Howie Mandel Opens Up About His ‘Painful’ Struggle with Anxiety and OCD

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Howie Mandel on stage smiling away from the camera

By Aili Nahas, People

Howie Mandel has been living with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for nearly his entire life, but for America’s Got Talent judge, every day is still a struggle. “I’m living in a nightmare,” says Mandel, 65, who first exhibited symptoms of his OCD – repetitive and intrusive thoughts and fixations, often brought on by his debilitating fear of germs – as a child. “I try to anchor myself. I have a beautiful family and I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of,” he tells PEOPLE for one of this week’s cover stories. Wed to wife Terry since 1980, Mandel, who is dad to son Alex, 31, and daughters Riley, 28, and Jackie, 36 (who also suffers from anxiety and OCD), says the pandemic was especially triggering for his mental health.

“There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche,” he says. “But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was okay. It’s good to latch onto okay. But [during the pandemic] the whole world was not okay. And it was absolute hell.” Diagnosed in his 40s, Mandel didn’t open up about his conditions until 2006, and admits he grappled with the decision to do so. “My first thought was that I’ve embarrassed my family,” he recalls. “Then I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hire somebody who isn’t stable.’ Those were my fears.”

Mandel says he’s often used humor to get through the toughest moments. “My coping skill is finding the funny,” he says. “If I’m not laughing, then I’m crying. And I still haven’t been that open about how dark and ugly it really gets.” The comic, who got his TV start on the medical drama St. Elsewhere in 1982, says that his innate ability to find light amidst darkness has been life-changing. “Comedy saved me in a way,” says Mandel. “I’m most comfortable onstage. And when I don’t have anything to do, I turn inward – and that’s not good.” Today, Mandel, who says he still deals with bouts of extreme depression, acknowledges that the public might not understand the depths of his condition.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Reflecting on Accessibility, Ableism, and Chronic Illness During Pride Month

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Accessibility poster for phighting words

By Mike Naple, Pulmonary Hypertension News

Pride Month, observed each June, is a time to celebrate LGBTQ history, community, and life through events and parades. Curiously enough, I marched in my first Pride parade years before I had the courage to come out and live authentically. While I think about that experience in San Francisco often, for many reasons, I’ve only attended a few Pride events since I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

Pride can be wonderful for many people in the LGBTQ community; however, that is not always the case for queer people who are disabled or chronically ill. Pride events, including parades, are not always accessible or inclusive, creating barriers to full participation for people who also wish to celebrate this month. Whether the activity is walking in a parade, observing as a spectator, or joining the fun at a party or other celebration, these all happen in venues that can be inaccessible.

Making Pride more inclusive of those of us with disabilities and chronic illnesses begins at the planning phase. Organizers should think about parade routes, parking, seating options, and amplified sound through the lens of how to make the event accessible to all.

For me and others living with PH, hot weather can trigger or worsen symptoms, and June is when the summer heat starts to turn up. It is harder for me to breathe if I’m outdoors when the thermometer reads 90 F. If I wanted to attend a Pride parade or event, I would consider what accommodations are being provided to help prevent heat exhaustion. Supplying things like shaded seating that’s easily accessible, fans, and bottled water would help me decide whether or not to participate.

Last year, we all had to make adjustments to allow for quarantining and social distancing protocols to limit exposure to COVID-19. Work, school, family reunions, holiday dinners, and many other events took place virtually instead of in person. This dynamic forced many businesses and event organizers — everyone from restaurant and bookstore owners, to local bands playing to their fans from their living rooms, to those organizing Pride activities — to get creative to engage their audiences.

One positive thing to emerge from the pandemic is the recognition that we can make events accessible by going virtual, and they will be just as engaging and successful. Virtual events also give people options for how they choose to participate. It doesn’t have to be just parades and crowded, in-person events.

Still, accessibility doesn’t always mean inclusivity. When Pride messages herald themes of diversity and acceptance of differences, I often question my place within the community because of my own issues with body image and experiences with internal and external ableism.

A portable oxygen concentrator is a mobility device I use as part of my treatment plan to improve my quality of life with PH. If I want to participate in a march, I bring it. I have worn my oxygen concentrator to climate and advocacy marches before. But I couldn’t picture myself wearing it to march in a Pride parade because of complicated feelings related to body positivity and not conforming to mainstream standards in the LGBTQ community.

Two years after my diagnosis, I attended a Pride event to listen to a presentation on healthcare data for older queer Americans. I spoke up during the Q&A session to inquire about care for older members of the LGBTQ community who are disabled or chronically ill. This spectrum of our community often gets lost, or considered as an afterthought, and the presentation was mostly silent on disability until I gave voice to that absence.

I think about life expectancy and pulmonary hypertension a lot. With a mix of hope and trepidation, I look ahead to growing old with my partner. I also worry about the kind of ableism and prejudice we could face should my PH become more severe down the road and we need to make some tough decisions about my healthcare.

Click here to read the full article on Pulmonary Hypertension News.

The value of integrating disability and health plans

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Choosing a short-term disability plan that’s integrated with the employer’s medical plan can help improve an employee’s health when they experience a disability and get back to work as quickly and safely as possible.

By Scott Towers, Benefits Pro

Over the last year, the pandemic has produced several learnings and compelled us to pause and think about our wellbeing in its entirety. For employers, they can play a key role in supporting employees’ overall wellbeing, which goes beyond benefits to support mental and physical health, but also benefits that help preserve their financial health. Disability insurance is one of the surest ways for employers to protect employees against lost income, yet availability to this benefit remains limited. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March 2020 that only 40% of American workers had access to short-term disability while 35% had access to long-term disability.

Proper preparation and implementation of disability benefits on the employers’ part can ensure employees are fully supported should they experience a disabling condition. Disability plans can include features to help patients recover as quickly as possible and by integrating these benefits with your medical plan can further improve outcomes for both employees and employers.

Let’s discuss the different options available to employers, the importance of a comprehensive disability benefits package, why integrating disability benefits with the medical plan should be considered, and how employers can promote disability benefits to let employees know they’re valued and protected.

What options are available to employers?
The options available to employers can be broken down into two categories: short-term and long-term disability benefits. Short-term disability benefits aid employees for a short period of time – whether it’s a few weeks or a few months – by replacing a percentage of income when an employee is unable to work due to a qualifying disability. Long-term disability benefits differ in that benefits can be paid for an extended period, whether that be many months, years or even up until an employee reaches retirement age.

A benefits program that includes both short and long-term benefits ensures employees have the complete financial protection they need, but not all employers are able to provide both benefits due to their budget. When offering both is not feasible, it is critical to, at the very minimum, explore short-term disability options. Short-term disability will be needed by many U.S. workers at some point in their career, especially considering a reported 25% of today’s 20-year-olds are expected to miss work for at least a year as a result of a disabling condition.

Cost becomes a critical component when employers consider the addition of new benefits to their health, vision, and dental plans. Employers can choose to cover the full cost of a disability plan’s premium, cover part of the premium with employees paying the remainder of the premium, or they can provide a voluntary plan where employees pay the full premium on a payroll deduction basis. Disability plans can be set up with the employee’s premium paid on a pre-taxed basis, which can help reduce employee’s tax liability.

The importance of a comprehensive disability benefits package
When looking into a disability package, it’s important to understand the leading causes of qualifying disabling conditions. Some of the most common claims include pregnancy, mental health, and chronic illness, all of which will impact most of the workforce at some point throughout their career.

Click here to read the full article on Benefits Pro.

Teletherapy Aimed to Make Mental Health Care More Inclusive. The Data Show a Different Story

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cable wire illustration shaped like a brain to symbol Teletherapy

BY JAMIE DUCHARME , TIME

For years, teletherapy has been pitched as the next frontier in mental-health care. Unlike medical disciplines requiring a more hands-on approach—say, physical therapy or surgery—talk therapy has long seemed a natural and effective fit for telehealth. And by taking appointments off the therapist’s couch and into patients’ homes via their devices, advocates argued, telehealth could make counseling more accessible and convenient for everyone, with particular benefits for those who lived in health care deserts or who couldn’t regularly drive back and forth to see a clinician. The hope was that virtual therapy could help democratize a system that allowed almost 20% of white Americans to receive mental-health care in 2019, but fewer than 10% of people identifying as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander.

Then, of course, the pandemic hit, sending the U.S. health care system into a panic and shuttering clinics and private practices nationwide. Telehealth, once psychiatry’s up-and-comer, was suddenly its lifeline. With impressive speed, a system built around face-to-face visits shifted almost exclusively online. By May 2020, 85% of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) surveyed clinician members said they were conducting the majority of their sessions virtually, up from just 2% prior to the pandemic. It was the perfect pressure test for the promise of virtual mental-health care. If there was ever a time for teletherapy to shine, it was during the pandemic.

But the data aren’t so shiny. Telehealth has indisputably improved mental-health care access—but not to such an extent that it delivers on promises of revolutionizing the mental-health system. The same problems that kept many people—particularly those who are lower-income or of color—from seeking care before the pandemic still exist, even with the expansion of telehealth. As a result, mental-health usage in the U.S. hasn’t changed as drastically as many advocates would have liked.

In a series of TIME/Harris Poll national surveys conducted this winter and spring, about half of respondents reported using telehealth since the pandemic began, compared with about 25% who said they had beforehand.

Click here to read the full article on TIME.

‘You Gotta Be’ — Inspiring performance of the Des’ree hit by 13 world-class artists from 9 countries

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collage of performers with the text 'you gotta be' centered in pink and green colors

Artists include Mandy Harvey, whose performance on America’s Got Talent earned Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer; Raul Midón, a Grammy-nominee who devoted his life to music after being told that blindness would make it impossible; Kenta Kambara, an accomplished aerial performer and dancer who performed in the 2016 Rio 2016 Paralympics closing ceremony; Signmark, the first deaf artist to be signed to a major record label; and Aliènette Coldfire, who placed third in France’s Got Talent.

“Being a part of this team is another reinforcement to me that what’s within you is so much stronger than the barriers we face.” Mandy Harvey

Performing in the latest True Colors music video, released worldwide today, the cast of 13 artists from 9 countries presents a new take on the R&B classic, You Gotta Be, by Des’ree.

Says Des’ree, original recording artist and co-writer of You Gotta Be: “This is a truly powerful video – so invigorating and energizing, elevating the sentiment of the song and its message. The artists’ introductions at the end add even deeper resonance to their already inspiring performances.”

View the full line-up of artists here.

Directed and produced in Singapore by Creative & Music Director Dr Sydney Tan and Video Director Jasper Tan, the music video takes the viewer beyond the artistes’ performances into a variety of “day-in-the-life” moments.

Says Dr Sydney Tan: “All of us, regardless of who and where we are, wake up and start our days and have the opportunity to listen and look up, to participate in choices and be fully human. We have the ability, whatever our circumstances and our geography, to experience and celebrate the ordinary yet wonderful moments that life unfolds.”

The technical process of producing this music video involved countless Whatsapp, Messenger and Zoom calls, monitoring the time across time zones, and using Google Translate in real time to communicate across different languages – not forgetting the process of piecing together the audio and video performances across the globe. “The most important aspect of the process, though, was to develop a relationship with each artist, such that trust and freedom would allow them to perform and be themselves, with each person’s unique spirit and energy coming through in a real and palpable way,” adds Dr Tan.

In full agreement, Mandy Harvey says: “Even though we haven’t met in person…you can feel that every person put their heart into the entire process. Being a part of this team is another reinforcement to me that what’s within you is so much stronger than the barriers we face. This is a reminder to reach farther and dream bigger. My hope is that people are encouraged to try!”

Says Ichiro Kabasawa, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, presenter of True Colors Festival: “People everywhere have been going through such a prolonged period of uncertainty, isolation and fear. We chose this classic, You Gotta Be, for everyone, everywhere at this time, to realize the potential in ourselves; to choose to be bolder, stronger, wiser, whatever each day may bring. It’s a reminder that when it comes down to it, we’re all human, living together in our one world.”

And in this regard, this True Colors music video comes with options that make it widely accessible, including Closed Captions (for the Deaf) & Audio Description (for the Blind) as well as an accompanying video Transcript (for the Deafblind).”

For more information, please visit the True Colors Festival website.

True Colors Festival 2020/21

TCF is a long-running international festival of performing arts. We celebrate diversity and inclusion, and embrace the fact that we are One World, One Family. We choose the arts as our platform, for its power to move, inspire and heal. We know, as you do, that the lines of a song can open a heart, a musical note can make spirits soar, a subtle dance movement can convey all of human experience; and more.

As a festival, TCF brings people together to generate exchanges, innovation and creativity; and transform the way we relate to each other.

Presented by The Nippon Foundation, TCF brings diverse artists and audiences together through concerts, documentaries, music videos, film screenings, children’s programs, musicals, workshops and other activities. Since 2006, festivals have been organised in Southeast Asia and Japan, with more than 1,200 artists from more than 30 countries connecting with a global audience in almost 40 countries.

TCF invites you to journey with us, to enjoy, experience, share and spread our consciousness of being One World, One Family.

Follow True Colors Festival for updates: 

Facebook @truecolorsfestivalofficial | Instagram @truecolorsfestival | Join our mailing list

The Nippon Foundation (TNF) was established in 1962 as a non-profit philanthropic organization, active in Japan and around the world. Initially our efforts focused largely on the maritime and shipping fields, but since then, the range of our activities has expanded to education, social welfare, public health, and other fields—carried out in more than 100 countries to date. Together with our more than 20 partner organizations in Japan and worldwide, we are funding and assisting community-led efforts aimed at realizing a more peaceful and prosperous global society. To find out more about TNF, please visit http://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/.

FDA Approves Device To Help Detect Autism

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FDA sign in front of building

By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop

Federal regulators authorized a first-of-its-kind device to help primary care doctors determine whether or not a child has autism, potentially allowing kids to be diagnosed far sooner by avoiding lengthy waits for specialists.

The Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to market the Cognoa ASD Diagnosis Aid this month, which will be branded Canvas Dx.

The machine learning-based software uses an algorithm to analyze data submitted by parents and health care providers in order to return a “positive for ASD” or “negative for ASD” response for a child.

To use the device, parents and caregivers answer questions about behavior and submit videos of the child through a mobile app while the health care provider answers questions through a special portal. The videos are reviewed by certified specialists and the algorithm makes a determination so long as there is sufficient information provided.

It is the first device authorized by the FDA to help primary care physicians diagnose autism, according to Cognoa, which makes the product.

Since autism symptoms vary, the condition can be difficult to diagnose, the FDA said. As a result, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the median age for autism diagnosis is older than 4 even though the developmental disability can be reliably detected by age 2. Part of the problem is that families often encounter long waits in order to see a clinician skilled in evaluating children for autism.

The Cognoa aid is intended to help solve that problem by giving primary care physicians with less specialized training the tools to make a diagnosis themselves. That can happen with the device within a few weeks, the company said, as opposed to taking months or years, allowing children who are on the spectrum to start early intervention sooner.

“Autism spectrum disorder can delay a child’s physical, cognitive and social development, including motor skill development, learning, communication and interacting with others. The earlier ASD can be diagnosed, the more quickly intervention strategies and appropriate therapies can begin,” said Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Today’s marketing authorization provides a new tool for helping diagnose children with ASD.”

In a study of the Cognoa ASD Diagnosis Aid that involved 425 children ages 18 months to 5 years, the device returned a result for about a third of the kids. Of those who were “positive for ASD,” a panel of clinical experts found that 81% were on the spectrum. The clinical panel agreed with the aid’s findings in 98% of the children who got a “negative for ASD” result.

The FDA has approved the device for use with children ages 18 months through 5 years who are considered to be at risk of developmental delay due to concerns raised by their parent, caregiver or health care provider. It is not meant to be a stand-alone diagnostic device, but should be used in addition to the traditional diagnostic process, regulators said.

Cognoa indicated that it expects to start making Canvas Dx available later this year.

Click here to read the full article on Disability Scoop.

Concerned that returning to work will impact your mental health? Here’s how to set boundaries

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mental health can impact work. Man sitting in front of computer working

By Cory Stieg, Make It

It’s no surprise that mental health has taken a hit during the Covid pandemic. A December survey from the U.S. Census Bureau found that 42% of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from 11% in previous years. But there are aspects of pandemic life — working remotely, staying home and opting out of social situations, for instance — that have made life and managing their mental health easier for some.

While many are struggling to balance childcare or feeling overwhelmed by isolation, others prefer the flexibility of remote work and telemedicine, and are grateful not to have to participate in social functions. If you are at all dreading going back to “normal life,” here are ways to deal, according to experts.

It’s normal to feel scared, but changes are healthy
In periods of stress — whether that’s a pandemic, economic turmoil or racial unrest — we make adjustments to manage the stressors that are within our control, David Rosmarin, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Center for Anxiety tells CNBC Make It. In the case of the pandemic, for example, many people started working from home and streamlined social interactions to avoid coming into contact with the virus.

“That’s a good, healthy process that we’ve all made those adaptations,” Rosmarin says. Over the past year, we have become very comfortable with our “new normal,” and might feel excessive fear or anxiety about returning to how things were before.

Eventually, some aspects of life will return to how it was before the pandemic, and these temporary solutions may not serve us anymore. “If you continue to use them, they actually get in the way of mental health, and could become problematic,” he says.

Recognize your anxiety
Anxiety is a condition of feeling “full of dread,” Margaret Wehrenberg, psychologist and author of “Pandemic Anxiety: Fear, Stress, and Loss in Traumatic Times,” tells CNBC Make it.

In order to alleviate the feelings of dread, people with anxiety often spend “an excessive amount of time scanning their world for a problem and trying to solve it,” Wehrenberg says. This can lead people to attach their worries to something that doesn’t necessarily warrant it or isn’t based in reality.

“Anxiety is a condition that looks for content,” she says.

Of course, the pandemic has given us ample reason to worry about our safety. But identifying moments when you feel symptoms of anxiety (e.g. restlessness, fatigue, irritability, worry or trouble sleeping) and labeling it as such can help you feel in control of what happens next.

Click here to read the full article on Make It.

‘Smart’ wheelchair wheel design that aids accessibility wins student design competition

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‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

By , Thiis

An innovative wheelchair wheel design which aims to boost accessibility for wheelchairs users with a spinal cord injury has won a prestigious competition. Law firm, Bolt Burdon Kemp, which acts for people with spinal cord injuries, organised the Design the Change competition in collaboration with Cereba, a charity that helps children with brain conditions. The competition, announced last November, was set up to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries and how innovative designs that boost accessibility can make a real difference. UK-based university students were invited to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury, with the law firm stating that it was looking for a design which was both unique and practical.

Winner Thomas Salkeld, 23, a third year Product Design BSc student from Cardiff Metropolitan University, designed the ‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

Thomas wins £3,000, with an additional £2,000 being awarded to Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Part of Cereba’s work as a charity is to design bespoke equipment to meet families’ needs at its innovation centre, and as part of his prize, Thomas will have a week’s placement at the centre in Wales next year.

Thomas really impressed the judges by researching his design thoroughly and taking into account the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair.

He bought a wheelchair himself and found travelling in it exhausting, especially uphill. He spoke to several people who had sustained a spinal cord injury and who were also wheelchairs users and ran his prototypes by them for feedback.

Highly commended in the competition and also offered a week’s placement at Cerebra is Anna Lis, 21, a third year Product Design student at the University for the Creative Arts. Anna’s Superhuman Shoe and Ankle Foot Orthosis design provides support for people with drop foot, a common side-effect of a spinal cord injury.

The judging panel were impressed with Anna’s detailed research and the fact her shoe celebrates the support it offers, rather than disguising its specialist features.

Victoria Oliver, Head of the Spinal Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “We were blown away by the quality of the entries this year and it’s fantastic to see how much research went into everyone’s designs.

“A spinal cord injury is a life changing event that makes even the most mundane of tasks time-consuming, and innovative designs and products can really help make the world more accessible to the 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK.

“Thomas’s design showed real awareness of the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair and he went to great lengths to make sure his Smart Wheel design was practical, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.”

Winner Thomas Salkeld said: “I am ecstatic about winning the competition as designing to help people is my passion and what I wish to pursue in the future.

“The aim of my design was to really take into consideration what the users want and the problems they face every day in regards to their mobility in a wheelchair, then applying my engineering, design, prototyping and technology skills that were necessary.

“The aesthetics were designed to be functional but also pleasing to the eye, allowing the users to be proud of the product on their wheelchairs.”

Click here to read the full article on Thiis.

Workplace Accessibility: Striving For Equity

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IBVI employee Emily Merced wearing a baseball cap and blue polo work shirt at work in warehouse with cart in front and many boxes stacked behind her

By CJ Lange, President & CEO, Industries for the Blind & Visually Impaired (IBVI)

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, its intent was to help make buildings, products and services more accessible to people with disabilities. But accessibility means a lot more than just ramps and properly coded websites — it means going beyond equality (treating people the same) to reach equity (giving people the same opportunity to thrive).

Conversely, the word disability is defined only by how you look at it, because behind it are thousands of capable people who are ready and willing to work. That’s why, at Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), our mission is to create meaningful employment for those with visual impairments. And that starts with accessibility.

Did you know more than 70 percent of people who are blind and visually impaired are unemployed? To further expand career offerings and opportunities—and help lower this percentage — IBVI provides employees who are blind or visually impaired with technology and tools to do their jobs well.

To accomplish this, we’ve equipped our three facilities throughout Wisconsin with the latest accessibility technology and software — including an investment in Oracle Cloud that we are customizing to be 100 percent accessible for our blind and visually impaired staff. Some employees use screen readers or image magnification while others take advantage of more subtle ADA measures like windows on doors and different textures on the floor that help them navigate our buildings.

These aids give our employees the tools (and access) they need to have fulfilling experiences and independent jobs. And because of these tools and advancements in accessibility technology, currently more than half of our staff is people who are blind and visually impaired.

Other initiatives to enhance accessibility are driven by our Education and Development Policy, which includes Individual Development Plans (IDP), tuition reimbursement and an on-site educational center for blind and visually impaired employees requesting additional assisted technology training.

We are vocal about our employees and their stories because they make us who we are. Celebrating our employees brings a sense of awareness that helps break down barriers for both the sighted and the blind and visually impaired in our local communities. But it also does something else — it inspires.

When you meet our employees, you’ll not only be amazed by the extraordinary things they’re capable of, you’ll be captivated by their remarkable stories of triumph, perseverance and courage. Machine operator Emily Merced survived hurricane Maria and started over more than 2,000 miles away with new-found independence. Tool kitter Easton Kons has achieved the career he’s always wanted and welcomes the challenges to come.

Blind employment doesn’t just give people jobs — it empowers them to be more financially independent and makes them feel like they’re a part of a team. I will say it time and time again: our employees inspire us and make us who we are — with their stories, commitment to excellence and drive to achieve remarkable things. By implementing changes at your company to make it more accessible, you’ll open your doors to extraordinary individuals.

To learn more about IBVI and our employees, please visit ibvi.org.

CJ Lange headshot
CJ Lange, President and CEO of Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. (IBVI)

Author Bio: CJ Lange is the President and CEO of Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. (IBVI) and the architect of a highly successful career in which he has innovated around technology, consistently implemented and executed strategies successfully and unified

the organization to create business opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. With keen insight for identifying new channels of business development and a talent for building and managing high-performing teams that fuel growth and create positive change,

CJ drives IBVI’s mission to create superior customer products and services and be a difference-maker in people’s lives.

Prince Harry’s Mental Health Series Is an ‘Important Duty’ — But ‘Another Blow for the Royal Family’

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Prince Harry wearing a blue blazer and white shirt while staring away from the camera

By Simon Perry and Stephanie Petit, People

Prince Harry is opening up about his mental health like never before.

Harry, 36, appeared in the Apple TV+ five-part docuseries called The Me You Can’t See that he co-created with Oprah Winfrey, where he openly talks about his upbringing in the royal family, how he takes after his late mother Princess Diana, how he’s changed as a person since becoming a father with wife Meghan Markle and how much he’s grown stronger mentally after years of therapy.

“The world is a better place for what Harry has done,” royal historian Robert Lacey tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “But this is another blow for the British crown and royal family.”

British journalist and mental health advocate Bryony Gordon adds that Harry is undertaking “an important form of duty” by breaking the shame barrier around mental illness.

“This is a man who, at the age of 12, was sent out to walk behind his mother’s coffin and console the masses outside Kensington Palace,” she says. “I just don’t understand why we’re now angry with him that that might have affected him.”

In the docuseries, Prince Harry says his father, Prince Charles, refused to question the hardships of royal life.

“My father used to say to me when I was younger, ‘Well, it was like that for me, so it’s going to be like that for you,'” Harry said in the mental health series. “That doesn’t make sense — just because you suffered, that doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer, in fact quite the opposite. If you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences that you had, you can make it right for your kids.”

“Isn’t this all about breaking the cycle?’ he asked. “Isn’t this all about making sure that history doesn’t repeat itself?”

Click here to read the full article on People.

Man with Down Syndrome Who Got Job at UPS Lands Permanent Position, Inspires Scholarship

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UPS worker with down syndrome lands permanent position and inspires a scholarship. The employee jake is pictured in his uniform in front of a pile of carboard boxes

By Joelle Goldstein, People

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service. After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee. In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

Jake Pratt, the Alabama resident with Down syndrome who landed a gig at UPS last year, is continuing to make strides at the nationwide delivery service.

After getting hired at the Birmingham, Alabama UPS facility in December 2020 as a seasonal package runner, a UPS spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE that Pratt, 22, has now been asked to join the team permanently as a part-time employee.

In addition to his new role, Pratt, a 2020 graduate of Clemson University’s LIFE program, has inspired UPS to make a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit organization Down Syndrome of Alabama, the spokesperson says.

That donation will go towards establishing the Jake Pratt Fund for scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome who want to pursue further education.

“College was one of Jake’s biggest dreams and he worked so hard to make it come true,” Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, tells PEOPLE. “Post-secondary education was once not even a consideration for those with intellectual disabilities. But now, specialized college and vocational programs are sprouting up all over the country.”

“The expense of these programs can be a huge burden to families who often didn’t imagine educational opportunities beyond high school,” she continues. “Knowing that part of Jake’s legacy will include helping those individuals and families bring us more joy than I can explain.”

“There simply aren’t words to adequately express the emotions that come with this achievement,” adds Hyde. “We are so proud of Jake and the way he serves as a role model to others.”

Back in December, Pratt became a viral sensation when Hyde posted a photo of him on Twitter standing next to a UPS truck in his work uniform.

In the tweet, she explained that her brother works every morning at a golf course from 6-10 a.m. before running packages for up to eight hours per day.

“Thank you @UPS for giving my brother a chance & promoting inclusion in the workforce. Jake has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t stop him!” she wrote beside the photo. “I’m so proud of him!”

At the time, Hyde told PEOPLE that she was so thrilled to see UPS giving her brother a chance because it was “his dream to be able to live independently.”

“He has achieved so much, but none of it would be possible without people embracing him and giving him a chance,” she said at the time. “Jake is so worthy and capable, so it’s just awesome for others to be able to see that.”

Pratt’s greatness has certainly been evident to UPS’s team. In the months since that day, Pratt has continued to impress his colleagues with his work ethic and “enigmatic personality,” the UPS spokesperson says.

UPS driver Richard Wilson, who Pratt worked alongside, said Pratt “changed his life” and added in a video shared by the company that “Jake can motivate me any day.”

Click here to read the full article on People.

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  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021