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Press Releases

National Cross-Disability Nonprofit RespectAbility Calls for Massive Attitudinal, Policy, and Programmatic Disruption of Status Quo through Bold New Strategic Plan

Los Angeles, August 31 – RespectAbility, a diverse disability-led nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, officially announced the release of its new strategic plan. The plan is the culmination of a year-long process that brought together a cadre of key influencers from across the country, building upon evidence-based research, refinement, and results from the past eight years. The result is a bold, forward-looking, and visionary five-year roadmap to shatter old paradigms by engaging in a multifaceted approach to remove physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers to full societal participation by people with all types of disabilities.

Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

“As we look to the future to envision the full scope of what is truly possible, the challenges of today warrant nothing less than decisive and organized action,” said Ollie Cantos, the recently-elected Chairman of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors and the first member of the AAPI community to lead a national cross-disability group. “When individuals, organizations, private sector companies, and government agencies at all levels come together to achieve concrete and measurable outcomes that truly matter, everyone benefits.” [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Nevada on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Nevada state flagReno, NV, October 22 – This week, the Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) met to discuss the status of workforce practices in Nevada. 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 new 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 176,756 working age (18-64) Nevadans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 39.3 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) 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.

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Gov. Lamont: Connecticut is “A Leader in Protecting the Rights of People with Disabilities”

Hartford, CT, October 21 – “I am proud of the way that Connecticut has been seen as a leader in protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont in a public statement marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Lamont went on to add that he was “particularly proud of the many businesses throughout our state that make every effort to include people of all abilities as valued members of their workforces” and that the economy is “strongest when we include people of all abilities in our workplaces.” In closing he noted that “it benefits the entire economy to make sure opportunities and resources are available for everyone.”

This is an important public statement for the more than 202,632 working-age people living with disabilities in the Nutmeg State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut had a 42.9 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 79.9 percent. That means that there is a 36.9 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Nelly Nieblas Combines Policy Expertise with Lived Disability Experience and Intersectional Identity to Bring Equity and Inclusion to Education

Nelly Nieblas smiling headshot. Nieblas has a disability in her right arm.

Nelly Nieblas

Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 15 – Nelly Nieblas has been going against the grain her entire life. As a first-generation Latina with a physical disability, Nieblas was raised to be independent and speak up for herself by her family, yet she found herself consistently being met by society’s low expectations of her due to false and negative stigmas attached to her intersectional identities of being both Latinx and Disabled. Through years of hard work and exceeding those societal expectations, Nieblas has made it her life mission to not only “make the outsider become the insider,” but to ensure people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully involved in the community.

At the core of Nieblas’ policy work is her commitment to bringing more inclusion and equity to the education system. Emphasizing that a wholistic education is a key element to success, Nieblas advocates for people with disabilities to have full access to the support systems they need to complete their education and set themselves up for success to enter the workforce and have their own self-determined reality. In addition, Nieblas underscored the importance of being active members in their lives and not being dependent on the social safety net. [continue reading…]

Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation Leads the Way on Workers with Disabilities

Lincoln, NE, October 15 – Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation, a state agency dedicated to supporting the aspirations of jobseekers with disabilities, joins other private and public sectors in celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October.

In a public statement, Nebraska VR Director Lindy Foley reiterated her state and her agency’s critical work to support thousands of Nebraskans with disabilities. “Full access to employment and community during our state’s and nation’s recovery from the challenges of the pandemic are essential,” said Foley.

This is an important public commitment for the more than 110,657 working-age people living with disabilities in Nebraska. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cornhusker State had a 50.8 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 85.2 percent. That means that there is a 34.3 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Gov. Whitmer: People with Disabilities Add Value and Talent” to Michigan Workplaces

Lansing, MI, October 15 – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer reaffirmed her state’s commitment “to an inclusive community that increases access and opportunities to all, including individuals with disabilities” today in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Whitmer also called attention to the hard work “of agencies throughout the state whose mission is to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities and raise awareness of disability employment issues.” She also reiterated the critical message that “people with disabilities…are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy.”

These are important public commitments for the more than 725,431 working-age people living with disabilities in Michigan. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Lakes State had a 36.2 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 78.5 percent. That means that there is a 42.2 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

AMC Theaters to Offer Weekly Open Caption Showtimes

Exciting news from AMC Theatres, who will now permanently offer some Open Caption showtimes each week. According to its CEO Adam Aron, the showtimes with open captions will be well marked on AMC Theatres’ website and mobile app. These open captions will not only ensure that individuals who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, but also those for whom English is a second language, to fully enjoy films in the theater.

“This comes from many conversations behind the scenes, and phenomenal advocacy from the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community and disability organizations like RespectAbility,” said deaf film executive Delbert Whetter, who also serves on RespectAbility’s board. “This never would have happened without the public’s tireless and relentless support for open captions screenings. Hopefully this sets a new standard for future theatrical exhibitions that paves the way for a superior, more inclusive and accessible moviegoing experience for everyone.”

More information with details on how this will work will be forthcoming soon, but this is taking place in time for the release of Eternals, in which Lauren Ridloff plays Marvel’s first Deaf superhero.

Gov. Laura Kelly: “Hiring People with Disabilities is Productive for Kansas’ Economy”

Topeka, KS, October 12 – Kansas recognizes “the skills, reliability and productivity that Kansans with disabilities brings to our workforce,” said Governor Laura Kelly in a proclamation marking October as Kansas Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Kelly also recommitted her state to an “Employment First policy, [supporting] the efforts of business leadership networks in Kansas City and Sedgwick County, [providing] support to workers with disabilities through the WORK and Work Healthy programs” as well as other service programs that help Kansans with disabilities find jobs. To that end, the state of Kansas has “created the Special Employment Supports Coordinator position to coordinate employment opportunities for people with disabilities across agencies,” and is “supporting telework for state employees as well as private sector employees that help those with disabilities continue to work at home.”

Gov. Kelly concluded that “all Kansans have a role to play in – and benefits to gain from – increasing opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Montana on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Helena, MT, October 11 – Later this month, Montana’s State Workforce Development Board will meet to discuss the status of workforce practices in Big Sky Country. 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 new 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 63,386 working age (18-64) Montanans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 46.9 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Montana’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…]

Gov. Roy Cooper: “North Carolina is an Employment First State”

Raleigh, NC, October 8 – North Carolina must “increase opportunities for fair wages, career employment, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities,” said Governor Roy Cooper in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Cooper also recommitted to “transforming state government into a model employer of people with disabilities” according to Executive Order No. 92. The order announced North Carolina as “an employment first state,” and promised North Carolinians with disabilities further access to employment, internship opportunities, job development, transition programs, and support services through the state’s vocational rehabilitation divisions and services for the blind within the Department of Health and Human Services.

These are important public commitments for the more than 682,617 working-age people living with disabilities in the Tar Heel State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina had a 35.3 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 77.4 percent. That means that there is a 42-percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz: People with Disabilities “Benefit Minnesota’s Economy”

St. Paul, MN, October 8 – “Individuals with disabilities are valuable and skillful workers, as well as productive contributors and taxpayers in the workforce,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Walz’s proclamation highlighted “the decades of activism and advocacy by the disability community” which have opened doors and improve society. Additionally, the proclamation spotlighted Minnesota’s continued work on the state’s Olmstead Plan and included a commitment to provide “Minnesotans with disabilities with a continuum of work options that best meet individual needs and choices in a person-centered manner.”

This is an important public commitment for the 296,969 working-age people living with disabilities in the North Star State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota had a 48.1 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 85.3 percent. That means that there is a 37.1percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

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