This manager is working toward diversity in Hollywood — and that includes those with disabilities

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Eryn Brown, talent manager at Management 360, has faced barriers in getting employment or even accessing industry events because of her disabilities.

ANOUSHA SAKOUI, Los Angeles Times

After her first experience of the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, talent manager Eryn Brown wanted to end her nascent Hollywood career. Attending film markets such as Cannes can be grueling for most attendees, with parties and meetings held in busy hotels, restaurants, theaters, even aboard yachts. For Brown, who has a congenital, unidentified disability and uses leg braces to walk, accessing many of the buildings and events was a struggle. At the iconic red steps at the Palais des Festivals, where women are expected to wear high heels, Brown either had to be carried or use a side entrance and be separated from her clients. Inside, accessible seating was reserved. “I actually contemplated leaving the business,” Brown, 47, said. “I thought, if I have to go through this dehumanization every year, I don’t think I can do it. I want to be the best at what I do, which involves filmmakers, and Cannes is the pinnacle, so how can I do that?”

Brown didn’t quit. Instead, she pushes for greater access for others with disabilities who have been hindered by discrimination in the film and TV industry.

Last month, the Stanford graduate officially launched 1in4, an initiative run from her Los Angeles home, 13 years after her first humiliating experience at Cannes. The grassroots coalition of executives and creatives has called on studios, streaming companies, talent agencies and other businesses to include disabled people in their diversity programs.

“We need to see a commitment from the contractors and vendors that really feed the studios and streamers,” Jim LeBrecht, the Oakland-based co-writer and co-director of this year’s Oscar-nominated disability rights documentary “Crip Camp.” LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, is one of the cofounders of 1in4 and featured in the documentary. Brown represents Nicole Newnham, the film’s co-writer and co-director.

“I’m yearning for this day [when] … we see our representation in comedies and on television and in film and in dramas that really represents our true numbers in society, and really has storylines that are much truer to our everyday lives.”

Of all speaking characters across the top 100 movies of 2019, only 2.3% had a disability, according to a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Another study of the top 10 network TV shows for 2018 found just 12% of disabled characters were played by disabled actors, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Brown said she was inspired to start a campaign for the disabled community after last year’s Sundance festival gave “Crip Camp” an audience award and racial justice protests refocused attention on Hollywood to diversify.

“I started to examine this greater rise in consciousness that we’re experiencing about marginalization and systemic discrimination, and in these conversations, I found that disability was always left out,” Brown said. “When I tried to advocate for disability being part of the conversation, I was met with indifference and in some cases hostility.”

Brown reached out to LeBrecht and others to form a group — also called 1in4 — to advocate for change in Hollywood. The name refers to the proportion of the adult U.S. population with visible or invisible disability. The group is in the process of registering as a nonprofit and is being financed by the coalition members, private donations and the pro-bono work of allies, Brown said.

The group has called on studios and others to add disability to their diversity policies, employ disabled people at all levels and create more content about disability by and with disabled people. The group also asks that employers require an accessibility coordinator for productions and that talent representatives work with disabled artists.

So far, Brown said, her group has met with representatives from Netflix, Amazon and talent agencies. She said the meetings have been positive. None of the companies would comment for this article.

One problem is that there are few executives in the industry greenlighting projects from the disabled community, LeBrecht said.

“I don’t think anybody’s really appreciated that the stories don’t have to be these harmful portrayals of people,” LeBrecht said. “There are really unique, compelling stories out there. But … we weren’t able to reach people to pitch them to necessarily.”

LeBrecht cites the 2016 Warner Bros movie “Me Before You,” as an example of harmful ideas about disabled people perpetuated by Hollywood. The film drew criticism of its portrayal of a paralyzed banker. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Times.

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.

Employee Self-Advocacy: How To Talk To Your Employer About Your Disability

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Three business people standing in their suits speaking with one another in an office library

By Paula Morgan, Forbes

Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their personal lives with their employers, particularly when it comes to health issues and disability. Legally, you are in no way obligated to disclose your disability to your employer, or even to a potential employer during an interview. It is also illegal for employers to ask about it outright, but once you bring it up, the topic is fair game.

Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to mention your disability to your employer, particularly when you are requesting a reasonable accommodation to help you perform your job better. While it may be a scary conversation, talking about your disability with your employer is an important opportunity to be an advocate for yourself, which is something that all employees should learn how to do.

Self-advocacy is as simple as taking the initiative and having the confidence to talk with your employer about your needs in the workplace. For some, this conversation may center on a deserved raise or promotion, but at its core, advocating for yourself is about communicating what you need to do your best work. Even if you are working with a case manager to find a job that embraces individuals with disabilities, you cannot and should not depend on other people to advocate for you.

We’ve seen the powerful impact self-advocacy has had on our customers here at Allsup Employment Services. One success story that stands out came from an individual who had returned to work at the Post Office after being out of work for a year due to her disability. She struggled to do the heavy lifting required for the job and was about to quit, when she received a letter from her union about the possibility of switching to light duty.

After speaking with one of our case managers about what that would look like and getting a letter from her doctor, she met with HR and the union, who helped her to outline the duties she could do to fulfill the light duty assignment. She has been back at work and thriving for months, all because she made the decision to speak up.

Advocating for yourself begins by having a conversation with HR or your employer, and the best way to start is by framing it in a way that makes your priorities clear: taking care of your health and doing your job well. Use this time to be transparent with your employer. Talk about the challenges that you’re facing and lay out specifically what you believe you need to overcome those obstacles and function at your highest level in the workplace.

Make sure to keep the conversation positive and highlight the correlation between the accommodation you are requesting and the impact it will have on your performance. One of our case managers was helping an individual who was working really hard to manage a job she couldn’t physically do, and her supervisor recognized that, as well as the fact that it wasn’t a good fit. But because of her hard work and dedication, her employer offered her the opportunity to transition into a position that aligns better with her abilities.

Another piece of the puzzle that stops employees from requesting accommodations is the confusion over whom to ask. It’s different for everyone, and it may be more than one person. For some, it could be HR or a manager, but it’s always best to start out having these conversations with your immediate supervisor. Someone with whom you work on a daily basis is in the best position to recognize the great work you’re doing and the workplace obstacles that might be hindering your performance.

Employers will often need to strategize with HR to determine employee eligibility for an accommodation and how to provide it, but in most cases, the biggest obstacle is that the employee doesn’t come forward out of fear. Often the solution could be as simple as a flexible schedule, for individuals who have frequent medical appointments, or an inexpensive piece of equipment to make a desk accessible for use of a wheelchair.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

This Fairhaven native actor proves minorities and people with disabilities can take center stage

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Brennan Srisirikul posing in front of an all blue backdrop while sitting in his wheelchair

By Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times

FAIRHAVEN — Brennan Srisirikul knew about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, but never had the confidence to submit a film — especially since he’s never made one. But after a crazy year, he knew it was time to go for it.

“With the anti-Asian murders in Georgia, it was personal for me, because I’m a mixed race,” Srisirikul said. “My dad is Chinese and my mom is American.” Srisirikul was born in Bangkok, Thailand and grew up in Fairhaven.

“My race wasn’t really ever something that I thought about,” he said. Srisirikul has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. “I’m disabled. So, in my mind, for so long, I thought like that was the only thing people saw.”

But, Srisirikul said that during the pandemic he first faced anti-Asian racism. “The first time it ever happened, someone walked up to me and shouted in my face, ’15 Dollah! 15 Dollah!’”

Srisirikul also is a singer and actor. He wanted to create a short film that not only addressed racism but incorporated his background in musical theater. Alas, “BRENNAN! A New Musical, But Actually A Short Film” was born.

The short film stars Srisirikul opposite John M. Costa as Mike, his therapist. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 and Srisirikul wanting desperately to perform because of his new-found confidence for singing. Srisirikul struggled with his singing voice ever since he was 14.

“The most dramatic thing that ever happened to me was puberty,” he said

Click here to read the full article on Standard-Times

Med Student’s Disability Helps Him Connect With Patients

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A man siting in a wheel chair is wearing a medical jacket and is smiling at the camera

By Nick Romanenko

Tom Pisano has been working on both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience to help to study and treat conditions like his own.

When Tom Pisano started making rounds in his wheelchair, he worried his patients would consider him less capable than his Robert Wood Johnson Medical School peers.

However, he quickly found it had the opposite effect on patients and put them at ease.

Photo : Rutgers

“Patients are more willing to share what’s really bothering them,” said Pisano, 33, who was paralyzed from the chest down during a skiing accident at 19, during his first year of college. “Everyone has an internal struggle or challenge of some form, mine is just visible. That helps give me a connection with the patient.”

On Friday, during what is nationally known as Match Day, Pisano was one of 162 soon-to-be physicians in RWJMS’s Class of 2021 who discovered the name of the residency program where they will spend the next three to seven years training in the medical specialty of their choice.

Nine years after embarking on his journey to earn both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience, he was elated to learn he was matched with his first choices: an intern year at Mount Sinai Morningside-West, followed by a residency at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology. He will continue his medical training working to study and treat neurological conditions.

“I feel so fortunate to have gotten exactly what I wanted for my preliminary and advanced neurology residency,” said Pisano, who grew up in Alexandria Township, NJ, but now lives in Manhattan with his partner. “I can spend my first year close to my partner, who is a pulmonary critical care fellow also at Mount Sinai Morningside-West.

Pisano is among 95 percent of his classmates at RWJMS who matched to the residency of their choice. Among them, 35 students matched to a New Jersey program: 22 students matched to a Robert Wood Johnson Medical School program, and four to  New Jersey Medical School.

“Our medical students have my greatest respect for the work they have accomplished these past four years, and for the exemplary way that they have conducted themselves during the pandemic,” said Robert L. Johnson, interim dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and dean of New Jersey Medical School. “Their success and resilience are evidenced by the excellent programs into which our students matched to continue their specialized education as residents.”

When Pisano was in his first year in college at the University of Virginia, medical school was not his end goal. But after his accident and rehabilitation, the doctors told him he would never walk again, and he had to learn to navigate his new life. Pisano returned to school with a renewed focus.

“When you get down and depressed, you try to rethink your life. The new purpose of my life became to help others and have fun doing it. I found medicine and medical research was the way to do it,” said Pisano, who graduated from UVA in 2011 with a double major in cognitive science and biology.

He spent the following year trying to determine whether he wanted to attend medical school to become a neurologist or graduate school to become a researcher in the field of neurology. After a stint as a research participant and researcher in the spinal cord division of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, Pisano decided he would do both.

“I want be a neurologist who sees patients and I want to do clinical-based research that somehow improves my patients’ quality of life,” he said. “The best way I concluded doing that would be to treat few subsets of the population with diseases that I’m also researching.”

He knew he could accomplish this in New Jersey through a combined program that sandwiched a graduate research degree between four years of medical school. When he graduates in May, Pisano will be one of a handful of RWJMS classmates who started medical school at the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which became part of Rutgers in 2013.

Last year, after Pisano finished his graduate program and was wrapping up his third year of medical school, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail his progress. He wasn’t sure if he’d still be on track to graduate this May.

“When the world was collapsing in March or April, I thought, ‘I want to graduate, but if the attendings (physicians) teaching me have to go save lives, I’m more than OK with that,’” he said.

Read the full article at Rutgers.

13 Practical Ways To Help Employees Adapt To New Technology

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collage Forbes Human Resources Council

Tech continues to play a larger and larger role in businesses and industries of all stripes. As companies bring on more and newer technology to help improve productivity, employees who were initially trained on older systems or who are new to a higher-tech workplace may struggle to keep up or even resist using the new tech at all.

Giving your team the support they need to learn and leverage new tech is a win-win situation for everyone. Below, 13 members of Forbes Human Resources Council share tips for effectively introducing new tech tools to your team members.

Take a multi-pronged approach.

Implement a range of training systems, from written instruction to live video training, to accommodate different work styles and preferences. It’s important that executives lead by example by using the technology themselves and reminding employees of support and resources available on a regular basis. – Neha Mirchandani, BrightPlan

2. Create a sandbox for employees.

The one important strategy in any major wave of change is the willingness to create a sandbox for the employees. For any new tech—or non-tech—strategy to succeed, an appetite for and acceptance of failures and mistakes are required. People learn when they know their mistakes won’t cost them their jobs. They are more open to bigger challenges if there is an allowance for a learning curve. – Ruchi Kulhari, NIIT-Technologies

3. Implement annual skills evaluation.

Annual skills evaluation programs are a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated. Digital transformation requires core competencies for virtually any job to evolve. By evaluating skill levels and skill gaps, your organization can easily identify ways to ensure employees are keeping up with the competition. Employers must constantly update employee skills to match the pace of innovation. – Sameer Penakalapati, CEIPAL Corp.

Read the full article at  Forbes.

What To Look For In A Disability Organization

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White question mark with a blue background

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

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

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

  • Medical research and treatment

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

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

  • Direct services

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

Read the full article at Forbes.

So You Want A Diverse Workforce? Then Truly Welcome People With Disabilities

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graphic of a diverse work place

About 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability. Here’s how organizations can become disability confident.

By now, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place for over 35 years and roughly 62 million adults in the United States live with a disability — that’s about one in four people.

Yet how many of us can honestly say we are confident when it comes to including persons with disabilities in our workplace culture?

 

(Image Credit – The Hill)
According to a report from the Return On Disability Group, although 90 percent of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4 percent consider disability in those initiatives.

To be clear, a disability-confident organization is one that puts policies and procedures into practice that ensure people with all types of disabilities are included equally. Similarly, a disability-confident employer thinks about the unique needs that may arise when designing their products, services, collateral, and even job descriptions.

In order to excel in today’s evolving marketplace, you must not only acknowledge the importance of persons with disabilities to your business but also embrace actions that support their success as both employees and consumers. Furthermore, persons with disabilities account for total disposable incomes of over $500 billion, so it’s critical to businesses to ensure that persons with disabilities feel welcome to apply and contribute to your existing team.

  1. Screen In, Not Out

Like any employer, you want the best person for the job. This means, you must be prepared to show your disability confidence by guaranteeing that persons with disabilities are truly welcomed — and that starts before the interview. This can only be done if you and your hiring team are committed to “Screen In, Not Out.” This important Inclusion-ism is literally an Human Resources litmus test.

Anyone who has ever attended a Human Resource course has been advised to screen out in order to minimize the number of resumes and to weed out less desirable applicants. There are two clear issues with this practice that disability confident employers need to consider; first, by choosing to screen out you are knowingly shrinking your applicant pool in a time when a different perspective could be crucial to your company growth. Secondly, the “screen out software” that is being used by larger businesses perpetuates unconscious biases that result in a lack of diversity among applicants and, ultimately, your team.

  1. Stay Curious

The second Inclusion-ism you will want to embrace, in support of more disability confidence, is to stay curious. In short, never assume that you know what is going on; by contrast, you should be genuinely open enough about the why and hear the reason without judgement. Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” you may question, “Why does it seem that you are regularly late on Wednesdays?”

Often, the reason comes down to a simple issue requiring minimal accommodation. You may soon discover that this employee could be a top producer on your team (aside from being late on Wednesdays).

Bottom line: embracing a “stay curious” attitude means being open to and looking for ways of doing things. By encouraging your entire team to ask questions, listen, and observe with the primary goal of understanding any given issue, you are on the road to becoming disability confident.

  1. Win, Win, Win

In the 1989 publication: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective,” Steven Covey describes the significance of a win-win situation which leads to mutual benefit.

It is time to refresh that concept to gain relevance in today’s diverse workplace. This is where “Win, Win, Win” comes in. The fact is it takes three wins to be truly inclusive. When you promote a person with disability from within, the business wins (you’ve selected the best candidate), the individual wins (they receive an opportunity that less disability-confident employers may not offer), and the entire team wins (benefiting from an innovative and adaptable leader who has overcome barriers). Plus, there are significant benefits to your customers who may see themselves reflected in the diversity of your team!

As we all know, people living with disabilities are everywhere; at work, play, traveling, shopping — just like everyone else. The more we strive to be Disability Confident Leaders, the more we can be sure we are practicing from a true Win, Win, Win perspective!

Tova Sherman—a TED Speaker and thought leader with more than 25 years of experience in diversity and inclusion—is the award-winning CEO of reachAbility, an organization which provides supportive and accessible programs dedicated to workplace inclusion for anyone facing barriers. She is the author of Win, Win, Win! The 18 Inclusion-isms You Need to Become a Disability Confident Employer.

Read the original article at The Hill.

 

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

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Katherine Beattie sitting is a wheelchair wearing leather jacket and jeans

By Allison Norlian for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image Credit – Forbes)

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

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

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

Read the full article at Forbes.

Job Security Was Already Precarious For Individuals With Disabilities. Then COVID Hit.

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people with disabilities traveling during Covid in a cartoon setting

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Evelyn Ramundo was a secretary at a group home in New Jersey that is run by a nonprofit focused on housing and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Ramundo said she loved her job, where she’s worked for 14 years: “I’m very close with the co-workers.”

But then coronavirus hit the United States. Ramundo said she has been unable to go back to work since about February, and not knowing when she will be able to return and not getting to help people in the group home is frustrating. “I miss everybody,” she said. “I want to go back to work and make money and not be around the house as much.”

Ramundo, who is also the president of the advisory board of the New Jersey Statewide Self-Advocacy Network, which is comprised of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said her days look different now. She lives in a supervised apartment in a group home. She said her days consist of waking up, watching TV, and not doing much of anything. She can have family members visit in the backyard, but she can’t go anywhere with them or invite them inside.

Read the full article on HuffPost

 

 

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