. then children of color, as diagnostic models have long been based on research focused on young white boys.

Symptoms of the disorder may present differently in girls, and the emotional toll can be intense; one longitudinal study focused on girls and young women found that subjects who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. as children showed marked impairment 10 years after their diagnoses, including a high risk of self-harm.

“Eventually you hit a wall academically or professionally, and then you need to address all of these layers of built-up failed coping strategies,” said Leah Islam, 28. Mx. Islam had struggled with depression since age 13 but did not receive an A.D.H.D. diagnosis until turning 21. Their parents hadn’t supported their search for mental health care; it wasn’t until recently that Mx. Islam began discussing medication with their mother.

For some people, A.D.H.D. content represents a step toward identifying or explaining the ways they have felt different. It has also helped them advocate for their own evaluations; because A.D.H.D. is thought to be diagnosed in childhood, getting evaluated as an adult can be challenging (especially for people of color, who face implicit bias when seeking health care). People with A.D.H.D. are also more likely to be unemployed and therefore uninsured.

When Ms. Idowu, who lives in England, sought a referral for an evaluation through the U.K.’s National Health Service, her family’s general practitioner said that she didn’t match the profile of a person with A.D.H.D.

Ms. Idowu had read on Reddit about the difficulties of getting an evaluation and had come prepared with anecdotes from her childhood, as well as more recent workplace examples. She was given a referral, and nine months later she was able to see a specialist. Her most popular newsletter send details this process; some subscribers have told her it helped them navigate their own diagnostic processes.

A.D.H.D. has been diagnosed in 9.4 percent of children in the United States, according to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with rates rising in the past two decades. It is debated whether children grow out of it in adulthood, an attitude that is evolving as recent research shows diagnostic rates growing rapidly among white adults.

By adulthood, many without diagnosis or treatment have spent years feeling isolated or different. Dr. Courtney Pflieger, a private-practice psychologist who herself has A.D.H.D., said that people with the disorder often experience negative feedback as adults. “It really feeds: ‘What’s wrong with me, I must just be broken,’” she said.

Ms. Bui’s own symptoms went unnoticed for years because she was able to do fine in school. Like many others who aren’t diagnosed until adulthood, she was “masking” her symptoms — adapting to neurotypical behaviors and standards in order to fit in. (Masking forgetfulness, for example, might mean privately relying on a bulwark of organizational strategies — like setting phone alarms for every step of doing laundry.) She still doesn’t feel comfortable telling her family about her diagnosis.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Times.

UCLA introduces American Sign Language/Deaf culture course to dental students

LinkedIn
American Sign Language instructor Andrew Moore, top left, teaches a virtual class on ASL at UCLA in April.

By David Burger, ADA News

Los Angeles — According to the National Association of the Deaf, there are nearly 50 million Deaf/Hard of Hearing people in the U.S. There are communication barriers between the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community and the dental community that needs to be addressed and overcome.

To improve this communication process and address these barriers, in April the UCLA School of Dentistry launched a five-week long elective course for dental students on Deaf culture, Deaf history, and American Sign Language so that the future dentists will have a basic understanding and be prepared in their interactions with Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients.

“The more we can do to increase awareness and education of the community as a whole will hopefully benefit overall patient care in the coming years,” said Benjamin Kurnick, a second-year dental student and co-vice president of the school’s Special Patient Care Club. “This program is a part of the Special Patient Care Club’s overall mission of adding to our fellow dental students’ capabilities in treating and interacting with the special needs community.”

The virtual lunch-time class is taught by Andrew Moore, an American Sign Language instructor and Deaf interpreter, who has developed the curriculum specifically tailored to dental students.

Mr. Moore became involved in offering the program when Mr. Kurnick approached him with the brainchild.

“After discussing ideas, I was thrilled to agree and accept this unique opportunity,” Mr. Moore said. “Upon taking these classes, I hope that these dental students will gain appreciation, awareness, sensitivity, and understanding when interacting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients.”

In Mr. Moore’s education, he addresses various forms of communication methods and barriers. These communication barriers can be removed by providing interpreters, using clear masks, illustrations/picture boards, pen/paper, gestures and voice-to-text apps.

Approved by the UCLA School of Dentistry Office of Student Affairs, with funding secured through the UCLA Student Organizations and Leadership Office, the course emphasizes that communication is key for all patient-centered care, said Eric Sung, D.D.S., professor of clinical dentistry at UCLA and the course’s faculty advisor.

Click here to read the full article on ADA News.

Singer with disability shines in Ali Stroker’s new kids book

LinkedIn
Cover image of the childrens book of an Ali illustration

By the Sentinel-Tribune

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Stroker teamed up with her friend and middle grade author Stacy Davidowitz and set out to create a familiar character: a young girl in a wheelchair named Nat who wants to perform in a local musical.

“The Chance to Fly” — published this week — was a way for the actor to share her own experiences as a person with a disability and big dreams. Stroker, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident paralyzed her when she was 2, says she wanted to help kids with disabilities recognize themselves in the book. Even before winning a Tony in 2019 for her role in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma,” Stroker served as an example of a person who doesn’t let limitations prevent her from achieving her goals. She made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to win the award and dedicated it to all kids with disabilities waiting to be represented in theater.

Stroker said she was driven to write “The Chance to Fly” because she didn’t have any stories like it to read when she was in middle school. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Stroker talked about the challenges of writing a story similar to her own, representing people with disabilities, and naming her wheelchair.

AP: Nat loves musicals and performing. How did performing make you feel at her age?

Stroker: On stage, I felt like I was my most powerful self because people were looking at me and staring at me. But it wasn’t just because of my wheelchair and it was a safe place to be different kinds of people. For a long time, I felt like I had to be, you know, like happy and OK and inspirational for other people. And when I was on stage and I was playing a character who was going through something, I got to express all those other things that were living inside of me. Writing this book as well and going back to those really vulnerable, scary, first time moments was so healing. And I think teenage Ali was just really brave and really tough. And I feel so proud of where I am now.

AP: Nat sometimes feels embarrassed about her wheelchair. Was it hard to write about that?

Stroker: It was a challenge for me to go back to those moments. One of the ways I describe it is just like you feel like you’re like so hot and you feel like people are looking at you for the thing that you are most self-conscious of, and maybe the thing that you have the most shame about. And it’s just overwhelming. But I wanted to write it because whether you have a disability or you’re in a wheelchair or not, you have those self-conscious and really difficult moments in your life, especially as a teenager, when you just want to be like everybody else, but you’re not like everybody else. And the reason it needed to exist in this book is because I want young people to know that they’re not alone in feeling like that.

AP: The adult directors of the show cast Nat but tell her she doesn’t have to dance, which upsets her because doesn’t want special treatment. Why was that important to include?

Stroker: What’s so beautiful about living with a disability is that your creativity to solve problems is so accessible. It’s so heightened because this is a part of your everyday life. Nat is really disappointed, but then she goes away and she shares with her friends, her peers what’s going on, and then they offer to help her and they are going to not wait for the adults to solve the problem, but they are going to come up with the answer. That’s an ideal situation when you can ask your home team, the people that you trust the most for help, and then you can come up with a creative solution.

Click here to read the full article on the Sentinel-Tribune.

Chefs and cooks in the disability community share recipes for accessibility

LinkedIn
Chef Regina Mitchell prepares vegetables in her home outside of Las Vegas. Mitchell, who is blind, teaches Zoom cooking classes through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnec

LUCAS KWAN PETERSON

Chef Regina Mitchell’s Zoom cooking class begins like a lot of Zooms: friendly banter, reminders to mute here, some technical adjustments there. A few minutes after the 4:30 p.m. start time, there are about 20 people on the call. The menu for tonight: a vegetable stir-fry and a lemongrass-ginger soda.

“The blind can cook!” she says to the camera and laughs. “People say when you have lemons, you make lemonade. I turn lemons into limoncello. Or a lemon pavlova.”

PHOTO: (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell, 60, became blind as an adult. She teaches cooking through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnect and its life skills-based program, Angela’s House. On the first and second Wednesdays of the month from her kitchen in the Las Vegas Valley, Mitchell emphasizes fun and skill-sharing to help visually impaired people feel comfortable in the kitchen.

Food and cooking are essential areas where those with disabilities can often be invisible or overlooked. But Mitchell and other advocates are working hard to address the problem by offering classes and resources and putting forth ideas to make cooking and recipes accessible.

Soon, the class begins in earnest. Much of the process is what you might expect — verbal instruction, chopping, peeling, simmering — but Mitchell emphasizes kitchen safety and exploration through touch and smell.

“I encourage you to feel the difference between corn starch, flour, confectioner’s sugar,” she says. At another point, while peeling a piece of ginger with a spoon, she reminds students, “Feel it before you peel it,” to better acquaint them with the rough-skinned root. She suggests students rub spices together in their hands to “wake them up,” which also makes them easier to identify.

Mitchell’s journey to teaching grew from necessity. “It’s a place to come; it’s a place to connect,” she says of her Zoom classes. “It’s a place to gather; it’s a place to be able to say hi. Because really, as blind individuals, we are already isolated.”

Growing up in Compton, Mitchell learned a love of food and cooking from her mother and grandmothers. Thrust into a caretaker role as a teenager after the death of a sibling, Mitchell relied on a couple of go-to dishes to feed her family: enchiladas and tacos.

After she and her future husband, Stan, met at church, the couple moved to Seattle where Mitchell enrolled at the Seattle Culinary Academy. After cooking and consulting for years as a professional chef, which included brief internships with Emeril Lagasse and Julia Child, Mitchell moved to Las Vegas for a job.

In 2011, she began to feel pain — eye pain. At the hotel where she was working, she began to notice a change. Her walking became unsteady; she felt off-balance. “I realized I didn’t have that gait like I used to have,” she says. Her colleagues noticed. “I had to ask people at work to help me read some things, undercover, of course.” Over the next several months, her vision deteriorated.

She was eventually diagnosed with bilateral panuveitis, a condition that affects the middle layer of the eye and robbed Mitchell of her sight. Her doctor wouldn’t let her return to work.

“I lost my vision, I lost my job. What do I do?” Mitchell remembers thinking. At the time, she was 50.

In the United States, 26% of adults, or 61 million people, live with some type of disability. Of those, 6.8% have an independent-living disability — something that would cause difficulty running errands alone; 5.9% are deaf or severely hearing impaired and 4.6% are blind or severely visually impaired.

Studies have shown that food insecurity, or lack of reliable access to nutritious food, is more likely to occur in households where there is someone with a disability, further demonstrating the need for accessible classes, websites and tailored teaching strategies. A study from the USDA’s Economic Research Survey estimated that 38% of households with low food security included an adult with a disability. Poor diet, the study noted, can exacerbate health conditions and disabilities.

“Who, above anyone, could use information on how to cook?” says George Stern, a deafblind writer and disability rights advocate living in Lubbock, Texas. The disabled “benefit as much as anyone from that knowledge, if not more,” he said. But to reap those benefits, companies and businesses must make access for all a priority.

Stern says we must stop thinking about providing accessibility as a burden or barrier because it’s not. “Accessibility goes past the needs of any one disability class. An accommodation that benefits deafblind people benefits sighted people. Accommodations that benefit people in wheelchairs benefit non-disabled people.”

He cited the installation of accessible ramps in front of businesses as an example. Initially, some may complain about the cost or inconvenience, “but then you see the benefits,” for all people: parents with strollers or people making deliveries.

Kitchens and culinary spaces also should be designed with access in mind — not retroactively making accommodations. “Universal design is welcoming from the get-go,” Stern says. “We’re assuming disabled people exist because yes, hello, we do.”

The food industry, from kitchens to restaurants to culinary training spaces, still feels “off-limits” to those with disabilities, Stern says. He recalled applying for a job at a pizza parlor but was told he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace. The prevailing attitude, he says, is one of, “I’m going to assume what you can do based on what I assume I couldn’t do.”

Stern, who has written about the importance of alt-text and website accessibility for Serious Eats, wants to challenge traditional thinking about what those with disabilities can or cannot do, and are or are not interested in. “The crucial thing is that disabled people can contribute in ways they’re not thinking of.”

Stern’s partner, Danielle Montour, is an assistive technology specialist and amateur baker who graduated from the Colorado Center for the Blind’s Independence Training Program. She was born with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer, and is blind. There’s fear in non-disabled communities, Montour said, regarding letting those with disabilities into a kitchen — specifically near knives and stoves. While the fear may come from a place of caring, “It just perpetuates this cycle of blind people who have to go elsewhere to get basic skill training,” she says.

“I understand the intention might be well, but the road to hell is paved with them.”

Montour’s medium of choice is baking, but she found that recipes often relied too heavily on visual indicators. She emphasized the need for different metrics for quality and doneness.

“I don’t want to know when something is golden brown,” she says. “If your only indicator is the color, I’m going to look for [another recipe]. What does it smell like? What should it feel like? What is the consistency of pastry cream? None of the recipes I saw told me what that should be.”

Mitchell, with her adult-onset blindness, was forced to make adjustments in the kitchen, which had been her solace for years. She met Raquel O’Neill, the president of Blindconnect, who introduced her to the concept of blindness skills, which include communication, orientation and independent living. In 2019, Mitchell began teaching cooking with Blindconnect.

Out of necessity, Mitchell’s food vocabulary expanded as a result of her blindness. “I’m trying to describe [food] to my listeners, I’m trying to describe it for the people in my Zoom class: This is what you’re going to be tasting if you do this right,” she says.

She recalls one simple but instructive memory from culinary school, before she had lost her vision. “My professor had us write how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” she says. “And at the time as sassy culinary students, you think you know it all. All of us failed it.”

The problem? The instructor wanted the students to write as if the person following it had never read a recipe. “I take five steps to my cupboard, I open my cupboard with my left hand. I take my right hand, I reach into my cupboard. I pull out my bread,” Mitchell recalls. “I pull my drawer out and I reach in with my left hand and I pull out my knife.”

That experience informed her teaching philosophy in a profound way: “That brought back the memory of being descriptive,” she says. “I thought, ‘Ah, that’s how I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take that approach.’”

Read the full article at LA Times.

US Eases Student Loan Relief for Those With Disabilities

LinkedIn
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.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Lumen

Lumen

Verizon

Verizon

Leidos

Alzheimers Awareness Month

Alzheimers Awareness Month

Upcoming Events

  1. Abilities Expo — The Event For the Disability Community
    December 3, 2021 - December 5, 2021
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. Abilities Expo — The Event For the Disability Community
    December 3, 2021 - December 5, 2021
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022