Skip Navigation
Image of people smiling in a recording studio.

Fellows Blog Series

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…]

I am not the suffering Quasimodo dog with short neck syndrome

Justin Tapp smiling wearing a pink t shirt that says "The Future Is Accessible"Rockville, Maryland, Feb. 28 – When Quasimodo, nicknamed “Quasi the great,” a German Shepherd, was discovered as a stray in Kentucky, he was scheduled to be euthanized because he has short spine syndrome. Fortunately a family decided to give him a second-hand home. He is described as a dog who does normal dog things but has a certain need for accommodations to help him do daily activities. Quasimodo represents one of just 15 dogs worldwide living with short-spine syndrome. He quickly became an internet sensation because of his disability, gaining more than 50,000 followers on Facebook. Who would have guessed that a dog having a disability could receive so much positivity? I didn’t, because I never do and here’s why.

It is a sunny day on August 17, 2015, and I am moving into President’s Hall, the dorm I chose for my freshmen year of college at The University of Toledo. I am excited as any entering freshmen student should be on the journey to a higher education. The day started early, at 8:00 a.m. because I wanted to move in as soon as possible. I was eager to meet everyone on campus. At the time I was an extrovert because my high school years were great. I had a great summer after high school graduation, and I wanted to continue having a great experience at the start of my college career. That dream was cut short.

As I was moving in, with the help of my family and the residential advisors for my dorm, I hear a loud shout, “HE DOESN’T HAVE A NECK!” In that moment, I stop in front of President’s Hall and I turn around. I see a car driving by with a person sticking their torso out the car window. That person’s comment was directed toward me because I was born with a congenital condition called Klippel-Feil syndrome. The medical definition of Klippel-Feil syndrome is “a musculoskeletal condition characterized by the fusion of at least two vertebrae of the neck. Common symptoms include a short neck, low hairline at the back of the head, and restricted mobility of the upper spine.” The common definition that society uses, including the person in the car, is “no neck.” [continue reading…]

Black Hollywood: The Struggle to Include Disability

Photo of Tatiana LeeAfrican Americans have had a long history of hardships in the United States. Brought to the Americas as slaves, many African Americans built a nation with their blood, sweat and tears. Contributing to music, art, sports, military and more, black and people of color still do not get the credit or respect that they deserve. With Black History Month getting more and more attention today, the one intersection that is rarely mentioned during this month is Black people with disabilities.

As a black woman with a disability, I want to see all aspects of me represented – and this includes in Hollywood. Sometimes I feel that Black Hollywood events are not welcoming of black people with disabilities. By not actively promoting that black, disabled actors to play character roles of a disabled person, Hollywood continues to give an inaccurate representation of Black people with disabilities and takes away jobs from black actors with real disabilities. [continue reading…]

“Rabbi” Steve Rabinowitz Provides Sage Advice for RespectAbility Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, Feb. 19 – Steve Rabinowitz, former White House director of design and production under the Clinton administration, spoke to RespectAbility’s staff and National Leadership Fellows about his incredible career in political communications. From campaign trail war stories to comedic tales of Air Force One, he entertained and engaged the room, while sprinkling nuggets of wisdom on each of us.

Rabinowitz is well known for his work with President William Jefferson Clinton. Most notably, he revolutionized town hall debates to the intimate and personal format that exists today. And he brilliantly orchestrated the historic White House lawn handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Leader Yasser Arafat for the Oslo Accords.

Rabinowitz’s achievements are far-reaching and truly astounding. But his personality and character made the greatest impression. He regaled the RespectAbility team with incredible tales of success and defeat. He reminisced about working on the Hill in the 1970s, where “robo letters,” template letters generated via typewriter memory, were standard practice and facsimile machines were a dream come true. He spoke of the privilege of working as a youth coordinator, organizing on college campuses. He joked of the days before the Clinton campaign, when campaigns nicknamed him the “kiss of death” for his consistent losing streak in elections. And he shared memories of going on the presidential campaign trail with Bob Kerry, a Vietnam veteran amputee, who brought along his various wooden prosthetic legs for every occasion. [continue reading…]

A Path Between Me and You: David Belkin Discusses the Importance of Empathy in Fundraising

David Belkin with RespectAbility staff and Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

David Belkin with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, Feb. 11 – With more than thirty years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, David Belkin has been asked many times about the processes he relies on to convince potential donors to invest in a cause. But, as Belkin puts it, fundraising does not involve any secret techniques or magic phrases, but rather one’s ability to utilize empathy. Empathy in fundraising does not require technical skill, but it does require the ability to listen to a donor’s goals and interests, not only to establish a connection with them, but to help the donor feel a connection to the fundraiser’s cause.

Belkin’s time in the nonprofit sector has taken him from one high-profile job to another. In all these positions, Belkin has been involved with nearly all aspects of fundraising, ranging from capital campaigns, endowments, planned giving programs and grant seeking. Because of his experience, Belkin was asked to address the Spring 2019 Fellows Cohort of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program to discuss how to use empathy to attract donors. [continue reading…]

1 2 3 4 5 19 20
Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


RespectAbility and is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. GuideStar Platinum Participant Logo
Translate »