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Fellows Blog Series

Dignity in Entrepreneurship and Decision Making

Richard Phillips with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Richard Phillips with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, July 3 – On June 18, Richard Phillips Jr., a RespectAbility board member with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, spoke to the RespectAbility National Leadership Fellows about the importance of dignity in all aspects of life.

Phillips spoke candidly about his personal experience, leaving high-level work at the Department of Justice to take over his family business, Pilot Freight Services, which provides transportation and logistics solutions for some of the largest and most complex companies around the world.  His experience turning that business around involved both family and professional challenges.  He focused on respecting the dignity of Pilot’s employees, customers and vendors was a key component to that turnaround. [continue reading…]

Sexism in the Journalism Industry: Daily Beast Columnist Eleanor Clift Speaks to RespectAbility Summer Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, July 1 – Earlier this summer, Eleanor Clift, a Daily Beast columnist and member of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors, served as the first guest speaker for RespectAbility’s Summer 2019 National Leadership Fellows. The hourlong discussion focused on activism in party politics, the current U.S. political climate and Clift’s experiences growing up at a time when women were fighting for equal employment opportunities in a longstanding patriarchal society.

Clift spent the bulk of her career at Newsweek, getting her start as a secretary before breaking into reporting. She has covered every presidential campaign since 1976 and was a longtime panelist on The McLaughlin Group.

Clift highlighted the rampant discrimination against women in her 2012 cover story for Newsweek about the television show, Mad Men. Clift pointed out striking similarities between Mad Men and the real-life situations she encountered. [continue reading…]

Ensuring Disability Advocacy is a Civil Rights Issue with Neil Romano

Washington, D.C., May 22 – “For every dollar spent, 10 cents should be put towards employing people with disabilities,” National Council on Disability Chairman Neil Romano advised RespectAbility’s National Leadership Fellows about disability inclusion.

This advice came from Romano’s many years as an advocate for people with disabilities, ranging from starting his own public relations firm, Romano & Associates (1988), being a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (2006-2008), and serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP, 2008-2009). Romano’s passion stems from being an individual with a disability himself. Romano is dyslexic and most recently has been diagnosed with cancer. [continue reading…]

Learning The Language of Mental Health: Linda Burger

Rockville, Maryland, April 16 – The genuine care and concern in Linda Burger’s voice left the Spring 2019 RespectAbility National Leadership Fellows with a feeling of coming home after a long journey. Indeed, she personifies her objective: “I want to offer [people] a place where it’s okay” to not be okay.

The Jewish Family Services of Houston

On February 22, the Fellows had the privilege to listen to our Treasurer, Linda Burger, on stigma surrounding mental health conditions. The CEO of Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Houston, Burger provided each Fellow with a folder containing extensive resources and information about the JFS Mental Health Programs. Suicide prevention and aftercare are the two main focuses of the program. Prevention services include age-specific emotional health programs, mental health first aid, individual and family counseling, meditation, and suicide prevention and protocol training. Grief and bereavement services, along with support groups and an annual memorial service, are available as aftercare for family members and friends whose loved ones have died by suicide. [continue reading…]

The Need for a More Inclusive Philanthropy: Lessons from A. Sparks

Allison Sparks headshotRockville, Maryland, April 3 – Allison Sparks (introducing herself as simply “Sparks”) is the Chief Executive Officer at the Masto Foundation and recently spoke to the Fellows in Respectability’s National Leadership Program. She spoke about her career in philanthropy; owning one’s identity; questioning the status quo; and the importance of promoting equity, inclusion and diversity in the field.

Sparks spent time with the Fellows discussing her unorthodox path to becoming the executive director of her family’s organization and discussed her work aimed at promoting equity and making philanthropy more diverse. Sparks examined what led her to the Masto Organization, highlighting her diverse childhood, a brief career in the fashion world, discovering a commitment to social work, her passion for philanthropy and working with numerous philanthropic organizations. Sparks also noted the increased importance for inclusion and diversity in philanthropy because of the inherent privilege in the philanthropic world (those who give the money) and encouraged the Fellows to pursue inclusion, diversity and equity. [continue reading…]

Success in Disability Employment: Vincenzo Piscopo Speaks on Disability Inclusion in the Workplace and Coca Cola’s Philanthropy

Vincenzo Piscopo with RespectAbility staff and Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

Vincenzo Piscopo with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, April 1 – After spending more than 22 years working for the Coca-Cola Company, Vincenzo Piscopo has defined success for disability inclusion within the workplace supported by philanthropic involvement. Leveraging opportunities for people with disabilities within the company’s marketplace, educating employers within the company, and encouraging volunteerism in the community are all ways in which Piscopo achieves success within the Coca-Cola company’s philanthropic endeavors.

Piscopo’s career within the Coca-Cola Company has taken him to several different areas of the organization, including finance, IT, marketing and innovation. His extensive background in advocating for disability within the workplace has given him a broad understanding of what companies lack in terms of employing people with disabilities as well as other minority groups. He has been the Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations for a year now and has been given the opportunity to “fill his file cabinet,” as Piscopo would say, with knowledge about how to advocate for minorities such as women, Hispanics, African Americans, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, etc. [continue reading…]

Please Don’t Be My Knight in Shining Armor

Cami Howe smiling, leaning back in her wheelchairIt was a crisp, chilly autumn afternoon in Logan, Utah. I was wheeling myself (I’m an ambulatory wheelchair user) to my doctorate-level Social Psychology class (as an undergraduate, by the way. #humblebrag 😉), rocking out to an odd yet entertaining mixture of Linkin Park and Disney songs through my earbuds.

“Hakuna matata!
What a wonderful phrase!
Hakuna matata!
Ain’t no passing” —-

My head snapped back. My wheels would not move. I was a dog on a leash that had gone too far ahead of its owner. Stunned, I turned my head to see what – or who – was pulling me back. A tall, white male college student with sandy blonde hair stood there with the biggest grin on his face. [continue reading…]

Changing Media Perceptions, One Modeling Job at a Time

Tatiana Lee in a wheelchair wearing a pink jacket smiling

Courtesy of Zappos Adaptive styled by Stephanie Thomas

I wanted to be a model since I was a little girl. I grew up to be one. I know it sounds like a very vain profession, but it means the world to me and let me tell you why it is essential.

In American society, the emphasis we put on beauty for a woman is more than the pressure we put on men. We have to feel like we are beautiful all the time. We have to wear makeup, have our hair done, keep up with the trends and the list goes on. Society views women as objects to admire. It should not be that way, but that is the world in which we live.

The fashion and beauty industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry on its own. Mass media shapes that for us. Whatever is in the latest magazine or on the runway ends up being the trend to follow. Media develops everything we do as a culture. [continue reading…]

A Cute but Determined Woman with Cerebral Palsy: Believe It!

Rockville, Maryland, March 21 – I did not realize that March was the month for me. I mean, March already has a personal connection to me. My father passed away on the 19th two years ago of cancer. March was supposed to be my birth month until doctors decided to kick me and my three roommates (I am one of four quadruplets) out of my mom at 31 ½ weeks (You don’t know what being claustrophobic mean unless you are squished by the siblings to the point where you can’t grow normally 😊). No, it turns out that March is both National Women’s Month and National Cerebral Palsy Month. So, because I have cerebral palsy, I have my personal National Minority Month. As I celebrate my gender and my disability, what does it to mean to be disabled and female? [continue reading…]

This Women’s History Month, I Remember the #MeToo Survivors with Disabilities

For some people, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the one you love. For others, the day is a commercial holiday that either causes financial pressure or feelings of loneliness. For me, it’s the anniversary of my first sexual assault.

Since the #MeToo movement came to light in 2017, the world has learned how dangerous it is to be a woman. We heard countless and horrific stories of sexual assault and harassment that occurred anywhere from the workplace to dark and isolated alleys. Powerful and iconic men were revealed to be serial sex offenders. And women from all walks of life joined together to say, “enough is enough.”

The Vast Majority of Women with Disabilities Are Sexually Assaulted

An alarming 27 percent of women report being sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime. But a shocking 83 percent of women with disabilities report the same. And they often are victimized more than once, particularly if they have an intellectual disability. People with disabilities can be extremely vulnerable, sometimes helpless to defend themselves. And those with intellectual disabilities are easier to manipulate and considered less trustworthy to police.

It should naturally follow, therefore, that the media would report many more #MeToo stories about women with disabilities than without. However, it has been the exact opposite. Women with disabilities rarely are discussed in terms of sexual assault. When I learned these statistics in 2016, I was desperate to go back in time and tell my younger self that neither of my assaults were my fault. I realized how much of my life I wasted trying to self-correct everything from how I dressed to the friendships I made in attempts to avoid another assault. [continue reading…]

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