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Millions with Disabilities Still Forced to Choose Between Food and COVID-19

Iowa state flag. Text: Online SNAP in IowaDes Moines, Iowa, May 19 – The disability nonprofit RespectAbility congratulates the USDA and the state of Iowa for enabling people with disabilities who rely on SNAP to avoid the high risk of shopping for food in person. The CDC reports that approximately 90 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying conditions. People with disabilities and other historically marginalized communities are the groups most likely to have these conditions, and are among the most at risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.

“This is potentially lifesaving news for the approximately 98,000 Iowans with disabilities who depend on food stamps to put food on the table,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “We are grateful that Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state of Iowa are committed to supporting the disability community.” [continue reading…]

Read the webinar transcript (coming soon)
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Watch the webinar on YouTube with live embedded captions

Employer engagement is a critical part of a robust and effective workforce development system. Crossing the cultural and communications divide between the worlds of work and disability is critical for expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities. The great state of Iowa has been at the forefront of outreach work to educate business partners on the bottom-line benefits of hiring more and more people with disabilities.

Watch this webinar to learn how Iowa’s Vocational Rehabilitation system has built up a robust network of business partnerships with Kwik-Trip and other diverse firms. Our guests also spoke about the unique challenges of meeting the workforce training needs of youth with disabilities in rural Iowa.

[continue reading…]

Lincoln, NE, June 10 – This week, the Nebraska Workforce Development Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Cornhusker State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Ollie Cantos, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 110,000 working age (18-64) Nebraskans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 50.8 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Nebraska’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

Salt Lake City, UT, April 14 – This week, the Utah Workforce Development Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Beehive State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, non-partisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 187,000 working age (18-64) Utahans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 47.5 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Utah’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

Eric Ascher smiles in the spin room at the 2020 Democratic Debate in Des Moines Iowa

Selfie of Eric Ascher in the spin room at the CNN Democratic Debate in Des Moines Iowa

Rockville, Maryland, April 7 – I remember when my parents first told me that I was on the autism spectrum. I was in high school. They gave me a document with typical characteristics of what was then referred to as “asperger’s syndrome.” I clearly fit the bill. For example, I am passionate about a small list of things. I have trouble making friends, and I am socially awkward.

But I’m ashamed to admit that I remember not wanting to call myself autistic. I knew other autistic kids at school, and how they “acted out.” I didn’t want to be associated with them. As a 16-year-old, I was the exact type of person who might have used the phrase “differently-abled” or some other euphemism to describe myself, had I known that euphemisms were an option. I’ve previously written about how I was bullied throughout my school years, and how the harassment literally kept me in the closet. I wanted nothing more than to be “normal,” to not be different.

But more than a decade later, I’m proud to be on the autism spectrum. I’ve been exposed to the perspectives of autistic people that I follow on social media and other autistic people that I’ve befriended over the years. I’ve learned that it’s not a bad thing, it’s simply who I am. I know there are some things I’m never going to be as good at as my neurotypical peers. I can’t give an impromptu speech to save my life, and networking events are super uncomfortable for me. But there are other areas where I excel. I know everything about Apple products that any one person could reasonably know. I do a great job managing websites and precisely editing videos. [continue reading…]

The Annual Justin Chappell Memorial Award honors a former or current Apprentice of the National Leadership Program who demonstrates a strong commitment to the advancement of the disability community in policy, entertainment, or philanthropy.

The Annual Justin Chappell Memorial Award is in honor of Justin W. Chappell, who devoted his life to human and disability rights and passed away September 9, 2021. Recipients of the award will be recognized in a virtual ceremony as well as with a $1,000 award. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Testimony in 2022

Austin, Texas, March 15 – This week, the Texas Workforce Commission met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Lone Star State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 1,809,900 working age (18-64) Texans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 40.6 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Texas’ Workforce Commission listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

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